There was a time when replacing the heating element on an oven would have sent me into a spiral. I was a writer. An artist. A geek. Computer guy.
Home repair was not my thing. It wasn’t in my DNA.
Over the years however, faced with the choice to pay an expensive contractor or repairman to do the work for me, I’ve had to learn how to deal with some of this stuff myself.
At first, that involved histrionic fits, downward spirals and frustration as I bumped up against my complete and total lack of knowledge. Anything more than hanging a painting was a shotgun blast through the centre of my image of myself as an intelligent human being, sending me careening over the cliff.
I am making progress. Not only did I replace the heating element on my oven last night, I did it easily, without frustration and got that pleasure warm flush of satisfaction at a job well done when it lit up red.
No histrionics. No frustration. No spiralling rage at my own helpless hopelessness.
It’s taken years to get to this point.
Not that I’m some expert repairman, or that replacing a heating element is particularly difficult (it’s actually embarrassingly simple), and I can still get frustrated, but the minor fact of having done a few things successfully, using logic and patience, has built up my confidence in my ability to be able to tackle such tasks without the usual self-recrimination, questioning of manhood and so on.
Part of it is attention training, the meditation practice that I can use to short circuit some of the frustration I feel simply by stopping for a minute and communing with my breath or the silence or simply existence as a whole. A deep, conscious breath is often all that is needed to reverse the downward spiral.
Finally, the biggest mindset change was moving from a belief that it’s inherent within me that I’m not capable of physical labour and home repair to one that says it’s simply a skill I haven’t learned yet. Each successful task and new challenge is an opportunity to learn. Sometimes, like the furnace repair a couple of years ago will be beyond me and I have to call an expert. Some, like the leaky drain hose on my dishwasher were things that just took some time, some advice and a couple of experiments. Some needed help, like replacing the posts in a leaning fence, but we did it, and if I ever have to do it again, I’ll know how.
Bully for me.
I take pride in the little victories, small as they might be. I find more joy in the times where I managed to avoid getting lost in my own head and frustration, that I might fall into the task with an open mind and willing heart.
Sometimes, like last night, it works, and I have a functional oven again. Maybe, someday, I can do that for a living, instead of the nightmarish hell of this job, and the relentless time and joy vortex that comes with it.
Target: 200 words
Written: 250 words, comic: Romance #1