I don’t know if everyone else struggles with inanimate objects, but I do.
There’s the desk I love that needs to be repainted, chiding me whenever I cross the living room. The oven is bitter about never being scrubbed clean. The plants greet me with a chorus of objections: not enough water! Too much water! More sun! Less sun – yer frying my green ass!
Yes, I have problematic relationships with items in my home. We’re working it out.
One of my greatest adversaries has been the back door.
The door sags in its frame as often happens in old houses. Every few years it gets a little tougher to lock. The last year and a half required a healthy hip check to secure it at night and it’s no wonder I developed a permanent bruise: battle scar. Two months ago, the door got even more impossible, requiring more jiggling, harder hip punching. One month ago, I stood at the back door for 20 minutes swearing, jiggling, and then ultimately praying for it to lock.
And it did. It locked!
I decided to leave it locked until I figured out my next move.
Instead of working toward a solution, I ignored the problem, because I think we can all agree that ignoring problems is a fine strategy that usually turns out well.
For the last month, I exited only by the front door. I stopped putting my car in my garage at night so that I wouldn’t have to trudge around the icy, uneven yard to get to the front door. I let garbage pile up by the back door because it’s such a hassle to drag it out the front, around the house, back to the alley. I’d take it out eventually.
The garbage and recycling piled up. Almost broke my ankle in the yard one night.
Recently a guest in my home – who did not know better – unlocked the back door. Once unlocked, I could not slam/wriggle/beg/surprise attack the lock back into submission. Several nights I went to bed with my back door unlocked, lying in bed listening for sounds of intruders.
Sometimes I lose the battles with inanimate objects.
My buddy Snake agreed to give me an estimate on a new back door and he brought a really good friend of mine, his son, Erik. They mused over the door quietly, muttering things and Snake decided there was no need for a brand new door: just move the door plate and replace the square spindles. (I kinda broke off the door knob in one of my battles.)
Erik raised his eyebrows to show me his agreement with his father’s assessment. This is how Erik often communicates; he’s a quiet man who speaks when it really matters but generally his eyebrows will let you know what he’s thinking.
Snake has been a friend for years now, and we have stories together, which I think is the best way to describe someone you love: we have stories together. I love both of his adult kids. He recently fought cancer and lived. In the mens’ work we do, he has touched thousands of lives. He sculpts and writes poetry, he listens like a mutherfucker, and his wicked humor manifests itself in practical jokes. At his beautiful daughter’s wedding, I lifted her chair with other friends in the Horah dance, a true honor. I love his daughter, love her husband.
I just love that whole damn family.
Three months ago, Snake and Erik invaded my home to tape 50 photos of Snake’s son-in-law, my buddy Kyle, everywhere: under my toilet seat, under furniture, in my kitchen cabinets, in couch cushions. They replaced photos in frames with Kyle’s scowl. I found one under the bath mat. Three months later, they’re still turning up in surprising places.
Shortly after that when I ran into Erik, I sarcastically referenced my surprising new photo collection. Erik lifted his eyebrows to say, ‘Did we go too far?’
Snake came over last week and fixed my back door. One short trip to the hardware store and 30 minutes later, the door was fixed!
Saturday afternoon, I came in the back door and the bolt slid in effortlessly, a sexy, silky mechanical pleasure. The sound and tactile sensation in my finger tips was so pleasing, I called Snake immediately to re-express my deep gratitude and tried to describe how much joy I derived from my new relationship with the back door.
“You don’t know how long I’ve lived with this,” I said. “It’s been years of fighting that damn door, and today was the first day I trusted it would lock easily. I trusted the door.”
It’s sad when you call a friend to brag about working through “trust issues” with a door.
But Snake understood.
“Men live like that,” he said. “Your door is the metaphor. We live with broken shit, and we think, ‘Well, it’s gotta be this way, gotta be this hard.’ The house falls down around us while we’re standing there in the middle, thinking ‘how did this happen?’ You let it get worse and worse until one day you realize ‘This is it. Something’s got to give.’
This is it.
Something’s gotta give.
I love those simple words.
After we got off the phone, I thought about how perfectly the metaphor matched problems of the heart: I spent years ignoring the door, hoping the problem went away. It didn’t. Problem got worse. More ignoring. Finally locked the problem tight (literally) and lived life around it, making other aspects of my life harder, consequences be damned. Hell, garbage piled up. Metaphor much?
But something’s gotta give. A man can’t live that way, not forever.
Then, someone who didn’t know better unlocked my problem and once unleashed, I was forced to deal; no going back.
The solution was easier than I had dreamed; I just had to ask for help.
I love having relationship with inanimate objects; I always end up learning so much about myself, my biases, my shortcomings, where I am patient and where I am not. I love my dining room table and what it has taught me about food. The stained glass lamp in my bedroom is the perfect pattern for me, a nightly reminder how well my parents know me.
As Snake and I ended our conversation, I tried to convey how much this meant, how I’m not skilled at around-the-house carpentry stuff, so this meant a lot, to have help when I felt vulnerable. I tried to say not just ‘Thank you,’ but ‘Thank you.’
Snake said, “Glad to be of service.”
I wasn’t sure he understood the depth of my gratitude, how much this meant to me, so I re-initiated my grateful chorus until he cut me off.
“Edmond,” he said, in the tone one uses when one wants to be heard. “Glad to be of service.”
I love being loved by my men friends.
I suddenly feel like scrubbing the oven.