Friday, July 31, 2009

"Y'know, Nietzsche says, 'Out of chaos COMES order.'"*

Yeah, OK, Nietzsche--if you say so. But you forgot about entropy. Order inevitably trends back toward chaos.

This has been on my mind a lot lately as I've been painting the upstairs rooms in our house, something I've wanted to do ever since we moved in two years ago. But the chaos of the move was exhausting enough, and the walls were an inoffensive (if muddy) off-white, so the painting got delayed.

Of course, now there's two years' worth of accumulated crap (and dust) that had to be moved out of the way to paint. The prospect of clearing enough space to get a ladder around was way more daunting than the actual painting.

As Jane recently wrote, painting is a bore. I painted houses (interior and exterior) one summer when I was in grad school, and while I'm grateful for the experience--I certainly use the skills I learned there more than those I learned in a lot of other short-term jobs--I was very glad to go back to class in the fall.

It was avocado paint that finally broke me. I was painting an ugly, recycled vanity with some hideous 1970s avocado-green high-gloss lacquer one morning, and just burst into tears. I'd broken up with a long-term boyfriend recently, and suddenly the magnitude of my misery hit me. What was the point of this work? The ugly vanity couldn't be improved with a couple of hideous coats of paint. It should've been kicked to the curb, just like my ex. Needless to say, that was my last day on that job.

Still, I remember the deep satisfaction of other projects, like when a coworker and I spent a week scraping, sanding, cleaning, and priming an old wood-sided bungalow in Clintonville, and the day finally came when we could put the color (pink--yes, pink) on. We did old-school brushwork--no sprayers--so it was slow-going. At the end of the day, we'd gotten about 3/4 of the way through, and decided to finish the rest the following morning.

We'd parked up the street, so had to drive back past the house on the way out. From a distance, we finally got a look at what we'd accomplished--there was only a tiny bit of white primer left exposed in a sea of pink. We whooped in unison.

I get some of that feeling when I paint now. Seeing the transformation in the upstairs rooms has been satisfying, but it's a much briefer feeling, since I then start thinking about how I need to clean before I put the furniture back in place, and retrieve all the things I've stuffed into closets, and do all the other cleaning and organizing I've neglected while I've been painting.

And cynic (or realist?) that I am, I also think about how eventually I'll have to dust the baseboards again, and touch up the paint, get the idea. Entropy.

* Immortal wisdom courtesy of Blazing Saddles.


Jane said...

Rosemary, a karmic connection between you and me: painting for money.

The summer before I started Wellesley, I had no job. A neighbor -- friends of my parents -- hired me to paint their house. (I had no previous experience, but I was just one of those dependable teens people would hire for any ol' labor.)

I did the whole house (except for the deck, which the owner wanted to paint himself with USED MOTOR OIL), for $350.

Christy said...

After restoring the outside of our house and painting every damn 6-panel door in our second floor, I vowed I'd never paint again. It was a breathless lie of a vow, but it felt great at the time.

Pam said...

Hmmm, I remember that summer as I recall there was a lot of staff drama going on there, too.... Love the blue wall color but as far as the clutter goes;My back room is way worse right now I think. And uh.... are you supposed to dust baseboards? Don't look at mine when you get here then.

Rosemary said...

Jane--USED MOTOR OIL? Seriously? I had no idea that was even possible...and wish I didn't know now. $350 probably seemed like a lot of money at the time. I hope that wasn't the only job you had all summer, though!

And Christy, I know. I'll *say* I'll never do it again, but will balk at the idea of paying someone else to do it and be right back there again, probably sooner than I think.