So I decided to clean out a closet.
It was time. I mean, it was two years overdue. Three years. Okay, eight.
At any rate, I did it last week. I threw out the clutter and made a useful space out of it, which made me happy on so many levels.
In so doing, I discovered – okay, was no longer able to ignore – some nails and staples sticking up out of the hardwood floor. When we ripped the carpet out of that room, I had painstakingly pulled every last carpet nail and staple, EXCEPT for in the closet because, well, that’s where I ran out of steam, and it was in the closet so no one was going to step on them.
I now needed to roll my plastic book crates in and out of there on a daily basis, so the nails had to go. The nails had to go BEFORE I put everything back in the closet, and since the contents had completely taken over my living room (causing me to muse that like gas, stored objects expand to fill the area in which they are contained), the nails had to go NOW.
Pushing aside the thought that this quick clean-out job was morphing into a day-stealing project, I opened my trusty toolbox and discovered that my hammer was missing. My pink hammer. The one I bought so that the rest of the family would know it was mine. Not that any of them had a problem with USING it, but the bright pink color would at least stand out and look out of place if it was put in my husband’s toolbox. Yep, not there.
I found another hammer in the kitchen (don’t ask) and used that, but when it came to pulling a carpet staple, the hammer only managed to pull half of it, which left a sharp piece of metal sticking straight up from the hardwood floor. No problem, thought I, since I had pulled a roomful of these things when we first took out the carpet, I’ll just get the pliers.
From my toolbox.
See, I should have just KNOWN… I opened the box and found no pliers.
The kitchen didn’t contain any pliers either, so I took a deep breath and ventured into the scariness that is the garage.
The garage is largely my husband’s place of storage, although I have carved out a corner for myself and have to tend to it, much like a rose garden, weeding it on a monthly basis of the stuff that encroaches upon it. The rest of the garage is my husband’s repository of things.
And did I mention that he’s ADD?
So. Yeah. The image of a haystack comes to mind.
I found his toolbox fairly quickly. No pliers. At least, I’m pretty sure there weren’t any. Short of dumping it on the ground I couldn’t be completely sure, and I was afraid to disrupt his filing system so that wasn’t an option. I found another toolbox. No pliers there either. A little more digging and I found another. It appeared to contain only plumbing tools and a coil of weed-whacker line. No pliers though. Not one of his three pairs of pliers, not my pink pliers.
This all sounds mildly annoying on the surface, but you have to understand that on the inside I was slowly choking. It’s what the past does. It rises up to cut off our breath at the slightest provocation. I was heading straight into that particular brand of panic that grips me when I come face to face with chaos.
Because this is not the first time I’ve had to dig through a spider-infested garage looking for tools. This is not the first time that a simple household chore has blown up into a giant waste of time.
This is why I have my own toolbox in the first place. This is why I did, at one point, have a lock on that box. At some point I foolishly took the lock off the box, thinking that a married woman should not have to lock her husband out of her things and somehow deciding that since I shouldn’t have to do this, it would actually be better if I didn’t.
So all of that was clamoring in my head, and it suddenly wasn’t about a staple sticking up out of the floor of the closet. It was about my marriage, about life, about the universe. It was about the hidden burdens I carry and the unfairness of it all. My emotions were flashing from panic to anger to self-pity and back in a split-second. My vision was darkening around the edges. My breathing was shallow. There was ringing in my ears. I wanted to throw something. Preferably the sledgehammer I had found in the paint bucket next to the glass shades from the chandelier we took down two years ago.
I stormed back into the house and grabbed my purse, telling the kids, in a remarkably calm voice, that I was going to the store.
At the store I walked straight to the tool department, and chose a nice pair of Stanley pliers, and while I was at it, a good hefty Stanley hammer. No more wimpy pink tools for me. I was going to stock my toolbox with the real deal. Muffy the Riveter. That’s me.
Arriving home, I seized my new pliers, relishing the weight and firmness of a good tool, and marched over to the errant staple. Gripping it in the pliers, I prepared to give it a firm pull…. and before I could really pull, it came out. I seriously hadn’t applied any pressure. All I did was grip it.
So it had apparently been impaled in the floor to a depth of about 1/8 of a centimeter. Just enough to make it stick up straight.
In other words, I could have pulled it out with my fingers.
I sat on the floor of the closet and just stared at it. I hadn’t even tried to pull it out with my fingers. I had assumed that a tool-requisite level of force was needed. But I could have tried. It would have cost me nothing to try.
But because I hadn’t even tried, I had put myself through a good hour of angst.
It made me wonder. How many other problems do I assume to be bigger than they really are? How many other trips do I trudge down paths of anger and panic and sorrow simply because I assume that path is the only possibility?
Maybe sometimes there’s a quicker fix. Maybe sometimes there’s a road around the mountain. If I don’t even consider that as a possibility, I will miss it.
At the end of the day, I took stock – I had a clean closet. I had a new pair of pliers and two hammers (I found the pink one at the back of the top shelf of that closet. Don’t ask). I had a lock on my toolbox again. I had not managed to tame the chaos that exists around me, but I had once again made inroads into it.
And I had learned that sometimes it’s better to attempt what appears to be impossible, especially when trying costs you nothing.
Because sometimes the cost of not trying is worse.