Shawn, the electrician, comes in the front door lugging his toolbox and three light bars. “Are you excited?”
“This is the hard part,” I say. “We’re in the middle. So, er, no.”
Our kitchen has been undone since late December: food and dishes put away in boxes, tile ripped off the floor and walls, vintage appliances carted away, and cabinet doors unhinged and discarded.
We’re undertaking what I’m calling a recession renovation. (My phrasing is inspired by Marcia telling me she’s “recession reading”: getting to books she owns already and no bookstore splurges.) This project is not a total re-do; instead, it’s piecemeal. New this and new that, but some old remains.
New doors have already been hung on the old cabinets. New floor tile has been ordered. New countertop: Formica™ will have to do.
The project started. It’s underway. The last lick of paint is a long way off.
We’re in the middle.
I find the middle, of any creative project, to be a wide, rough patch (even this one, in which other laborers, and not me, are doing the lion’s share of the physical work).
Beginnings burst with energy. There is a decisive break with the old. The outcome shimmers ahead on a horizon only imagined.
Endings, too, gather energy to them. The finish line is in sight. Adrenalin surges.
The middle slumps. Day-to-day reveals only incremental changes, and occasionally there are reversals. (That tile you ordered? Sorry, unavailable after all.) A vision for the project erodes as the concrete reality of the likely outcome reveals itself, layer by layer.
The middle is a point between two shores, and there is no going back, no restoring that comfortable place where all was only hope, only the dream. The middle is when I stand on the old naked and creaking floorboards and realize that something new must be put down to walk on, and the something new will not be perfect; it’ll be something, and it’ll be new.
Nevertheless, it’s tempting to stop for a while in the middle place, and leave the old things packed away and keep the new things on order, in a warehouse. Keep the job ticket open indefinitely.
If it’s open, it’s open to possibility.
But no project can remain forever open. We must keep making all those little decisions that feed the outcome, and live with the fact that each little decision closes a door to possibility. And we have to keep going and going, scarily switching off possibilities of what our kitchen could be, or what our work could be, or what our lives could be. They will be this, and not that.
We feel this in the middle of things, and it is really hard to live in that place. We have to force ourselves on. Decide, decide. Do, do.
If we keep going — and most of us will — at some invisible point we make our peace with what it is we’re making.
On second thought, maybe that peace is more like resolve.
And that peace, or resolve, allows us to push on and finish making it.
Getting to the outcome often feels more like overcoming (fear, hurdles, hesitance — you name it) than completing.
And then the real, no longer a vision, flowers.