When I got divorced, I bought another smaller home for my daughter and myself. This house had been rented for thirty years, and nothing was updated. It had window air conditioning, an ancient heating system, no lights in the bedroom ceilings and a wall oven original to the 1943 house. It was basically a complete gut job. I found a lovely contractor who was happy to let me do as much of the work as I wanted to do, and he did all the big stuff – tearing out old tile and gutting the kitchen, installing central air and a new heating system, etc. I designed the kitchen layout and picked out all the cabinets and appliances. My daughter and I made hand painted tiles for the backsplash. My dad came for a visit and the two of us blew insulation into the attic on a cold day. That was fun. I had 30 cubic yards of dirt dumped and I solo regraded the side of the house. I was proud of my skills, and I knew how to use them.
I loved our contractors, but these guys were different. They didn’t want my help – not at all. This was hard. When they would promise things to be done at a particular date, things I could have helped with, and that date came and went with the job unfinished, I got very frustrated. I know about contractor “deadlines.” Believe me. But I found myself holding them to an exacting standard that they could not meet.
Dave helped me process my anger. The experience was that they were late. I perceived this as not keeping their word, but the actual situation was that stuff happens in home renovation beyond anyone’s control. When I sat down and thought about why I was reacting so strongly, I realized it all had to do with lack of control. In my other renovations, ultimately, I was in charge. Here, I was sharing that creative control with a highly invested spouse (he built this house) and I had to sit on my hands and not contribute physically to the work. It was making me crazy. I finally realized I had to just surrender to the process. What will be, will be. Moreover, I had to trust these guys to do an amazing job. And they did. So amazing, that our house was submitted by the firm for a design award and ended up as a finalist.
Sometimes, processing ends up in surrender instead of action.