I’m not the kind of person who necessarily thrives on home improvement projects. I especially do not like the kind where walls are torn out or there is a need to go into the attic. I do enjoy the results, of course, but results are weeks away when you start remodeling a kitchen.
I have been putting off making changes in our tiny bungalow kitchen since the day we moved into this house. But last spring when Bill finally said that we absolutely have to do something about getting an automatic dishwasher installed, I knew there would be no more postponing. After months of research and decision-making, the time that I have dreaded most is coming right up. We are just a few days away from the arrival of a gang of workers who love nothing better than to knock down walls and rip out cabinets. And I have been making myself crazy in anticipation.
Home Improvement as a Spiritual Practice
Carl Jung speaks of the meaningful coincidences that he calls synchronicity. Recently—and synchronistically, I believe–I came across some helpful advice from an unlikely source. Meister Eckhart, a 12th Century theologian and mystic says:
Wisdom consists in doing the next thing you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in doing it.”
I figure this applies as much to kitchen remodeling as it did to many of daily challenges the old Meister might have faced. And so far we have done a lot. We have approved a floor plan. We selected a floor covering and a lighting fixture. We discovered a dishwasher and other appliances that we will love using. We have chosen cabinet styles, wall colors, and tile patterns.
Right now the “next thing” is preparing for the work itself. The men will come with their plastic curtains, sledge hammers and saws in less than a week. So we are in the final days of packing away the kitchen’s contents and clearing the decks for the demo. Our role now, according to Meister Eckhart, is to get on board and participate in the process of getting ready with whole hearted enthusiasm. As I think about it, this does seem better to me than cowering in a corner and moaning.
Putting Meister Eckhart’s Advice into Practice
Next I am going to work on finding the delight.
Supportive friends and helpers all try to reinforce how happy we will be with our beautiful new kitchen when it’s finished. But I find that if I look ahead too far, I am troubled by images of chaotic disorder. The beautiful outcome of the project is too distant to comfort me much right now.
I’m sure that if there is delight to be found, I will discover it most easily in the present moment.
When I shift my attention from the future to the now, l find I am delighted by many small things. I’m delighted with the beautiful sunset colored roses that sit on a tiny tray table in our stripped down dining room. I feel pleased to see the stacks of cardboard boxes rising up in nooks and corners around the house. I find satisfaction in paring down to the essentials we will need for our comfort in the coming weeks.
Ironically, Bill and I have been using our present inconvenient and cramped kitchen space a lot in the last couple of months. We realized that we almost forgot to cook after Dad came to Denver. Now we are trying out new recipes and resurrecting old favorites. In the process we managed to eat up almost all of last summer’s winter squash harvest. I find delight in this.
I promise myself to keep looking for the delights once the work begins.