About 6 months ago, my husband and I started an adventure which caused me to learn so much about myself and get so many valuable reminders.
He has a house that he bought before we were married. It’s been a rental property for the whole time we’ve been living together, and last year we decided when the current lease was up, we would finally give it some attention and upgrades by renovating it, then moving into it and improving it. From a logical, rational, non-emotional standpoint, this decision makes so much sense and it makes very good financial sense. But, as I’ve learned over the past 6 months, I wasn’t being very logical, rational or non-emotional. Some might even say I flirted with irrational and emotional behavior over the Fall and Winter of 2020 when it came to this renovation and move.
Now, that I’m coming out of that period of my life and now that I can see things a little more clearly, with a little more distance, I see that even though it was an uncomfortable time for me, I got so many valuable reminders from this renovation project and from picking up my life and my household and moving it 20 minutes away.
And, just like I think about most topics on this podcast, these reminders are just too good not to share with you.
(so let’s get into the story and what I was reminded of)
What We Were Getting Ourselves Into
We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into as a project and for our relationship as a couple. (and) Compared to many couples’ adventures and investments and relationship tests of the strength -ours was very easy and relatively short.
But, suffering is suffering – right? If I’m feeling fear, or threat, or discomfort from my thoughts about a situation – even if it’s “easier” than someone else’s, I’m still feeling those feelings right? Comparison to something worse or harder doesn’t really reduce my suffering (unless that comparison changes my thoughts, which, I’ll admit, sometimes does work).
Before the Reno
Going back to the before-the-reno period, I thought I knew what I was getting into at the start of the project. I had never taken on this big of a project and upheaval, and certainly never partnering with my husband in this way. So I had some expectations about how everything would play out.
And right away, those expectations were not met.
I wanted to project manage the whole deal and have timelines and budgets and goal dates and know for sure how and when everything would turn out.
I planned to be hands off. I don’t like getting my hands literally dirty. (and) I don’t like dealing with tools, and crawling around on a dusty floor.
I didn’t want any interruption to my routine or lifestyle.
None of those expectations were met. I didn’t get any of that.
Why was I Angry?
I started to get subliminally angry. Why did I continue to get more and more angry as the adventure progressed?
Anger is maybe too strong of an emotion for this situation. If I were doing an emotion matching worksheet and I needed to match the appropriate emotion to a situation, anger wouldn’t seem to go along with this situation. Stubborn resistance seems like a more appropriate fit. But, anger is how I was feeling. And my actions were coming from a place of anger. So, maybe stubborn resistance and anger are close cousins.
Just in case this narrative is creating a little concern or discomfort for you – I’ll skip ahead to share that everything turned out just fine. I’m no longer angry or stubbornly resistant. I can laugh at my own immature and mismanaged mind now.
And as a surprise “gift-with-purchase,” not only do I have a beautiful new place to live, I have actually remembered some very valuable lessons through this whole experience – so instead of dragging you through the drama, I want to share those lessons with you in the hopes that, if you find yourself angry about something, or stubbornly resisting something, or if you notice that you have expectations that are not being met, you can customize my reno reminders for your own situation.
My Resistance Intensive
I’m thinking of this period of my life as my resistance intensive. A little slice of time set up with all the perfect opportunities for me to practice my own work and skills on myself. An apprenticeship to let me experience events and emotions to make me more empathetic. A proving ground for me to test myself.
I went into the project, very naively, with a lot of hope and optimism. Partly because I thought: I’m smart, I’m capable. I can organize this into a success!
I wanted things to go my way- and as soon as they didn’t go my way, I started to get secretly mad. I say secretly because I was keeping my emotion a secret from myself. I was resisting my own emotional response, and therefore, exploration.
At the beginning of the renovation, I asked my husband – who was planning to do all of the work- to hire an assistant to make it easier on him and to save time. He decided not to hire an assistant and I “went along” with his decision. I begrudgingly became the assistant. But really, I wasn’t going along with his decision. I was begrudging – both his decision and sometimes him.
I didn’t want to work on the house, but I ended up working on it so I was mad. And this was all my own making!
Another way resistance showed up for me was that I found all sorts of things and features in the house that I told myself were poorly designed. I frequently found myself thinking: “A house shouldn’t have been laid out this way! Why does this door open in this direction? The angle of this room doesn’t make sense. Hallways shouldn’t be taking up this much of the square footage!” I was telling myself – and believing- that the house shouldn’t be how it is. I was resisting the house’s reality. That took a lot of energy!
This reminder I got from my resistance intensive is kind of the most ironic one. And again, I do laugh about it now that I have distance and perspective. The reminder is to recognize and deal with resistance as it shows up rather than letting it drag you down. Hmm. I think there’s a podcast I could listen to that could teach me how to release my resistance!
Forgetting to Mind Manage
Even though I know about mind management and that my thoughts are optional, I was so wrapped up in believing all the “threat messages” my mind was convincing me were true. I really had trouble seeing that my mood was optional. I was soooo stubborn. Why?
I certainly didn’t need to be. If I would have just allowed myself to notice those sentences like “we’ll never be done!” and “this isn’t going to turn out how we planned” and, the dramatic “I’ll never be happy again!”
If I would have just reminded myself those sentences were just optional thoughts and not very helpful, I could have pulled myself out of my defensive mode and put myself into a more open mindset.
The Reminder? I learned that I needed to let my mind “calm down” first, then it was able to get on board with what was happening.
The Messy Middle
Eventually, I did calm down and I learned how to embrace the Messy Middle.
Part of it was probably being so tired of being resistant and defensive.
Part of it was probably that I could start to see progress and even a little tiny sliver of light at the end of the renovation tunnel.
And, I like cute alliterative names for things, so I decided to refer to the period as the messy middle. And, I decided I didn’t know how long the messy middle would last (and by the way, I’m still in it! And might still be in it for a long time!)
Referring to the state of the house and accepting it as messy, and as an undefined middle period really helped me accept reality.
Yes, we did move all of our furniture and belongings in even though we hadn’t installed baseboards yet and that would mean we’d need to move everything multiple times (instead of the efficient move everything 1 time by pre planning that my organized project manager mind had wanted to insist on). Even though I didn’t get my way, and it took longer than I expected, it all did turn out ok.
The Reminder? The middle is frequently messy. Life is frequently messy. It’s fine (even if the mind in me thinks it will be stuck this way forever).
Permission to Have Been Wrong
The 4th reminder is both a reminder and actually kind of a new lesson for me.
I noticed my own stubborn thoughts about so much during this process. I caught myself being afraid that I would always think something or I would never accept something. And finally, I remembered and realized that I can give myself permission to have been wrong and to change my mind.
I don’t have to stubbornly hate this house and this renovation.
It was a reminder because I learned part of this concept from Brooke Castillo when she explained she graciously allows other people to be wrong about her and doesn’t let that bother her. I’m totally on board with that idea.
But, the new realization for me was when I recognized my ego really likes to be smart and right. My ego likes when I research and plan and choose the best option. That’s great for some things, but also creates problems like analysis paralysis and doubt and conflict when working with someone who is spontaneous.
As soon as I considered that I had the option to accept that even being smart doesn’t mean I’m not wrong. And it’s ok if I’m wrong. I can allow myself to be wrong about myself.
This was especially a relief for the thoughts I noticed I might hold on to in spite of myself.
Have you ever clung to a stance or a preference even if you kind of wanted to change your mind. For example, not liking a TV show and then giving it another chance and thinking “oh, maybe I was wrong, maybe this show is completely funny!” Or what about a style choice? Did you love something as a teenager- and now, you can easily look back and say: “Yeah, I was so wrong about that. That style does not look good at all.”
How I Was Wrong About Drawers
An example of this with the renovation was in the kitchen. We have 2 drawers in the kitchen- one that’s extra wide and one that’s extra narrow. I was trying to figure out where our cutlery would go. Then I needed to decide what to do with everything else that came out of the 7 drawers from our last kitchen.
I was so sure I was stuck with only 2 drawers. I felt stuck and I knew there was absolutely no solution so I was complaining to a friend. She good naturedly told me I would probably find a creative solution – maybe by building something or adding something somewhere. I thought “NO, that’s impossible.” I was adamant. And then, the next morning I found a solution.
The Reminder? It’s ok for me to have been wrong in the past. I an look forward to having been wrong – is that the future perfect conditional tense? Is that kind of sentence even grammatically allowed? You know what is allowed? Having been wrong in the past!
I decided to love this house and never say anything bad about it (not even to myself). I learned this technique from 2 of my favorite teachers (Brooke, who I just mentioned, and Jen Sincero).
Brooke tells the story when she was losing weight that she realized how she talked so poorly to herself and she just decided one day, while looking in the mirror, that she would never beat herself up about her body ever again. She was no longer available to be mean to herself.
Jen tells a similar story about coming to terms with not having money. She even joked about it by calling herself broke as a joke. So she decided she was no longer available to be broke. She would figure out how to make money and she did.
So, remembering their stories and their successes, I decided I was no longer available to be negative about the house.
Instead, I could choose to believe this house is quirky. And each time I caught myself about to think or say something negative, I’d remind myself with the phrase “I’ll never say anything bad about this house. It’s quirky.”
The Reminder? I can decide to no longer be available to do whatever harmful thing I’ve been doing.
Five Reminders from my Renovation
Five Reminders from my Renovation that started about 6 months ago and which is still incomplete.
I share these with you, maybe as a little bit of a vent session for myself, and also, hopefully so that you can take 1 or all of these reminders and apply them to something you might be struggling with.
Let the mind calm down and manage it
The middle is messy
Allow yourself to have been wrong
No longer be available to say anything bad
When I look at these reminders in their shortened form and think of what words I would sum them up as using some of my current favorite vocabulary, I realize the reminders align perfectly with: awareness, intention, surrender, forgiveness and acceptance.
Recognizing resistance is awareness. Using intention, I can let my mind calm down so I can manage it. Then, I can surrender to living in the messy middle. I can allow myself to have been wrong and be forgiving about it. And, with complete acceptance, I’m no longer available to say anything bad about this house.
How to Use These Reminders
You can apply these reminders to your own renovation or any adventure you’re going through.
And maybe this is nice to hear now, but doesn’t really apply to you. Maybe nothing’s going on for you that’s creating any stress or drama or discomfort – so just file these away and then remember them when they do become useful to you!
Have you experienced any of the same feelings and situations I described in my renovation adventure?
Did anything pop out as familiar to you even though our circumstances are different?
Do you have any resistance to any of the reminders I shared?
Do you want to watch a video showing the renovation adventure mentioned in this post? It’s included in a google drive folder I share with all my favorite people! Get a link to that folder now by signing up as one of my favorites!