Wednesday, August 3, 2011


So the last 24 hours or so haven't been all that great.

I had a bit of a breakdown moment when I realized our door project wasn't going as well as I had hoped. I finished the staining on a couple doors and had started the polyurethane coating, but it was turning out to be more glossy than I had hoped for when I finished a coat on the basement door.

I've never done stain and poly on a project this big so I don't know if it was technique or picking the wrong product. I followed the advice I was given and the directions.

I'm doing this on four newly installed doors in our downstairs (basement, guest room, nursery, coat closet). The problem really isn't the work, it's everything attached to it. Four doors that cost us a not-small sum to have installed, trying to get this project done so it's finished before the baby comes (because it won't get done anytime soon after that), trying to make sure I'm devoting time to research and other job duties this summer, trying to get all the other things done around here that need to be done, etc.

In other words, I have a lot on my plate. Were the door stuff the only thing there, I'd have time to tinker and redo, do some trial and error, figure out what's wrong. But I'm feeling pressure to get this done lest it start cutting into all the other things I need to accomplish.

I tend to be a perfectionist, but in this case perfect is the enemy of good, good in a lot of other areas of my life that I feel need a lot of attention.

I hated the feeling that came last night when I realized the doors weren't going to look like I'd hoped. It wasn't my ideal, and it wasn't my wife's ideal. I feel like I'm letting her down, but at the same time I feel the need to be practical about what I can do without putting in jeopardy all the other things the family will be counting on from me. But at the same time I want to do it well.

It spiraled from there. Get the doors done well. But what about the other projects? What about tenure? What about making sure I'm doing my best in my work? But what about my need to make the home nice for the family?

For a week now I've started to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of everything I'm juggling. The doors are a minor thing, a blip on the radar of an entire lifetime, but last night they came to represent the unease I'm feeling with how I'm going to do all this, how I'm going to be successful as a parent while also being successful in my career. It might sound insensitive to our child to make those two concerns equal, but the truth is we have a lot riding on me getting tenure and having some stability in my job. A lot. That's pressure, squarely on my head.

So I shut down. I just couldn't move, couldn't decide. The truth is that there was no choice. I had to keep going on the poly application, possibly change my technique to get a less shiny coat, but time spent heavily researching new products and such was going to kill me down the line. And I knew it. But it didn't square with my ideals.

Like I said, shut down. I was like HAL 9000, who encountered a logical mobius strip from which there was no path forward.

Most of you who know me know I'm a bundle of energy, perhaps to my detriment. If there's one thing I've learned in my 36 years, it's that I hate - hate - feeling unempowered. Give me a problem and I try to see a solution and then I act. Sometimes the solution works, other times it's a loser, but at least I can learn from failure and improve on the solution. But when there's no choice that satisfies all the things I want to accomplish, and when there is no way to find a choice that will get me there, then I just shut down.

I hate that feeling. Hate it.

After 16 hours or so of self-loathing, I did what I had to do. Picked up a brush and put on a new coat. I tried a new technique to try and agitate the poly a bit more and it looks like the coat I'm applying now will be less shiny. Not what I want, but better than what I had. And the good news is that the only shiny coat is on the back side of the basement door that nobody will see. So here's hoping that the new technique at least helps make it better than what it was.

But it won't be perfect, won't be what either my wife and I envisioned. I have to learn from this, because I'm sure this is just the beginning of the kinds of compromises you have to make when there's a baby in the picture. And the truth is I'd rather be a good parent than have not-shiny doors.

Credit my wife for being patient here. I don't get into shutdown mode much, but when I do she tolerates it well and lets me work it out.


Post #49 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

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