I spent three days last week painting the interior of a house. My painter’s cap goes off to the talented painters on this Island after realizing how much preparation, work and clean-up is involved. The act of painting in an empty, quiet house puts one in a reflective mood. I started thinking about the similarities between painting and the pandemic.
Step 1: Be prepared. Look over the walls and our world and see what needs to be done. Make sure that you have all the supplies for the task at hand. Remember how we felt last March, when the news and the reality of a pandemic started reaching our Canadian shores? Whoever thought that we’d be buying masks, disinfectant and a year’s supply of toilet paper? The line-ups for groceries and garden supplies demonstrated people’s preparedness. When someone asked Lord Baden Powell about his scout’s motto of “Be prepared”, they asked, “Prepared for what?’’ and he replied “Why, for any old thing.” (Bryan Wendell, 2017)
Step 2: Fill in the holes and cracks with spackle or a patch, let dry and then sand lightly. Over this past year, many of us have become aware of our deficits. The holes in our personal characters, our lack of compassion, our greed and consumption of the world’s resources have come to our attention. Some have attempted to fill their holes with increased alcohol, drugs of choice, screen time or with more positive pastimes like exercise, reading and serving others. It seems that we’ve been invited to re-evaluate our lives and sand off some of our bumps and imperfections.
Step 3: Prime the walls. Primer covers a multitude of sins: stains, smudges and the mistakes of previous, bad colour choices. Remember to cut in around the ceilings and edges. I don’t know about you but I’ve had to admit and confess many of my shortcomings this year: impatience, bad-temper and crankiness. I wish that I could cover over my hard edges with some good white paint.
Step 4: Choose a new colour. Have you ever realized how many shades of white or green are offered in the paint store? It’s rather overwhelming. Nowadays, you can bring home paint chips and mini sample cans to make it even more confusing. You can even go on-line and discover colours for a new make-over. Doesn’t that sound inviting after a Covid year? Consider what colour you would choose for a personal do-over.
Step 5: Now comes the easy part. Dip that roller in paint and roll away. It’s a meditative motion that incorporates deep knee bends and arm stretches: Zen and the Art of Bodily Maintenance.
I wonder what new things we’ve learned about ourselves this past year? Did we try some new things? Have we taken better care of ourselves, our neighbours and the environment? Did our cancelled cruise, ferry or flight reduce the carbon footprint? Did we reconnect with old friends? Did we say, “I love you” at the end of phone calls? Our world has the potential to start looking better already.
Step 6: Now comes the messy part: the clean-up. Life is like that. Patterns of creativity and purpose often include messy bits and painful transitions, such as, delays, broken promises, illness and even death. It’s like the hardened paint drips down the wall or painted footprints tracked down the hall. By the end of this summer or fall, the vaccines will have given us a new lease on life; a splash of new colour.
Step 7: Once the smell of paint has cleared, stand back and marvel at the paint job. Don’t things look brighter, cleaner and newer? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could cover the world with primer and apply a fresh coat of paint? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could wipe away the brokenness of this past year and start over again? Remember that saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” In a way, that’s the message of the upcoming Christian holiday of Easter: from death to resurrection, new life.
Let’s hope that we don’t have to repaint everything again in five years but knowing our luck, our world and its people will at least need a touch-up! I’ve already picked out the paint colour. It’s Benjamin Moore’s colour of the year: Aegean Teal, a “soft soothing blue green.”