I am finally, finally done with the painting project in the nursery. Did I mention finally? Because I’m finally done. I always have these grand ideas and then about halfway through bringing them to fruition I realize that I have commitment issues. And then I wind up with half a project painted on my wall and zero motivation to finish. In order to complete this one, I realized, I needed to work on it in the mornings and evenings. My husband’s man cave, where he spends his mornings before work and his evenings before bed, is in the back part of the nursery. The poor bastard got no alone time because I could only work on it when he was there to keep me company. Otherwise I just got mega bored.
But I did finally finish and the project taught me a few things about life. They are:
1) Perfection is a myth. It is also irrelevant.
There are flaws all over the place in that project. Where it says “You is kind?” Yeah, I had to literally reprime and repaint the swirls and stars yellow and start them over from scratch. The wall is still shiny where I made the mistake, from the non-uniform extra coat. But only I know it. And if I don’t point it out to everyone who walks in the room, it’s going to stay that way. Where it says “You is smart?” Little tiny pencil marks everywhere that had to be covered up with yet another coat of yellow wall paint. And guess what? Even the camera couldn’t tell. You can see, where it says “You is important,” that I messed up some of the lettering. Also, “You is smart” is a lot thinner than the rest of the lettering. Also, I wound up putting the swirls in the exact same position on “You is kind” as I did on “You is important.” And when I sit in the chair on the other side of the room and drink my morning coffee and deny my husband his alone time I don’t even care because, taken together, the whole thing looks so cool. The fact is that no one could have painted that project any better than I did. The point is not that it’s perfect. The point is that I invested my time in it. It taught me how to slow down and relax rather than rush for the finish line. And every time I look at it I can be proud of it, instead of just admiring it. And that’s why I love it.
2) It’s easier if you’re enjoying it. So if you’re not, take a break and come back later.
Did it feel good to have my changing table pulled into the middle of the room and a mess of random paintbrushes, paints, paper stencils and pencils scattered about the room? No. It irritated the piss out of me. But I learned with the first rushed brush stroke that this was not a project I was going to be able to finish quickly. It was going to take layers and layers of patient strokes. It was going to take a couple of weeks, given the amount of time I can reasonably stand in one spot before my feet just explode. And every time I got angry at the project I started to dislike everything about it. I began to think about just giving up and painting yellow over everything and just saying to hell with the entire thing. So I’d drop my brush and growl at the ceiling and then look back at the penciled on design and I loved it. I loved the design. The thought of a plain yellow wall in its place, particularly a plain yellow wall underneath which was such a cool design, made me sad. So I’d drop everything, clean out my brushes, cap my paints and give it up. Sometimes for the entire day. That’s why it took me two weeks to finish. But when I finished it this morning I had no hard feelings toward it. What’s more, it became easier to stay in the lines with the lettering and the filling in of the stars. The less I stressed out about it the more enjoyable it became. And sometimes the only way to stop stressing about it was just to walk away from it altogether.
3) Everything looks better from a few steps away.
Now, I did edit the full photo that I’m sharing on here, but only because I was trying to get the colors to come more true, and also because I liked the softened, vignette look. But it’s true. You can see the flaws in the lettering and line work in each of the close up photos. In the faraway one, the lettering matches the book cover flawlessly and the whole thing looks, in my opinion, pretty damn cool. Sometimes, in order to see things better we just need to be a little farther away from them.
4) Even the most heinous mistake can be fixed if you take the time to fix it.
I was originally using paint pens to color the initial stencil design. Yeah. Bad idea. The colors were jacked and watery. There was no way I’d be able to trace the scrollwork, even with the finest tip of the pen. While it would have been quicker and easier with a super fine tipped paint pen than with a flimsy craft brush and some cheap paint, it wound up looking one million times better when I accepted the idea of using the flimsy brush and investing the time, rather than investing money and buying the pens. I got through the lettering on “You is kind,” one star, and one line of scrollwork before I realized that this was shaping up to be a royal disaster. I put the cap on the paint pen and panicked. I left the room, came back. Nope. Still looked like complete shit. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the color I’d originally picked for the filigree and stars? Black. Yep. A yellow wall scarred with all-wrong black paint pen marks. Life seemed pretty hopeless in that moment. And then I realized that we had leftover yellow paint and my stepfather is a contractor. My basement is thus filled with a cornucopia of high-hide primers that are designed for just such occasions. Also, hiding pen marks on a wall? I’m about to have twins. I’d better get good at that. It cost me the entire first day of painting – you know: The day you actually feel motivated to work on the project? Yeah. All that first day motivation had been trampled. But I discovered that it’d been replaced with a much slower burning motivation to finish well rather than the motivation to finish fast.
5) It’s actually pretty cool, if you accept its flaws.
Back to the beginning. If you’re looking at a project – or your life – through a high powered microscope of scrutiny, you need to stop. Step away from it. Just back up a few steps. Four did the trick for me. Four steps back and a blink of the eye and I realized that what had looked hopelessly slathered before was, actually, pretty damn amazing. My impatient ass had managed to create exactly what my brain had dreamed up. Even with the flaws, the colors outside the lines, the shaky scrollwork and the too-dark stars, I’d managed to make something that, when viewed fairly, as anyone aside from myself might view it, was so damn cool I couldn’t believe I’d created it! Be fair when you’re judging your work. Take your inner critic over your knee, give her a spanking (not like that, you naughty bastard), and send her to her room for a while. She’s being a bitch.