I turned 40 last week. Eek. I bid farewell to a decade that I am very happy to leave behind. Ready to embrace my new decade, I gave myself a birthday present… I went out and bought a table saw and workmate bench. Yup. That’s what I did.
I have been drawn towards carpentry/woodworking since I was 12 years old. You see, when I was 12, my family was living near Dubai and my school was offering a woodworking class for my age group. I excitedly signed up for the class and couldn’t wait to get started on the term project. The term project was a coat stand. The only hiccup was my fear. I bet you’re thinking I’d be scared of the saw right? Nope, I was scared of getting sawdust in my eyes… even though I had safety goggles. So after a few classes, fear won, and I dropped out of the class, never to touch a saw again. I never made that coat stand. Tragic. Fear.
It’s been 28 years. W’ouch. Time hey. But I still want to build stuff. I’ve dreamt of being able to craft a table or a chair, or a picture frame, heck maybe even a deck for myself. But that’s all I’ve done, I’ve just dreamt, or been envious of those who have the skills and do it. My partner is a skilled carpenter (just one of his many skills, he’s brilliant). Over the last couple of years I have watched him in wonder as he's built stuff. My brain can’t even fathom how he is able to just imagine something and then make it appear. It’s incredible. He’s always encouraged me to try to build as well (because I’ve expressed interest). He started off teaching me how to use a screwdriver. Handy skill. And slowly over the last couple of years I’ve started collecting tools for myself. All leading up to last week with the table saw and workmate bench. I am going somewhere with this story, stay with me.
So I have these tools that I’ve collected. I have a plan for them, I really do. But I’ve been waiting…perhaps for them to come alive, like the Candelabra and Clock in Beauty and the Beast, and fasten something for me. But, no surprises here, they haven’t.
Yesterday I took it upon myself to assemble my new workmate bench.
I can put together an Ikea shelf, so I sure as hell should be able to put together a workmate bench…the instructions came with pictures after all. My partner was out, so with a “can do” attitude I bundled up and went to my shop to start the process. Not even 15 minutes in and I had over tightened a bolt and cracked the plastic nut pivot it was going into. I wailed, like wailed, for a couple seconds. Then started googling solutions, but I didn’t touch the bench until my partner came home. He saw my face and came straight over to me, wrapped his arms around me and gave me a great big hug. Then he asked me to show him what happened. I said “Any time I try and show myself that I’m capable I prove to myself that I’m not.” He looked at me kindly and said “Steph, I screw up everyday at work, there are at least 4 or 5 times in a day I can be heard saying ‘argh crap’ (or something to that affect).” Then he said “Steph, the only way I got to be an expert was by failing over and over, by screwing up, but continuing to learn from those mistakes. Who told you that you have to get it right straight away?” I said “But there were pictures, it was so simple…” He wouldn’t budge “Steph, screwing up is a part of learning, if you don’t screw up and learn from it, you won’t ever be an expert at anything.” This is a HARD lesson for me people. Like HARD.
I had a 4 day silent retreat recently during which I received Spiritual Direction for an hour a day each day. During one session, I discovered that I don’t do well in the awkward learning stage of almost anything. I bail. As soon as the learning stage involves risk, exposure, putting myself out there or discomfort…I find an excuse and I’m out. Not for everything, but for many things. Baking seems to be the odd exception. Oh and parenting. Either way, this discovery about myself has explained a lot about how I’ve gone through life. It’s to do with the same thing that stopped me from building my coat stand at the age of 12. Fear. Fear that I am not capable, fear that I’ll look like an idiot, that I have nothing to offer…fear, fear, fear. Fear is a liar. I recently wrote about The Lies. Now, one by one, they’re becoming exposed. And I’m given the choice: face them, face the awkward uncomfortable stages of growth and learning or; stay the same. Choosing to face the awkward, uncomfortable stages of growth means taking ownership, risking failure, exposing my ego…but I'd rather be empowered to take ownership of my life and do the things I dream of doing.
I want to make that damn coat stand.