Before I met my late husband, I was a very capable woman. I did a LOT of things for myself, including building some of my own furniture. I never really doubted how capable I was. But then I married a guy who was so much better than I was at so many things, that I quickly just let him take charge. He was a general contractor and an excellent carpenter. Even though I had always loved to garden and was even a garden writer, his green thumb was MUCH greener than mine. He could just LOOK at seeds and “will” them to grow. And then, when the tomatoes and eggplants and peppers he grew were ripe and ready, he could whip up a wonderful homemade meal without any kind of recipe while my culinary skills were greatly lacking.
For the 16 years we were together, we built many things, including our own home, owl boxes and garden structures for the yard and two successful careers. But I always felt like he was the lead carpenter in our lives and I was the apprentice in most things…not just the construction projects. Of course, I didn’t really mind. It made sense to let the person, who could just envision a project and make it happen, take the lead on most things. Projects would have been a LOT slower if I was “in charge”. Even though some things probably would have had a much more artistic flair.
Since he passed away, I have been trying to get my self-confidence and sense of capability back. After letting someone else take the lead on things for 16 years, a lot of that confidence was lost. I was almost to the point where I was afraid to do anything or make decisions by myself, because I just knew that he could have done most things better.
During 2020, when I was going a little stir crazy being stuck at home, I decided I wanted to use all of the scrap lumber and other materials I had around the house to build a new structure to put in my yard to hold orchids. I didn’t have any plan to follow. I just looked up some things on Etsy and other places to get some ideas. And then I started building. It was REALLY hard because I hadn’t built anything that large in awhile and I had to think about every corner and brace and angle…things my husband would have been able to visualize in his head with no problem. And of course, I didn’t really know what kind of lumber I had around here and I didn’t want to buy any, because that kind of defeated the purpose. I just made it up as I went along and worked to the point of exhaustion every night and a million thoughts went through my head. First, I felt proud and accomplished. I know that if my hubby was still alive he would have “taken over” the project and done it “right” and I kind of enjoyed just doing it my way. I also know that if he were alive, it would have been done on the first day and it would have been much more structurally sound but a little less “Bohemian” and arty. He never would have added the old stained glass window or the hand-carved wood trim to a project that was just going to be out in the yard. But they were left over items that had been sitting around in the garage for years, and they fit right in with my creation. I definitely thought a lot about how much I miss having someone in my life to do stuff like this with me. But when the whole project was done, it was completely, uniquely my own. And that feeling of pride and accomplishment made me realize how important it was for me to get back to being ME.
It was like a breakthrough project for me. I posted pictures of it online and got so much encouragement that it helped keep me going and helped me want to get busy building more things, exactly my way. So this project was ME time in more ways than one. It was not just me, spending time doing what I love to do. But it was also a project that helped to bring the real ME out again.
My husband and I designed and built this home that I live in but I had somehow forgotten what a huge role I played in that and what an accomplishment it was for me. I designed the cabinet layouts and the beautiful stone fireplace and made decisions like using wood trim throughout and putting in huge windows to capture the view outside. And I even helped in the actual construction process, helping put up cedar siding and helping my husband and his friend do the interior framing. I helped build this beautiful wonderful home and yet I was feeling like I couldn’t accomplish things anymore!
I moved my new garden structure so that it is right outside a window where I can see it every day. It’s a great reminder that I am a strong, capable, creative person in my own right. I’m not the same woman I was when I was part of that wonderful, powerful, successful team that my husband and I created. But I think I’m going to be okay if I just keep reminding myself that part of the reason that team was so strong and successful was because of me.