I Can’t Do ANYTHING….
I’m about to admit to something that no self-respecting capital M Man would ever dare to admit about themselves: I’m not very handy around the house. And when I say I’m not very handy around the house, I’m not exaggerating. I cannot do ANYTHING. In fact, my attempts to fix, repair, build, paint, assemble, disassemble, you name it, typically result in the exact opposite of the intended result. If such a word exists, I’m unhandy. Things are almost always guaranteed to end up in worse, often much worse, condition than they were before I started fixing my disastrous attention on them.
On second thought, the title of this post may not be entirely correct. There are things I CAN do. I break things. I botch projects. I spill paint. I create unstoppable leaks. I hammer my thumbs. I lose screws. I put holes in walls where there shouldn’t be holes. I lose fingers in lawn mowers (a horror story for another day.) I build structures that wobble dangerously. So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I can do things; they’re just all things that end up degrading and devaluing everything around me. And I do so while pitching epic fits of rage in thick clouds of horrifying profanity. My wife packs up the children and carts them off to a safe location miles away when it’s time for me to throw together that IKEA table.
I never learned how to work with my hands growing up, and it’s something I’ve always regretted. My dad, who let’s face it isn’t the world’s best handyman but can still manage to get things done fairly well. The problem is that I never really got to spend a lot of time with him when he was working on projects. First of all, he was gone a lot for work; he was a bit of a workaholic, and had a career that required massive amounts of hours in the office and traveling around the world. Secondly, when he was around the house doing things, he usually ended up yelling and swearing at whatever it was he was working on. (So I guess I did learn SOMETHING from him.) My family bloodline is not known for its grace or an easy-going outlook on life.
As an adult, I understand my father working those long, hard hours. His doing so provided an awfully good life for his family. He was able to create a very comfortable childhood for us, and we never wanted for much. That means more to me than learning how to build a birdhouse as a kid. In that respect, he was a wonderful father. He was also able to build an amazing career for himself, working his way up the ladder to the upper levels of a major international corporation (known for shoes, based here in town). So again, he should have no regrets, nor should I.
The other thing holding me back was the lack of any formal education in handywork. I never took a shop class in school, and I truly wish I had. In fact, I think that wood shop, or metal shop, or small engine shop may be the most useful, long-term beneficial classes offered in school. There, skills are taught and learned that become useful in everyday life. Much more so than, say, algebra. My son has taken some woodworking classes, and the things he’s doing blow my mind. He’ll grow up knowing how to do things much, much better than I did.
So where was I? Oh yes: I’m not good at even the most basic handyman-type things. But that’s changing.
I realized a few years ago that dammit, enough is enough, and it’s high time I start figuring out how to get things done around here. Our house was new 17 years ago, but now it’s not, and things are starting to wear out and break down. Paying professionals to perform even simple repairs is ridiculously expensive, and my pride gets bruised when I have to ask a neighbor, or a brother in law, or father in law, (i.e. a “real man who knows how to do things”) for assistance.
Thinking about my situation, I decided that just because I didn’t KNOW how to do something didn’t mean I couldn’t LEARN how to do it. And just because my short-fuse temper and lack of patience had the tendency to cause bad bad scenes didn’t mean I couldn’t train myself to be more calm and patient. I realized that all these years I was psyching myself out. I also realized I was tired of that stupid bullshit and that it was time for a new sheriff in town. Somebody who COULD do things. Somebody who WAS handy around the house. Somebody who looked at a problem and didn’t lose his cool, but instead rolled up his sleeves and took care of it. Since that person wasn’t me, I had to invent someone new. Someone the complete opposite of me, yet inhabiting the same physical body. An alter ego. A super-handyman. I call him Bobby Rockford.
Bobby Rockford doesn’t wear a shiny superhero uniform. He doesn’t have a cape. He looks just like me; he IS me, but he isn’t me.
I found that if I just “assumed” the role of Bobby Rockford when presented with a challenge, all of the doubt and shame of not knowing how to do something disappeared. Bobby Rockford has no doubt: he just does it. His motto: JFDI. Just F***ing Do It.
If Bobby Rockford doesn’t know how to do something, he learns. He is a student of the world. The internet is his weapon, YouTube his University. Bobby Rockford knows that if Joe Schmuck down the street can install a new toilet, then anyone can.
Bobby Rockford has been getting things done around here for a couple years now. New toilets installed; garbage disposals, attic insulation, and more. Projects deemed too impossible for ME have been knocked out in a couple hours by Bobby Rockford. The family doesn’t necessarily have to leave the house when Bobby Rockford is in charge.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Bobby Rockford is not invincible. Sometimes the “real me” breaks through and I resort to my old angry, doubtful ways. But it happens less and less.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the mind is a powerful tool if used the right way. We humans are pretty amazing machines, and when the mind and body are working together as a team, things can get done fairly efficiently. This new attitude has shown me that things often aren’t as hopeless or impossible as they always seemed. Simply being unfamiliar doesn’t equate with being impossible. It just takes the right mental attitude to realize that many, even most, things around the average house can be maintained, repaired, replaced, whatever, without too much trouble.
If you can take anything away from this, it’s that the old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” really isn’t true. I’m pretty much in the ‘old dog’ category these days, and if I can force myself to shake off some fairly bad habits and learn to work with my hands more than I ever imagined would be possible, hell ANYONE can. You just need to find that inner Bobby Rockford that we all have inside of us. And learn to use YouTube. Seriously, it’s a life saver.