Story Wonders: House Painting and the Higher Arts

Topics: Blog

The burning ache in the top vertebrae of my neck began after two hours. Unfortunately, I wasn’t done painting the kitchen and dining room ceilings in two hours. It took about six hours of effort over two days of my Independence Day holiday.

Owning a home, I long ago discovered, is not for those who can’t take pain and drudgery. If you saw my home, you would think I need to put in a few more hours of pain, but then I wouldn’t have the time to write this to you now. Trade offs.

Which leads me to my analogy.

Because if there is one thing I get out of writing, it’s the drive to make an analogy out of every darned thing I do. How delightfully crazy is that?

I’m not alone in this writerly habit. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote to me a while back in a short Facebook reply. She said she often sees writing like gardening. She patiently plants and tends the words day by day in an effort to make things grow. (Gilbert probably said it more elegantly than that, but I can’t imagine sifting through thousands of Liz Gilbert comments to find her actual words. You’ll have to live with my rough memory, dear readers.)

I suppose comparing my writing into a painting isn’t too far afield if she can compare it to gardening.

I’m not entirely sure I want to. I like writing ever so much better than craning my neck backwards, getting paint on my hands, in my hair, and on virtually every surface I didn’t want it. (I am that kind of painter, I’m afraid.)

But I do see the similarities.

1. The job gets done better once I set up and get moving.

2. At times it’s tedious. Painfully tedious. My back hurts. My neck hurts. I have to play music and podcasts to distract and entice myself.

3. My brain hurts from trying to figure out all the ways to make the thing go faster, better, and more beautifully.

4. Sometimes–in fact most times–there comes a point where I break down and ask (or beg even) for help. If I am kind and find the right person, the hero might pitch in and save me from despair by rolling latex paint for a while or reading my words. Other humans are crucial to the work.

5. It feels fabulous when I am done even though it’s not perfect. Because, of course, it’s never perfect. Just wonderfully, blissfully done. I can stand back and see it for all its goodness and flaws, saying: “Well, that was so much harder than I thought it would be.” And then I wisely forget the aches and frustrations before I dive into my next project.

6. Another project always waits in the next corner, whispering my name just so I know the work is never all the way done.

Actual photo of tiny kitchen responsible for aches and complaints.

And aside from finding an analogy to post today, the top vertebrae in my neck is almost pain-free now. (Not quite.) The wonderful young woman who painted my toes and had the chair with massaging rollers helped tremendously. Yes, I did give her a generous tip. She earned it and more for her own work.

Life is good.


About the author: Karrie Zylstra Myton is a blogger, essayist, and aspiring author who writes for the wild joy it brings on the best days and the hard lessons she learns about life on the worst. After crafting stories in the ridiculously early morning hours, she chases her two sons, cuddles with cats, and laughs with her husband about how crazy life can get in middle age.

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