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  • michellelisenbee

A Lesson from Fence Painting

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

Our front fence is badly in need of painting. We have an OLD paint sprayer that I dug out thinking I’d use it to paint the fence….easier than using a brush for 50-60 feet of picket fence, right? After fiddling with it for a while, my husband managed to get it working. My plan was to spend yesterday afternoon working on that project.

The morning was rough. I kept getting interrupted as I attempted to work through my “to-do” list for the day, and everything I tried to do felt hard. I was irritable and crabby because part of my “to-do” list included updating my resume and applying for jobs I really didn’t want. I also called my Dad. We talked about his health and my Mom’s worsening Alzheimer’s. Sadness, grief and anger added to the crabby and irritable. Needless to say, my mood was not the best as I finally got around to tackling the fence. I assembled everything I thought I’d need and tried to get started. Then I realized I’d need to thin the paint. Then I couldn’t get the sprayer apart. Then I couldn’t find the instructions, etc….After about an hour, I gave up and decided to just use the brush and so what if it took me days? Besides, I told myself, cleanup would be so much easier, right? I brought the paint and brush out to the fence. I brought some water to drink. I brought a speaker and tuned Pandora to the 60’s/70’s/80’s station and turned it up loud. I got started. A while later, I felt my mood shifting. I began to notice. I noticed that the sun was bright and warm. That there was a slight breeze that carried the rustle of leaves and the scent of earth. That my bare feet were solidly on the damp grass. The water I drank was clear and cold. Our chocolate lab lay peacefully nearby. Lots of people were out walking and as they passed, they smiled, waved, said hello, or commented on the music. The gray faded fence was becoming bright white again. The work was repetitive and moved my body while my mind was free to wander. I sang. I prayed. I even danced a little. After almost two hours of painting, I’d only completed about a third of one side of the fence, but my outlook was completely changed. I was tired, but felt happy, satisfied, fulfilled, grateful, calm and peaceful. It occurred to me that had I been able to use the sprayer as I planned, it would have been too loud to have music playing. It would have caused people to avoid the sidewalk in front of our house so they wouldn’t accidentally get sprayed. It would have drowned out the sound of the leaves and I would have made the dog stay inside. Yesterday at yoga, Jessie Kates talked about finding the gifts in our difficulties. I know wrestling with a paint sprayer isn’t a huge difficulty in the grand scheme of things, but it felt like the last straw yesterday. Deciding to surrender and use the brush initially felt like defeat. And yet. Had things worked out the way *I* wanted them to, I would have missed SO MUCH blessing. And today…MY plan was to work on the fence some more and I woke up to rain.

Sigh. Surrender. Release. Allow. Breathe. Shift. (Originally published October 16, 2020)

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