A Sunny Focus

What you focus your attention on matters

The stunning conclusion to the tale of the tiny hole

If you have been following along with this set of posts, you already know all about the tiny hole. In case you have missed any of it, here is the condensed version:

My husband and I had delayed some routine maintenance on our deck and siding (because, life). Eventually (and unfortunately) an actual hole formed where the siding met the deck.

Working under the precept of better late than never, we took action. In so doing, we discovered the problem extended far beyond this tiny hole.

As it happens, the concepts involved in solving this not-so-little issue can be applied to just about any problem a person might encounter.

Here are some of those concepts:

Sometimes the solution is easier than you think it will be.

One of the reasons I hadn’t cleaned the deck before now is that I wanted to use a cleaner that would not be harmful to animals, especially as we live in a watershed area. Happily, a friend posted a while ago about using eco-friendly dish soap to clean her deck. Less happily, by the time I asked her what she used, she couldn’t remember.

Off I went to the internet, to find and research cleaners. I spent roughly eighteen million hours (give or take) trying to figure out what the very best cleaner was.

analysis paralysis
Noun
The condition of being unable to make a decision due to the availability of too much information which must be processed in order for the decision to be made.

Wiktionary

I would like to take a moment to thank the World Wide Web for having information freely available for the looking. I would like to take an additional moment to mention that a lot of this information colored by marketing spin. Even scientific studies often provide conflicting results.

Oh, and have I mentioned my tendency to overthink things? Yeah. That. I couldn’t figure out what the exact correct cleaner was, so I did the only reasonable thing. I decided I would come back to it later and forgot about it until we had reached crisis mode.

Crisis mode arrived. In the cleaner aisle of the hardware store, I had two choices of cleaner that were labeled eco-friendly. Two. My husband was nearly ready to check out, so I felt the time crunch. I had to get something, and I had to get it right then.

Frantically, I typed “earth-friendly soap to clean deck” in the search bar on my phone.

Lo and behold! I found an amazing answer on hunker.com.

Vinegar and water.

Really?! Yes, really. My magic, earth-friendly, effective cleaner had been sitting in my kitchen the whole time. The solution (ha!) doesn’t have to be fancy, my people.

Sometimes the problem is that easy to fix, and sometimes — not so much.

You might need professional help.

Because of the changing seasons, we have taken a delaying tactic with this project. We have patched up what we can and have taken steps to allow everything to dry out. It’s possible (though not likely) that we will be able to fix the rest of the issue once warm weather comes around again. If not? We will hire out.

There is no shame in turning to a professional when you are not able to solve your problem on your own. No matter if you are hiring a contractor, a lawyer, a nutritionist, or a therapist, there is no need to be ashamed. There’s a reason these professions exist and it’s not because people who need them are failures. It’s because it’s simply not possible for every person to have every skill set.

Not everyone needs professional help to fix the exact same problem.

We had dinner with some friends last weekend, one of whom has done construction professionally for years. The two of them showed us the various home improvements they have been working on. Their work was beautiful and had no traces of being a DIY job.

If they found themselves with a sun-room that had any rot in the wall, I have no doubts they would not be hiring out. They would figure out what needed to be done, get what they needed, and make it happen.

No one who lives in our house is, or has ever been a construction professional. This doesn’t make us less valuable as people. It doesn’t even make us inadequate homeowners. All it means is that we have chosen different experiences and developed different skills.

Just as there’s value in knowing what you know, there’s value in knowing what you don’t know. If the sun-room does need major work then we will not be doing it on our own. We know that we are unqualified. I can’t speak for my spouse, but there aren’t enough YouTube videos in the world to make me comfortable attempting that.

You might need professional help for a certain problem one time, but not another.

In a hypothetical world, we could end up in a situation where we are the only workers available to assist the professional sun-room-builder. In that world, we would learn a lot of new skills. We might even learn enough to put up another sun-room (because who doesn’t need two sun-rooms).

If, after all that, we found another wall with rot, we would then be able to fix it ourselves. However, if that was our only sun-room building experience, and we discovered a new tiny hole ten years from now, guess what? We might need professional help once again.

Perhaps we would have forgotten what we knew. The regulations would probably have changed. We would be in a totally different stage of life, driving around bodies that had ten more years on them.

There is no law saying you have to deal with your problems the same way every single time. Things change. You change. You learn things and you forget things. It’s all part of the natural order of things.

Winning ugly is still winning.

I have told you that we put up new siding outside to protect against the elements. What I haven’t mentioned is how it now looks.

We sealed all the gaps with caulking and expanding foam. There’s caulk on the wood of the deck, and the foam — well, it expanded. The whole thing is as ugly as sin, and it goes firmly into the win column.

Our goal was to make a barrier to keep critters and the elements out over the winter. Mission accomplished.

There is a time to be concerned with aesthetics. The moment in which you are facing a crisis is not that time. At that point, your only priority is to deescalate the situation until it is no longer critical.

If a plastic surgeon came across someone who had just deeply gashed their leg, they would not jump straight into the delicate work of restoring it to its former appearance. What they would do instead is put a tourniquet on it so the patient doesn’t bleed to death. Helping the wound heal with minimal scarring is a job for after the damage has been repaired.

Win pretty, win ugly, just win.

Venus Williams

“Fixed” is not the same as “permanently fixed,” even if a professional did it.

So, you discovered a problem and learned what you could about it. You determined whether you needed assistance, moved forward accordingly, and now the problem is fixed. Hooray!! Now you can forget about it forever!

Wrong.

Change is the only constant in life.

Heraclitus

Way back at the beginning of this story, I mentioned that most of the house was freshly sided with cement board siding. This was done when we had an addition built and (as that phrasing implies) it was done professionally.

Yet, while I was working on cleaning the deck next to the walls, I discovered something unexpected.

The professionally installed, extra-durable siding had a crack. For the purpose of our story, it doesn’t matter if the crack is there because it was improperly installed in the first place, if the foundation beneath it settled in just the wrong way, or if some hooligan smacked the wall with a five iron.

What does matter here is that knowing that “fixed once” does not mean “fixed forever.” We live in a universe in which order perpetually moves toward disorder. In physics, this is called entropy. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, wrote a really good article on the everyday effects of entropy, which you can read here if you like.

For those who have had about enough reading for the day, I’ll sum it up with a visual:

It always does

Unless you don’t mind if your literal and metaphorical world falls apart around you, you have to do maintenance. This is especially important in areas that you know from experience are prone to problems.

In real life, there are times when maintenance isn’t the priority. If that wasn’t the case in my own life, there would never have been a tiny hole to inspire a tale.

Still, I have a renewed appreciation for maintaining what’s important. While I won’t be inspecting our siding daily, I also won’t be leaving that small crack unattended.

Once there was a tiny hole in our siding. This is what it taught me about practically any problem:

  • Sometimes a patch is the right answer and sometimes it isn’t. (The tale, continued)
  • Sometimes you have to patch anyway. (The tale, continued)
  • If you ignore a problem it can get worse. (The tale, continued)
  • Fix what you can, when you can. (The tale, continued)
  • Knowing the cause of a problem is important but assigning blame is not. (The tale, continued)
  • Sometimes the solution is easier than you think.
  • You might need professional help.
  • Winning ugly is still winning.
  • Fixed once ≠ fixed forever.

Our “little” home repair project isn’t done, but I sincerely hope it doesn’t have anything new to teach me. I really have no interest in being able to build a second sun-room.

Until next time, I wish you the brightest of blessings. ~ Sunny

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