A Sunny Focus

What you focus your attention on matters

The tale of the tiny hole

Do you remember the Dutch tale, The Hole in the Dike? In it, there was a hole in one of the walls that held back the sea. A young boy saved the day (and the land) by putting his finger in the hole and prevented the entire wall from crumbling away.

This is not that story.

Both stories feature a hole in a wall, but there are some crucial differences between them. In this story, the featured wall is not community property. More specifically, it is a part of our house. As such, no civic-minded lad spied the hole, foresaw potential disaster, and jumped into action.

Also, I am NOT advocating that you start modifying a stranger’s house in the name of civic duty. Do not. Do. Not.

Once upon a time, my husband and I bought a house; a house we are still living in today. According to a letter we got from our energy company in 2015, our home was built in 1938.

I only have this picture because I thought the idea of insuring 77-year-old appliances (or that the appliances would even be original in a 77-year-old house) was hilarious.

I haven’t quite been interested enough to research what additions and renovations have been made to the original structure, but there have been plenty. In fact, our family is responsible for one of them.

When my dad died, we asked my mother to move into our home, and she chose to build on a mother-in-law suite. (She prefers the term “granny flat.”) To be clear, my mom’s cool and all, but she did not personally build it. She hired — oh, you know what I mean.

Sorry for this tiny picture. I’m still looking for a bigger one.

When we bought this house it had pressboard siding. We didn’t know it at the time, but pressboard siding is not necessarily a good choice.

As written in this blog post by Dependable Home Services:

The Problems with Pressboard Siding
One problem with hardboard is that it tends to absorb water, making it deteriorate and shortening its lifespan. The results, especially with improper installation, can be board swelling, warping, buckling, blistering, rotting and softening, as well as mold development and insect infestation.

(Note: This is neither an affiliate link nor an endorsement of Dependable Home Services, as I have no experience with their products or services.)

When my mom built her addition onto the house, the whole house was re-sided with fiber cement siding — the whole house, that is, except for one of the two walls that back up on our deck.

Why, out of all the various walls that enclose our home, was this one left with the old siding?

That is an excellent question. I don’t know the answer. I can’t even remember if we knew and forgot, or if we simply didn’t notice it at the time.

Now, I don’t believe in coincidence. What I do believe is that there are lessons to be learned about our inner lives in the outer world.

I’m not going quite so far as to say fate arranged for the oversight to teach me a few things. It’s far more likely that it happened because we were dealing with too much at once.

Ultimately, the reason doesn’t matter at all. What matters is that the outer world showed me a little about the inner world — as it so often does.

It all started as a teeny little hole in one corner of the sun-room wall.

(Insert harp glissando for scene change.)

Objects (or holes) in this picture may appear smaller when compared to the entire wall and also when compared to everything else you are trying to cope with.

Sometimes it doesn’t look as bad as it really is.

This lesson is really in two parts. Both parts boil down to the fact that looks can be deceiving, but the meaning is a little different depending on who is doing the looking.

The first part of this lesson is for someone who is on the outside looking in.

Anyone with an invisible illness (which depression absolutely is) learns very quickly that what they feel doesn’t always match how they appear. This is a topic worthy of its own post, but I added it here because it’s important.

Those of us who suffer from invisible illnesses are not immune to judging others who suffer from them, so I’ll say it plainly, to one and all:

They are called invisible illnesses because they are invisible. Just as if there is a wall between what we can see from the outside and what is happening on the inside, the inner experience is not visible.

This person thinks she is causing harm to everyone around her just by existing. I know because this is a picture of me in the very bad years of my depression.

We don’t get to judge how much someone else is suffering, ever. The only person who knows what they are feeling is the person who is feeling it.

Likewise, we don’t get to discount or discredit a person’s suffering because they haven’t gone through what we have gone through. Pain tolerance is not a set thing. It varies as much as any individual characteristic.

We’re only human, and humans are prone to judging others. I know I’ve been guilty of this kind of thinking at times. The point is to be aware of it, to catch yourself when you can, and to be compassionate whenever you do realize it’s happening.

The second part of this lesson is for anyone looking at a problem of their own.

You can notice a problem, think it’s the whole problem, and put off dealing with it because it’s not that big of a deal. The tricky bit, here, is that it’s incredibly difficult to tell the difference between what you think and what the reality is.

This is where we return to the story of the tiny hole.

My husband and I have known for a while that we needed to clean the deck and do something with the sun-room siding, but it never made the priority list. The deck needed to be cleaned and refinished. The siding was a little warped but it didn’t look that bad. And then I noticed the teeny hole in one corner of the wall.

But, hey; it was just one little corner and our lives were busy. We decided it could wait.

Finally, last weekend, we had– found? made? — time to deal with the hole. The previous week I had measured the panels we planned to replace and we were ready to head to the hardware store to buy the materials we needed.

As I don’t easily recall numbers, I noted the measurements on my phone. Good thing, right?

Just before we left, my husband decided to pull off the old panels to make sure we knew just what we were dealing with.

Spoiler alert: We did not, in fact, know what we were dealing with. It turned out that the little hole was symptomatic of a much bigger problem. If that’s not a metaphor, I’ve never met one.

Here are just a few of the lessons my sun-room project showed me:

  • If you ignore a problem it can get worse.
  • Knowing the cause of a problem is important but assigning blame is not
  • Fix what you can, when you can.

As this has gotten rather long (and I haven’t covered the half of it), I’ll cover those points and more in detail next week.

Until then, I wish you the brightest blessings.

~ Sunny

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