It’s always the projects. Summertime means the living is a little easier. No whining, entitled, needy students (except my own 15 and 18 year-olds who are only periodically whiney, entitled and needy). No daily six subject curriculum preparation, no rushing to beat the 8:20 bell, just two and a half months of straight R and R. Yeah right.
I am not that teacher. Not that I can’t R and R like the best of them, for many years the family would take a month and sit by Torch Lake in Michigan, the only daily decision being golf or tennis or swimming or sailing. That was before baseball all-stars in Eureka and basketball tournaments in Stockton and football practice, and summer jobs and college prep and that’s just the kids.
My wife is on a mission to drive 100 Uber trips in the next month while she coordinates our VRBO, tutors kids, and prepares for camp Wabi Sabi at the Sonoma Museum. And my plate includes driving a wine tour bus, preparing next year’s curriculum, attending trainings (SCOE STEAM summer institute), camp prep, writing, and finally, the daily list of summer projects.
I love projects, construction is a physical way to keep my 51-year-old body healthy, create stuff and keep my wife happy (usually) but I have created a monster through my work. Addition on the house, check, new roof, necessary, turn the old garage into a new studio, sure, put a bathroom on it, yes, redo son’s bathroom after mushrooms started growing in his shower, easy, new kitchen, no problem, have floors professionally replaced after I did a crappy job the first time, OK but when will we be done?
Living in a 1920’s Craftsman house means there is no done, I accept that. Also, the stable of competent professionals who do the jobs I have learned not to do (plumbing, electrical, tile, finish carpentry) cost serious money meaning we have to balance cost with competency.
And there lies the first problem. I work hard to accomplish projects so that I can reward myself (rest, vacations, fun). Kate works hard to accomplish projects to feather her nest. Without new floors, the new kitchen will not looked finished then because the new floors look so good, we need to repaint, then the new paint makes the furniture look tired…
Life is simple, food, shelter, water, social interaction, work hard at something you like, find a person you can grow old with, have a couple of kids, accomplish some goals, die happy. Then one day you realize you don’t want to acquiesce on redoing the floors and suddenly all the bad stuff gets triggered. You don’t like the same music, you are such a slob, you don’t care about (insert list here). Things escalate, communication ends, sides are established.
Your brain is like UC Santa Cruz when it was first developed. Buildings were intentionally left without walkways, as the students would make the paths as they used them. Your brain works similarly, if you create a path and walk down it frequently, it becomes your normal.
Now when you connect up with another freethinking person, you might have a different normal, which means you might disagree at times. The key is not to have identical paths but to accept that difference is good, difference is healthy, and difference makes you grow. “Don’t yuck my yum” as a not-so-wise-man once said.
If you are lucky, like me, you have found a person to spend your life with. They will probably share similar traits with other people you grew up with because that’s what you consider normal. We are attracted to what is comfortable, what is our normal (good and bad), which is why men often marry their mothers, and women often marry their dads. Never say this to your wife; it will not go over well.
But we should also maintain our differences, as no one likes a doormat. “Be separate in your togetherness “a friend once said. The new floors were too expensive and unnecessary but Kate convinced me that we could afford them and they would really improve the look of the living room (they do, they always do). Honestly, I care very little about floors but I do care about keeping my wife happy and the aesthetic of her nest is vital.
The other problem is that by doing all the projects in the past 16 years I have created an “expectation of project competence” in my wife. If I had just disappointed her years ago when we met (“no, sorry, I can’t do that”), I would have so much more free time. Actually, I would have a whole lot more free time, as she probably would not have married me.
We have enough dumb stuff to argue over (plastic in the house, leaving the toilet seat up, watching reality TV) without me saying, “No, I can’t” to projects. Plus I love the results and one day we’ll sell and it will all be worth it.
Someday, we will get back to that lake in Michigan but for now it’s time to prepare the shingles for painting.