Mid-Life Learning Curve

As an adult reasonably in control of a hectic life, I’ve grown accustomed to the flaky parameters of our digital culture. Most dates are tentative, most schedules in flux, and mistakes are largely deletable. Curiously, I can face down eight hours jockeying three computers and two phones and rarely hit a hard stop in my work day. Enter the world of construction and that flex evaporates.

It's been a year of framing and basement rehabilitation at our place. Once we graduated from demolition to actual construction, I was due an adjustment to my big picture temperament. Until now, I have greeted the little tidbits on a measuring tape with nonchalance if at all. But alas, there is no 'ctrl z' in structural framing. You are accountable to the 1/16th inch, and the discovery of a mistake can be sobering. Financial cost aside, whatever brawn it took to put something together is often a fraction of what is required to take it apart. My grudging acceptance of the dominance that a wee fraction can have over my work finally settled in last winter while I was trying to chisel out a nosey sliver of plywood from a six foot flitch beam header in 25 degree weather. I am humbled, a student again; a beginner in every respect.

My husband is an accomplished builder. His lifetime of experience is the sole reason tackling this project was even a possibility. He has been charitable in his approach to my learning curve, doling out the best projects for "Grasshopper" while he swings in floor joists and ensures that we aren't building parallelograms or rhomboid rooms. Witnessing the fractions I let slide, he was unruffled, confident that the impervious 2x6 would speak for itself. There's a casual mercy to his teaching stratagem that's surely born of like lessons learned many years ago. 

My construction skills notwithstanding, easy poetry graces the act of building a home together. It's literally a physical manifestation of the arc of a journey, like a good plot unfolding over assorted tribulations and victories. We take our turns as protagonist and antagonist, our respective vantage points presenting their unique pressures, but the common goal is steadfast. It’s taking its shape before our eyes, tantalizing us with infinite potential. 

Creative energy flows in myriad ways, but the tangible result of this particular effort has had a salutary effect on my soul that is especially timely. It is the opposite of digital or abstract. It is an antidote to the pickle of the over-leveraged modern lifestyle that I have found myself trapped in. Substantive and even scary, construction is physical, intellectual and emotional work. It bolsters the soul with a feeling of consequence and purpose. Finding oneself at the uncomfortable bottom of a learning curve and chipping away at it bit by bit has a way of lengthening time. In the throes of mid-life, this is an excellent vantage,

Maddeningly called a “speed square”, this Triangle is essential. I don’t yet have the speedy finesse with it that other carpenters do, but I get pumped every time I get to use it.

Maddeningly called a “speed square”, this Triangle is essential. I don’t yet have the speedy finesse with it that other carpenters do, but I get pumped every time I get to use it.

Winter lumber delivery feels like Christmas.

Winter lumber delivery feels like Christmas.

Making headers for all the door openings, rocking my glue-ups.

Making headers for all the door openings, rocking my glue-ups.

The nail gun is my nemesis. This enraged me.

The nail gun is my nemesis. This enraged me.

Here's another view of my rookie misfire.

Here's another view of my rookie misfire.

Dropping in my first header . This one didn't fit on the first go which was a buzz kill.

Dropping in my first header . This one didn't fit on the first go which was a buzz kill.

I was able to buzz off a smidgen which made it perfect. The power saws scare me.

I was able to buzz off a smidgen which made it perfect. The power saws scare me.

See, it fit!

See, it fit!

Level-ish.

Level-ish.

Look at those headers!

Look at those headers!