I’m not sure when DIY shows became staples of our TV watching habits: the first show I watched was Trading Spaces, where neighbors would remodel a room in each other’s home with the help of an interior designer. Since then, HGTV comes into view when I visit many friends and family – it’s just fascinating to watch spaces be transformed. I admire the creativity and eye for details and possibilities that the carpenters, designers, decorators, architects, engineers or thrift-store-shoppers-who-could-create-new-furniture possess, revealing glorious new designs in 30 or 60 minute segments.
So when the countertop in my ranch house, built with an amazing amount of storage space by the way, unequaled in any home I’ve owned before or since, started to warp, was scratched, dented, and was coming unglued from the cabinets below, I was hopeful that my little kitchen renovation consisting of new countertops, new backsplash, and new dishwasher would dramatically transform my lifestyle, my life, my kitchen and my whole home by the sheer beauty of the choices I made.
This, of course, produced a lot of stress and pressure. How could I choose a countertop? Which one would be the perfect choice? Which countertop would create the stunning kitchen that would awe my guests with my decorating skill? What we referred to in college as “The Paralysis of Analysis” set in. The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard referred to it as “the despair of infinitude”, so many choices felt like too many choices.
I talked myself into making a choice in a way similar to the way I talk myself into trying a new hair color or hair style. When I’m agonizing over whether to get it trimmed or really short, I tell myself, “It’s just hair.” So, in the design shop, I told myself that it’s just a kitchen, Caroline. The countertop won’t make you happy, or give you love, or transform your life. The new countertops job is to look nice, be a productive work surface, and perhaps help with resale value. A kitchen with a new back splash, new counters, and a dishwasher will help you cook more efficiently, be a pleasure to work in, but it won’t meet any spiritual or emotional needs. So just pick a counter you like a lot.
With the pressure off, without the imagined need to create a perfect kitchen, I was able to choose a countertop, talk the tile installer into using the colored glass tiles I wanted for the backsplash and get a more pleasant work area.
I had to repeat those instructions to myself when I planned the remodel of the kitchen in this house. It was more extensive upgrade: new cabinets, new ceiling, new light fixture, new refrigerator, new sink, and the addition of a new dishwasher. Putting in the new ceiling revealed the fascinating fact that the light fixtures were attached directly to the beam, no junction box. There were other discoveries as the upgrades continued in my 1860’s home. Safety as well as aesthetics and improved functionality motivated this remodel.
The work is pretty much finished, except for a glitch with the undercounted lighting but that will be repaired soon. The kitchen is not perfect, but I like it! The walls are yellow, which I love. To choose which shade of yellow they would be painted, I picked up 16 different shades of yellow, plus a few paint chips of other colors. Again, the paralysis of analysis began to make it’s way into my brain. But, the words came back, “It’s just a kitchen, and you can always repaint.” I set the kitchen renovation free, absolved it from the responsibility of making me happy or improving my life, or meeting my spiritual needs. It’s still just a kitchen. And I’m still glad it’s yellow!
Today's Poem: "Mint" by Seamus Heaney It looked like a clump of small dusty nettles Growing wild at the gable of the house Beyond where we dumped our refuse and old bottles: Unverdant ever, almost beneath notice. But, to be fair, it also spelled promise And newness in the back yard of our life As if something callow yet tenacious Sauntered in green alleys and grew rife. The snip of scissor blades, the light of Sunday Mornings when the mint was cut and loved: My last things will be first things slipping from me. Yet let all things go free that have survived. Let the smells of mint go heady and defenceless Like inmates liberated in that yard. Like the disregarded ones we turned against Because we’d failed them by our disregard. Grace and peace to you, Caroline