This afternoon I decided to finish painting my office, assisted by a little bit of chocolate, a cold can of diet Coke, and some music played at (unusually for me) a socially acceptable volume. I told Pandora that I would like to hear “That Thing You Do” (since I am a total sucker for cheesy 60’s-era pop bands). Pandora decided that I would rather hear guys singing catchy tunes about their cars, their surfboards, and their girlfriends, apparently in that order of priority. I was fine with that.
As I was painting and humming along to the music, it occurred to me that in many ways, painting is a metaphor for life.
Well, of COURSE it is. Everything is a metaphor for life if you’re feeling philosophical. And even if you’re not, the sheer head-banging exasperation of trying to cover up dark cream trim (circa 1992) with with a crisp, clean white in less than fourteen coats would provoke even the most prosaic of painters into spewing forth fortune-cookie-worthy sayings, profanity, and possibly both. The question is which particular bit of my psyche is supposedly being represented by my afternoon of painting and cussing.
“Life … is like a paintbrush. You can make beautiful things with it, but if you aren’t paying attention you’ll ruin your carpet.” True enough, but not something I’d embroider on a pillow.
“Life … is like a bucket of paint. So much potential, and only you can determine what you’ll make of it!” Blech, no.
“Life … is like a box of chocolates. You never – ” Oh, whoops, sorry about that.
I thought about how I get a little spazzy when things don’t come out all neat and tidy, and how maybe I should just loosen up and not stress out so much about straight lines and everything coming out even.
But then I thought again, about how attention to the little things is really important, and how the big picture is really just the sum of a long series of little decisions to choose excellence instead of laziness.
I considered my tendency to do a more careful, neat job of something if I’m going to be the one eating/wearing/seeing it every day, rather than someone I don’t know. (I’m painting in preparation for putting the house on the market, which is why I’m using a nice bland neutral color that I don’t even especially like.)
I quipped to myself that sometimes a little bit of OCD isn’t an entirely bad thing, if it means all your trim is perfectly painted.
I indulged in some mental grousing about how frustrating it is when other people’s shoddy work results in extra time wasted for me, and then of course reminded myself to always do good work, like a good Boy Scout. Girl Scout. Whatever.
I was momentarily overwhelmed by the vast amount of work that will be required to apply three and possibly four coats of crisp, clean white paint to every door, doorframe, and random bit of trim in a house this size. I suspected that there was probably some lesson lurking in my can of paint, something about focusing on the task at hand and taking it one step at a time, and then I realized I honestly didn’t give a crap.
Lesson learned from today’s painting and metaphysical musings?
If you’re stuck inside on a grey day painting a room in a color you don’t much care for, you can’t beat 1960’s rock-and-roll for putting your heart’s deepest thoughts into words.
Beep beep’m beep beep, yeah!