We’re (I’m?) repainting our bedroom.
My husband may be wondering if we didn’t just do this; we did, but it wasn’t just. Time only seems that way sometimes. It was five years ago, and that’s about my limit for things looking and feeling the same.
Also everything else in life has changed in five years, so why shouldn’t the décor?
Back at the beginning of the pandemic, after the initial mad grocery-store panic and when we had entered the hopeful, honeymoon phase—long walks with friends, adventures in cooking, binge-watching—Will and I wondered how this experience might change us. Would we become better versions of ourselves—healthier, thinner, more centered? Would the fact that the world had come to a screeching halt remind us of what was important in life? I remember seeing a picture of blue skies over a major metropolitan area (maybe it was Los Angeles) and thinking this was what our world needed: a reset.
Let the smog dissipate.
Let the animals roam.
I don’t have a name for this phase, months later, but the honeymoon has long been over.
This morning when my alarm went off, I grabbed my phone and scrolled with blurry eyes through social media posts (the president has Covid, or doesn’t but says he does, depending on whose post I was reading), then set the phone down and tried to remember what day it was, what I needed to do. Writing, dog walk, meeting at 9, look at my lesson plans for next week, send an email about such-and-such, read for book club tonight, paint the bedroom ceiling.
Yesterday I did the harder part, standing on a stepladder and inching my way around the room, cutting in with the ceiling paint. It’s the same color I painted the ceiling in my living room two years ago, which in my tendency to hyperbole I nicknamed The Brightest White in the World. While I worked, I listened to an episode of The Murder Squad from earlier in the year (remember life before the pandemic?) and heard the guest, a woman, describe how she had entered her DNA into GED Match and that helped nab a killer who happened to be a distant relative.
I stabbed the brush into a corner, smearing it with paint, and realized I was jealous. Why couldn’t I have a grand purpose? Why was I so bored (stuck? depressed?) that the best way to handle it was to repaint over a perfectly decent paint color?
But this morning, even in the almost complete darkness of five-thirty, I looked up at the ceiling. I could see where I’d cut around a light fixture—it will take an electrician to remove this thing, and to replace it with the ceiling fan I want—where I’d taped off the smoke detector, the gaping hole where I’d removed the vent cover. The new paint was that same brilliant white I’d fallen in love with two years ago. Next to it the old paint looked off-white, the color of a dirty bath towel.
It’s not a grand purpose or anything, but in less than twelve hours, I will have the white ceiling of my dreams.
Tomorrow I’ll wake up and that part of the project will be done (or done-ish, because there’s still the matter of the ceiling fan I haven’t ordered yet), and I’ll be happy.
Earlier this week, a student showed up to my Zoom office hours, ten minutes late for his fifteen-minute appointment. He was quiet when I asked where he was with his essay.
“When I made the appointment, I thought I would be further along,” he admitted. “I thought I would have something to show you.”
“That’s all right,” I said. “Why don’t we just talk about it?”
I could hear the relief in his sigh. It’s a small blessing to understand that we don’t have to be perfect, that we don’t have to live up to our own expectations.
It’s one step at a time, it’s bird by bird, it’s one brush stroke after another.
One way or another, we’re going to get through it.
Paula Treick DeBoard