Sunday, October 16, 2005

Zen and Body Work….

One of the things I think I enjoy about restorations, and body work in particular, is the ‘mental health time’ it gives me. While I wasn’t entirely happy about having to re-strip the bed of the pickup, doing so gave me a lot of time to think.

Mike commented (when he asked to borrow a tool) that it sure seemed like I was putting a lot of work into something that most folks would never see. He made that comment a couple of times when we were in the middle of the remodel as well. I do spend a lot of time on details that almost no one else will notice.

So, as usual, I began to ponder… why is it that I spend all that time on something rarely seen. Why do I hold off on doing things until I can ‘do them right’? By the way, “right”, is a relative term. What’s right to me, may be entirely different than what’s right to someone else.

I know that there are some basic reasons. The first is that I hate doing anything twice. I’d prefer to wait until I can do it once and be done with it. I’m in a situation like that right now with our kitchen. It’s the one room in the house that we use daily, which really needs to be brought up to the level of the rest of the house. The cabinets weren’t ‘top of the line’ when they were new, and they’ve certainly not aged well. We also need an exhaust fan over the stove.

I have the exhaust fan, and vent materials. I haven’t installed it because I know I’ll have to move it, and most likely move the vent opening through the wall, when we do replace the cabinets. I know it won’t be in the same place because we want to change the design of the cabinet layout, not a lot, but enough that I’m sure the stove will move six inches, left or right, from its existing location, depending on how things work out.

It would be simpler if my mind didn’t see the changes, and I could just install the fan now, my wife would be happier, and the kitchen would be a more pleasant place to cook.

The second primary reason for my attention to these hidden details is the pride I take when someone actually does notice. This truck for example, when it goes up on a lift for an inspection, and a mechanic comes back to me and says something like “Your truck is immaculate, underneath!”, well, it leaves me with a sense of pride that’s hard to explain.

I had a similar reaction when an electrician, adding a breaker to a sub-panel box I’d installed asked “Who did this wiring?”. I responded to him by asking “Why?”, and he said, “It’s the cleanest box I’ve ever seen, it looks like a textbook picture”. Having a professional, tell me that, well, again, a sense of pride in a job well done.

The most important reason of all though, and the reason I like to do all of these ‘do-it-yourself’ projects, is the sense of accomplishment I feel, not only when I finish one, but at each step along the way.

I learned, a long time ago, that if I ‘cut a corner’, doing so would haunt me. I mean it would literally keep me awake at night, that knowledge, that I’d taken a short cut, not done as good a job as I could have, I found it diminished me somehow. My mind would replay the project over and over, each time focusing on the skipped step, and re-doing that step, showing me how much ‘better’ the overall result would/could have been.

So, while sanding the entire bed, again, has been tedious, it’s left me with a renewed sense of purpose. I started this project because I wanted to give my wife something she’d never had before. A unique, one of a kind vehicle, which had been built for her, by someone she loved. Not for money, but simply because that person wanted to see the smile on her face the first time she drove it.

Why did I decide to build her a pickup truck?

That’s a simple answer. This was the first vehicle she’d ever purchased, entirely on her own, and been proud of. Her eyes would light up when she’d talk about how pretty the truck was when she first got it, and I love to see her eyes light up. They’d dim considerably after telling the story though, as she thought about the careless treatment of the truck by some of the people she’d let use it over the years.

So initially, this started out as a ‘freshen the old girl up’ project. But, like every project I start, it took on a life of its own. I’m more like Tim from the show “Home Improvement” than I care to admit at lot of the time. I can’t seem to do anything a little bit.

If I’m lucky, and things go well, I might have this finished by Spring. The more realistic time frame though is summer, and that would be Ok too. The only thing that’s really important to me, is the smile on her face when I hand her the keys and she drives it for the first time.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep working on it, taking everything one step at a time and not calling it ‘done’ until I’m satisfied that it’s done. It’s sort of like the Zen practice of contemplating each footstep, focusing on the step, and only that step, as you walk. It clears the mind of the other clutter, and allows you to fully enjoy the journey. I have an overall goal, a direction and a plan, but I’m enjoying the steps, and the process of working on and completing each one along the way!

I’ll post the pictures of the, once again stripped bed, this evening or tomorrow.

Today though, once the bed is stripped I have 4 new lights to hang, some ‘hard’ air line and two air filter/dryers to install and four shelves to put up, in the shop. So the picture posting will depend on what time when I get everything finished.

What project(s) are you in the middle of?


Beth said...

My whole house is my project.

Hubby doesn't like doing anything half-assed either. He said it only creates bigger problems down the road and would make it hard to sleep at night. =)

Jay said...

I tend to do projects like that also. Jason is completely opposite though - he's a strictly surface guy, so he doesn't understand why it's important to me to do the things that will go unnoticed.

Bill said...

Beth - I feel like my whole house is a project a lot of the time too!!

Jay - It is tough when the spouse doesn't 'get it'... for me it's not really an option... more like a compulsion!! Fortunately for me, Maryan is understanding and let's me do what I need to most of the time!

Chloe said...

Bill, great post! It's so sweet about wanting to see your wife's eyes light up :)

I'm a perfectionist, too, especially when I write short stories. Ugh, at this rate, I'll never get published!

Bill said...

Chloe - Thanks... it does make my day to see her eyes light up!

While I've managed to get a couple articles published this year, the 'stories' just don't seem to ever 'feel' good enough to send out... so I know exactly what you mean!!

Thanks for stopping by.

Firehawk said...


There was an interview with Andreas Segovia (the guitarist) when he was a very old man. He still practiced for many hours every day. The interviewer asked him, "Maestro, why do you practice so much at your age. Surely, you've learned all you can learn."

Segovia said, "If I did not practice for many days, I would know it. If I stopped practicing for a month, the world would know it."

Even though he was in his eighties, he still felt that his skills had to be tended. Even if no one heard him play, he had to "remain Segovia".

I think that's the reason we work tirelessly on things that'll probably never be seen or appreciated by more than a few people. Other people might not know, but we know if we really did something right.

Spirit Of Owl said...

Great to read on your wise words, Bill. I think I'm in a project called "What the hell's going on around here?" and trying to stop reeling around all the time. Ha. I think, seriously, that this work in progress has recently had a breakthrough... :)

Bill said...

Firehawk - 'Even if no one heard him play, he had to "remain Segovia".'

There ya go! I think that's really it in a nutshell. I know we've talked about this before, but, I think it's important.

We have to do things for ourselves, it's nice when others notice and even appreciate what we do, most important of all though, is the *we* are happy with whatever we've done!!

Spirit - Thanks man... A breakthrough? Really! That's wonderful... you're far overdue for some good karma to slide your way!!

Comfort Addict said...


Right now, we're in the middle of planning for a move to a new house (mum's the word; this will be the subject of a blog post in the near future). In addition to figuring out what we need / want and when we can get it, we're trying to fix up the current place as we can. Unfortunately, we'll have to do a lot of the work (cleaning the basement thoroughly, plastering and re-painting our hall and living room, re-finishing the wood floors) after we leave.

I'm just hoping that we can sell the thing before too long. The idea of carrying two mortgages (although doable for a while) doesn't thrill me. So, if you know someone who wants to move to cozy bungalow in a suburb north of Detroit with the greatest neighbors on earth, spread the word!