So I tried to do some DIY plumbing the other day. It didn’t work out the way I hoped: easy, simple, straightforward. Just like in the YouTube videos.
Instead I found myself having a breakdown. Tears, self-recriminations, the whole bit. I was a terrible person who never should have tried. (I’m 43.) And the only way to solve this was to deal with some jackass who was going to sneer at me for screwing things up, because obviously I was always going to have screwed things up.
I know my parents loved me, growing up, but they weren’t actually encouraging, especially when it came to me doing things that were stereotypically male-oriented. Fixing stuff? Not my purview. That’s how they were raised, though. Everyone had a place and a role—and you better train for that role and no other. Their biggest challenges have always been having to adapt to changing or not-so-clear-cut roles, something I find hard as well—but not as hard as they have. (I usually end up crying a lot at pivot points, then changing my approach and moving on.)
It feels weird having to think of myself as someone who attempts DIY projects. I keep catching myself going, That’s someone else’s job. You’re just support crew. Go cook, clean, take care of the garden, raise the kid, run the errands, organize all the things…
And honestly there were a couple of days where I was so anxious about dealing with the plumber coming to fix what I screwed up that I was numb. Nothing to see here. Just move along.
The guy was nice, polite, funny, and willing to let me watch him work. “Engineering on the fly,” he called it, and it was. He also tried to charge me $10,000 and two goats. “No more first-born children for me,” he said. “They offered me too many teenagers.”
In the end, I had to admit to myself that it never was a DIY project. I leaned on Lee for his experience and emotional support (and raw muscle strength in one spot). I leaned on my daughter Ray for emotional support, too. I leaned on three different plumbing places, one of which admitted that he wouldn’t be able to fix the leak because of weird parts being involved. (He admitted he couldn’t do something! I was impressed.) I leaned on the Internet to find reviews of places recommended by women, and to find the original YouTube videos covering the process. I leaned on the kindness of strangers who just wanted people to know how to fix their own plumbing and were willing to do a lot of work to post videos about same.
Not DIY. An experiment. Not a failure: a process where I drew in the resources I needed to get the job done, and where I shifted roles throughout that process. The process didn’t fail because there were obstacles at some of the steps. The process succeeded because I cried, changed my approach, and moved on.
I can live with that.