This past January, I made a different sort of resolution. Or maybe not a resolution; Maybe it was more of a goal: Start and finish all the major house projects and updates that have been lagging around here for years.
The list is long and daunting: Refinishing the hardwood floors downstairs, new carpeting upstairs, a new driveway, replace the deck, a new stamped concrete sidewalk, a new hot water tank, new toilets. And don’t forget the landscaping issues! And light fixtures!
Whew. This is a lot. You’re probably thinking, “Jules. Have you not done ANY work on your house in the last 75 years?” And the answer is, I have. But I was also raising kids solo and working and just couldn’t make it happen. Whether it was a function of time, money or resistance, it was easy to keep letting it slide.
But now I can get it done. So this is the year. I mean, I definitely decided THIS is the year. And in order to get the first projects done (the floors and the carpeting) there was a lot that had to come first. A lot as in, every ceiling, wall, woodwork, baseboard, door and door frame had to be painted. Did I hire a painter? No I did not. Should I have hired a painter? Maybe. But with such a long list of projects, I knew anything I could do myself, I should. And if there’s one thing ya girl can do herself, it’s paint.
When I tell you the last few months I’ve spent every weekend painting and working on the house, WHERE IS THE LIE? Every. Weekend. I was eating, sleeping and breathing paint.(Seriously not recommended.)
In the midst of it all, as you might imagine, a person could start to get a little weary. Me. I am the person. In an effort to keep myself mentally strong and motivated to reach my goals, my mantra has become,
“This is the work.”
I learned this phrase from a long-time friend for situations just like this: In the trenches of hard, tedious work. The weeds. The deep water. When there are 10,000 other things you’d rather be doing. To be honest, you’d like to quit. Or not start at all. And actually, the goal becomes hazy and a little out of reach, suddenly feeling less important.
But I had made a resolution. I want the space around me to be beautiful and I want this to be my forever home. To get there, I was going to have to do the work. On a particularly tiresome and overwhelming day, another friend reminded me, I didn’t have to like it, I just had to do it.
But here’s the secret sauce: The work happening inside you while you’re doing the work is where the magic happens.
Yes, I was painting for hours on end. Yes, my arms and shoulders ached with fatigue. There was paint in my hair and splatters of paint where I missed the drop cloth. But it’s all of the chatter inside, the resistance, the gritty self-talk, the pushing through and perseverance. The deeper resilience to learn. The misconceptions to unlearn. Peeling back the layers of what’s happening inside and uncovering spaces that still have room for growth.
We all have a mental broken record that gets stuck in a groove, and when things feel hard, our brains press play. ”I can’t do this. I’m alone. It’s too much work. It’s too hard. I’m in over my head. How did I get here, doing this alone? I don’t want to do all of this.”
You get the point. And I bet you know the groove your brain plays, too.
None of those things are actually true for me. I can do it. I’m not alone. If I wanted help or support I could ask for it. But I’m stubbornly independent, so I don’t. It IS a lot of work, but if I want to reach my goal and get these projects done, This. Is. The. Work.
Ten years ago, I was approaching 40 and in one of the toughest seasons of my life. I decided to train for a half marathon and ended up running two that year. Although running all 13.1 miles to the finish line was its own reward and glory, it was the work happening inside me along the way that made the difference. My brain wanted to quit long before my body did. I would start out every long training run thinking, “There’s no way I can run 8 miles…” And then whaddyaknow, 8 miles later, I’m almost home with tears running down my face. I could, in fact run 8 miles. And then I ran 13. Twice.
So here I am, approaching 50, still growing and learning and digging in. Even when I hate it, something about it feels good. It means I’m alive. It means I’m IN this. I’m engaged with my life. It’s not about the painting or the rest of the work I have to do. (There’s SO. MUCH.) It’s about the resilience I’ve developed over the years that’s serving me so well. The mental toughness so important to me? It’s solid, even if it wobbles from time to time. I don’t want to run from hard work or challenges. And I don’t want to run from the work inside the work, either. It’s what makes us who we are. It’s the fire that keeps forging us. Hard, challenging work helps us become our best selves. The hard is what makes us great. And my forever home is looking more beautiful than ever, inside and out.