When living with the problem feels easier than choosing a solution
Patrick and I are the king and queen of making do and getting by. It’s not a bad skill set for the dually self-employed. We’ve often had to make do and get by. But sometimes we take it to ridiculous extremes. Example: a spring popped off our attic steps sometime last fall. Without the spring, the attic door won’t stay shut, so Patrick got out his drill and screwed the door in place, as a “temporary” measure, until we could replace the spring.
In our house, “temporary” means “indefinitely.” Since that time, we have had to make several trips to the attic for the holidays, requiring Patrick to get out a step ladder and his drill every time, to un-screw and then re-screw the door. Then one day, we heard something like a shot go off in the house as the screws popped loose and the stairs came crashing down. We looked at each other in horror. What if one of the kids had been walking by?
That sent us straight to the hardware store, right?
No. It sent us to find the drill and two bigger screws.
If you google “attic stairs spring,” you will not only come up with first person narrative accounts of terrible injuries resulting from broken attic stairs, you will see that a replacement spring kit costs about $22. Replacing the whole staircase would run $100-$200.
I couldn’t find a kit for replacement body parts, but I’m going to guess that it would run considerably higher than a permanent fix for the stairs.
The thing is, we get used to working around problems, instead of dealing with them. After a while, the work-around just seems normal. What, you don’t need a ladder and drill to put the winter coats away?
It would be interesting to have a normal person come in and audit our household systems. It’s sort of what Lori did with our stuff when she worked with us on the decluttering story I wrote for Good Housekeeping a few years back. She introduced me to the concept of identifying what’s not working. Like, constantly picking up scattered board game pieces and putting them back in their proper boxes was not working for me. So I got a clear plastic box and labelled it “Game Pieces.” When the kids are missing the Yahtzee dice, or a chess pawn, they know where to look for it. Problem solved. Permanently.
I wonder what she’d observe by just watching us go about our lives for a week. The work-arounds that don’t really work. The make-dos that only make things harder. I’ve been thinking about time and energy recently, as quantifiable resources. I sense that much of mine is escaping through the cracks, like heat in a drafty house. I’m looking for the places it leaks out.
What am I working around, over and over? Where have I mindlessly adapted myself to the problem, instead of finding a solution?
There are a ton of household examples like the attic stairs (someday I’ll take you on a photographic tour of our many make-dos), but I have plenty that are all my own. One that comes to mind is bed pillows. I’ve have a crick in my neck because the pillows on my bed have become flat and horrible. I don’t usually prefer to sleep in hotel beds, but on the last couple of trips I’ve made, I’ve loved it, because they have nice pillows. I want a memory foam pillow, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to spend the $40 or so on it, when we have pillows already. So I guess I’ll just go through life with a neck that hurts all day.
That’s crazy, right?
Another one is my hair. I never feel like I can justify the expense of a salon visit more than once or twice a year, but then I have to spend an increasing amount of product and time to make my hair look nice (and myself feel good). That’s both a time and a happiness leak.
Another: I let my audible.com subscription go last year, to save money. It cost $15 a month. I loved listening to great novels while I cooked supper or folded laundry. I use the library’s digital lending service, but it’s cumbersome, and doesn’t play on my iPhone. I miss it. Another happiness leak.
These self-deprivations aren’t really about money. I spent $15 on a cocktail the other night. We went out to dinner on Mardi Gras for more than the cost of a new attic spring. I’m not sure what it’s all about. Intentionality, I think. Permission, maybe.
I’m curious to know if you have work-arounds in your life that aren’t working, make-dos you’ve been living with for too long? Where are you losing happiness, time or energy through cracks and gaps that can and should be fixed?
What do you think it’s really about?