The latest thing in my house to break is the light fixture above the mirror in the half-bath off the kitchen. A few months ago, I looked up and the opaque flower thing that encases the bulb had slipped down and was hanging precariously on the bulb itself. I removed the burned out bulb, and set the glass piece in a cabinet in my laundry room. Two bulbs still worked. I’ll show it to my dad next time he’s in town, I thought at the time.
One recent morning before school my teen, who applies her mascara at that mirror, flipped the switch and whined. “Mom, something’s wrong with the light. You need to fix it.”
What I am finding strange about this pandemic era we’re living in is that while it seems I’ve got nothing but time, I still find it hard to get things done. The teen faced the dark for several mornings before I remembered I needed to do something about it.
I pulled up the white Target step stool I’d purchased during our toilet training days that remained in the half-bath. I started to change the bulbs. The first one came out and a new one went in without incident. The third one posed a challenge. Somehow the bulb would not twist out of the socket. I leaned in underneath the bulb to try to get a sense of what was going on. I looked back at the only one still functioning. Minutes later I was able to free the bulb from its encasing. Now there are two bulbs missing. The teen can resume make up application, and nothing made of glass threatens to fall on our heads.
I wish I could complete the repair, but in the past five years of solo homeownership, I have come to accept my limitations. I need help, and we’re living through a pandemic. More than ever, I’ve got to be choosy about the things I ask for help, and a light fixture doesn’t fit the bill.
I forgot about these limitations this week as I unboxed the contents of the teen’s new IKEA platform bed. I forgot that four years ago, it took three college-educated adults (one with a graduate degree) to assemble my bed, and mine didn’t have any drawers!
For four days, I worked at my lap top in my assembled bed, and then commuted out my door at the end of the day, took a left turn in the hallway and walked into my daughter’s bedroom where the latest lesson lay before me in about three hundred pieces. There on the floor, I spent no fewer than two hours a night, replaying a YouTube video of how to assemble the bed, sighing copiously, cursing under my breath, and fighting waves of despair and loneliness. The teen’s own sighs and sass about the bed not being done “YET?” did not help.
On the fourth night, our house guest took a break from her PhD, and offered a hand. Quickly, she confirmed that this was a complicated build made trickier by the poorly labeled instructions and imprecise fittings of the materials. We divided up the tasks. At one point I asked, “Which do you think is harder your PhD or this bed?” She laughed, and we kept at it.
Her presence was a balm and just the boost I needed to make it to the finish line. Together, we were able to prepare the bed for sleeping. The drawers remain unassembled, but in time, I’ll get those done too.
This season of life, thrown up against the scary backdrop of a global pandemic, is teaching me to do what I can and to be okay with unfinished business. At an earlier trip to IKEA, I found an affordable replacement light fixture to put in the place of the current chandelier in my dining room. We have moved the dining room table out of the room, and so there’s a real danger of banging our heads on the chandelier if we’re moving mindlessly through the room. I called my dad for some verbal coaching about how to replace it, but over the conversation, I decided this job is above my paygrade, and I am content to keep the dog bed under the light to help spare our heads the next bump.
Until it’s safe to welcome more people into my home, I’m going to be okay with projects I can’t complete on my own. I’m going to keep chipping away at the things I can, and not write a false narrative about what it means that I can’t do it alone, and need help. I’m not weak or dumb. I’m one person who is patient, values the long game, and wants to do things right the first time. If that means waiting until my handy parents or sister or friends can help me, so be it. I am learning how resilient and resourceful I am, and we usually don’t learn things like that about ourselves when the going is good.
Stuff keeps breaking. I accept the things I cannot fix. I have the courage to fix what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Serenity.