Adult Topic Blogs

My Home Improvement Project : Billie Best Blog

My Home Improvement Project : Billie Best Blog

Sunday morning while my cohabitant was away on a fishing trip, I went to a hardware store to walk the aisles of DIY paradise and think. I just needed different mental ingredients, something more whimsical than work, sweeter than the mood I make on my screens, something to distract me, amuse me, whip my flat mental meringue into frothy peaks, a new home improvement project. On Sunday morning, the hardware store has the quiet introspection of a museum. People stand around and read merchandise tags as they ponder electricity, count nails and nuts and bolts, and pick up pieces of copper pipe imagining water. As I wander, free associating wood and duct tape, my bingo card of preconceived ideas disintegrates, and I settle into flow. We’re all there to solve a problem, create a new space, fix the broken. It’s a world of possibilities. My alpha waves rise in the halogen air and sing like a choir of angels while I wait for my new home improvement project to manifest.

In the garden department, I wanted to start ten different projects right away, projects I hadn’t even thought of until I saw all those Spring Sale discount price signs. I stared at the red azaleas for $8.99 with one voice in my head going on about how cool they would look along the driveway, while the other voice reminded me how we live in a rented house and buying foundation plants for it is like giving my money away. So, no azaleas. Only stuff I can take with me when I go. 

What about string lights? Our front porch is very dark. Of course I could just turn the light on if I’m home. But I want a light that turns itself on when it’s dark if I’m not home. So, a portable outdoor-rated light with photo sensitivity that turns itself on and off at dusk and dawn. String lights are rated for outdoor use, and I got a gadget to go with them that would turn them on at night and off in the morning. This was purely thrilling. I was problem solving all on my own in the hardware store, just me and my credit card making the world a better place. Sigh.

We’ve lived here only three months and it’s our first home created together as cohabitants. I love the festive look of ropey string lights, but I don’t have tool skills and I’m very short. So I rigged them up with zip ties and waited for the applause when my cohabitant arrived home from his weekend on the river. But in the language of our time, my installation received a thumbs down. The words “hippy-dippy spiderweb” were used. Where I saw a carnival of artfully draped illumination, he saw a half-assed home improvement project performed by low-skilled labor. Evidently, artful is a matter of perspective. He said he was going to dismantle my work and hang the string lights so they look handsome. I’m worried that his plan will be over-engineered and asymmetrical. So, I put up my dukes ready for a fight. 

Then I flashback to twenty years ago when my mother told me I was wrecking my marriage by being too bossy with my husband. She said, “You have to make him feel like a man.” I remember what a brain bomb that was at the time. First it was advice coming from the Queen Boss Cow herself. Then it felt super sexist. Also, not for nothing, I’m always right. Am I just supposed to surrender my point-of view? Cringe. I remind myself that back then I won the argument and lost the man. I don’t want that to happen again. I don’t want to be the Boss Cow.

So, we postpone the string lights debate until later in the week. Monday is the day he meets with the guy who is buying his boat, and the inevitability of giving up a thing he loves casts a dark shadow over him. He is melancholy. He says he feels like he did when his dog died. This moment is the end of an era in his life as a fisherman. In his mind, fishermen are divided into two camps. With boat. Without boat. It’s humbling for him to be without a boat. I have so much empathy, but mothering him will just rub it in. I think about how I felt when I sold my last cows, but I don’t talk about it because his feelings right now are real. He’s passing a milestone, and I don’t want to make it seem ordinary by telling my own story. I look out the window at my hippy-dippy spiderweb of string lights and think, whatever makes him happy. Let him do what he wants if it leavens his mood.

He is my home improvement project. When we started living together in 2020, we agreed that our biggest challenge would be cohabitating. Each of us had lived alone for more than a decade and we were hooked on the mental ingredients of those old habits. But our minds were open to change because we liked this new feeling of being together. Now my home is with him, wherever that might be, and I see that to improve our home in this moment, I need to surrender my willy-nilly Sunday art project to his measuring tape and power tools. This is what it means to be a cohabitant. We share the mental ingredients of peace. 

Related Posts

Leave a Reply