About a year ago, we wrote a post called “On Things ‘Not Looking Good While You’re Working on Them”, about the difficult – and often ongoing – “middle” of a project when things haven’t come together. We were heartened by artist John Currin‘s revelation about the creative process: the ONLY way to make thing anything happen is if you are able to endure the uncomfortable mid-point period of chaos and disorder, when things don’t look good.

Which is what we found on moving day 10 days ago. Despite our best efforts to complete our “simple” renovation (home of ‘improvised life’s new laboratory) and have things all pulled together when we moved into our new space, the movers arrived at the new space with a giant restaurant stove that was, inexplicably 1/16″ of an inch too large for the space it was meant to slide into, necessitating a cabinet being taken out…the plumber fixing a newly discovered leak…and no delivery of promised desktops; by the end of the day, the place was a sea of boxes and piles of tools, dropclothes, STUFF that had no place…and we were exhausted, wondering where we were….

And so we began the ongoing process of making order out of disorder, step-by-step, layer by layer, in the course of the following week. It could not have been done without the help of good friends who unpacked, bundled cartons, and managed hooking up the stove…brought enough food to feed the army of helpers and us the following day… found the linens and made sure the bed was made and ready to fall into the first exhausting night: big gifts of time and energy and love.

This renovation that began last November, and the recent move, has brought one lesson after another about the necessity of being flexible and being willing to live out-of-control, “in a process”…of becoming…

…step-by-step. We are re-learning the lesson daily. Stay tuned…

Related posts: on things “not looking good while you’re working on them
what to do when things don’t go as planned
‘harness the power of being an idiot’
j.k. rowling on the fringe benefits of ‘failure’
on things not going as planned (addendum)
introducing ‘the improvised life’s new ‘laboratory’ 

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9 replies on “project + reno lesson: embrace the unexpected……… things won’t go as planned

  1. Congrats Sally!! Just a few more boxes to unload –
    How were your dreams the first few nights?

  2. Thanks for the update–the space is great and I’m looking forward to seeing it progress. And if the mess is too much to handle, you can just look out the window at that awesome view!

  3. We want all the details, Sally, the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
    When should I bring dinner?

  4. Ply me with a cocktail and all will be revealed. A LOT will be revealed anyway over the next few months, of power struggles, both internal and external, and the many mistakes made that turned out not to matter…

  5. brings new meaning to “thinking outside of the box!”

  6. I work with children all year making art and once in a while there is that “Oh no!” moment when suddenly all the hard work looks wrong, ugly, bad – not at all what was anticipated. My advice is always to keep going. That strange dark tunnel of uncertainty often (not every time) can lead you to “wow”. When it doesn’t, we start again.

  7. No dreams the first nights – just sweet sleep: HOME. Despite the ongoing undoneness, I am so very happy…

  8. it’s all sweet, even when its bitter, its sweet…the space is beautiful…already shared…friends and food…food and friends…digested and distilled…views and vistas…ALIVE and engaged in the process and the presence. Congratulations Sally…look forward to the details…wonder the exact color white you used to paint this room?

  9. That post “On things not looking good…” has become a pillar for me. Found myself telling my husband as we packed up our home for a move into temp space. Saying it again often as we live in limbo. And I say it to my kids often, too. Whether buried in school science projects and 3-panel biography displays, struggling with designing a t-shirts on the Outdoor Ed trip with classmates, reorganizing your closet, editing your rock and shell collection. For me, it’s often that stage of writing a plan or an important piece at work for public consumption. “Things look worse before they look better” really helps us maintain hope through that painful, awkward phase. Kind of like 6th grade and middle school in general, no? 🙂

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