My last year of sleuthing had always led to a dead end, a black hole. Closing in on the New Year, I was no closer than I had been when I began trying to remedy my situation. It’s not like I hadn’t tried. I don’t how many times I had Googled the name of the previous townhome owner and tried to track down his contact information. As my mind started to take off in frustration, I brought myself back to my focus. Breathe, let it go. I had searched my real estate transaction records, Googled again, looked in my files again. Breathe, let it go. What’s that saying? Oh yeah, the definition of insanity: trying the same approach again and again and expecting a different result.
As I walked up the stairs, the month-old scrape marks on the wall were another reminder of what I hadn’t accomplished. The new and refurbished red oak floors and stairs looked gorgeous. The location of these new wall marks was another version of a slow leaky faucet, a pivot point in the house that kept reminding me of my unfinished project. The holes and missing paint from each of the window frames where I had removed the wooden blind brackets a year ago had been tolerable. No longer. The holes and scrapes on the walls of my home had become a Holey Abyss, a bottomless chasm, I didn’t know how to address. Living alone, I couldn’t expect my five month old puppy to complete a “honey do” list.
My attempts to recreate the original look, my wallscape project, shouldn’t have been a big effort. Shouldn’t is always a big cue word for me, usually spurring my frustrations. And because a hole isn’t anything really, how can it be so bothersome? I wasn’t ready to accept that my aging, now 61, could have been part of why it annoyed me now.
My quandary was a lack of knowledge of the seven paint colors in the home I had moved into 18 months ago. I’d come to appreciate color schemes that originally I didn’t care for. They matched my belongings perfectly, and the contrasts opened up the look of the space.
Karl was my go-to professional painting wizard and friend; maybe he’d have a solution. I sought his advice and in his mild-mannered way, he told me what I didn’t want to hear, but knew was the truth. He said anything I did without the original colors would likely make it look even worse. He reminded me of his mantra…never discard the leftover paint! (I hadn’t). And don’t even think about fixing the baseboards (scrape marks/pictographs left from previous animals). These stained wood would be too much work and expense to restore.
Nearing the holidays, knowing the seasonal decorations which served as distractions would soon be put away, I contacted my realtor. Could she get me the number for the previous owner (didn’t seem to be listed) or contact information for the decorator who worked with him? I explained my dilemma. Margot, the gumshoe, managed to track down the realtor, who called the owner who provided the name of the painter. Nice sleuthing!
A few days later, I left a message for Dave, the Color Guy. He returned my call, and I was grateful for the level of detail he provided. He had researched his records and provided the reference numbers for 5 of the colors (AF-XXX, AF-XXX), identified them as being from Benjamin Moore, and said they were an eggshell finish. That was all he knew. I felt like I had hit the jackpot, until I started perusing the thousands of paints listed on the company website, trying to find my missing colors. It was futile.
Google maps identified four stores that carried the trademark colors. Listening to my intuition, I conducted my research, which indicated the local store might be more difficult to work with since they rebrand all the Benjamin Moore paints as their own. Choosing another location, I headed out to the town north of where I lived. Upon entering the remarkably clean and well organized Benjamin Moore Store in Longmont, I was greeted by two people who offered to assist me immediately. I spoke to them both at once, not knowing who might best help. I explained what I knew, and the man behind the counter continued to ask me questions. “Forest” was the name on the badge he proudly wore on his trim-fitting shirt.
“Do you know the base paint? Do you know where it was bought originally? Do you know approximately when? Let’s look at what you already have, and I’ll see if we have swatches to match.”
My heart sank, I thought I had come so far. I was overwhelmed with how much I still didn’t know.
My response must have been very visible because Forest looked at me with sympathy. “I’m going to take this on, to figure it out for you.” First, he located the swatches for the numbered colors on the list. Hearing the names and seeing the matching samples made them more real. (Yes, Truffle, Morrell, Lodge, Pomegranate, Sanctuary…. they’re alive!) He asked the name of the painter, and said he was going to try to track down where he bought his paint, expecting the store would have information even if the painter’s records weren’t complete. He warned me if it was a contractor base paint, it was likely I would only be able to buy it in gallon containers, he didn’t want me to be surprised. “Let me work on it and I’ll get back to you later today, or tomorrow depending on when I hear back from the painter,” he said with confidence.
“No worries, I’ve put this off for a year, I’m just grateful you’re willing to investigate. I’m guessing if I have to buy gallons of custom colors, it’s not going to happen.” I really wasn’t ready to invest the hundreds of dollars into paint where the vast volume of the materials would be wasted. Let it go. I left the paint store knowing the next steps were out of my hands, again. I wasn’t ready to get creative with my options, such as painting mini murals at the twenty plus locations I knew needed to be addressed.
Forest not only took on my mystery, but pursued it fervently. I visualized him in his hounds-tooth cap with his magnifying glass. Contacting the painter, tracking down where and when the original purchase had been made, and determining the rest of the color and material information, was an effort that was above and beyond. He did not disappoint.
Forest called and left a message. When I returned the call he shared all he had learned, including rounding out the elusive Urban Nature and Amsterdam missing colors. He offered to put together sample size containers for each and suggested I use an artist’s brush to complete the repairs, thinking it would show up less as discrete touchups. It wouldn’t match the base used, but it was worth a try. I picked up the samples two days later.
A mix of pointillism, and a little Jackson Pollack , it took about an hour to touch up all the rooms in the house and the hallways. I saw spots I’d never noticed, and in a few locations a second coat was needed. I stepped back and looked where there had been holes in a window frame. Finally, a niggling project that had been taking space in my mind for more than a year was complete. My Holey Abyss was no more and was replaced with renewed energy where before I’d experienced a subtle drain.
Every challenge has lessons for me. I keep moving forward, knowing at some point I’ll be able to reflect on what they were. The belief that some day they will be behind me, or I will see them in a new light, serves me well. Walking my talk keeps me honest as a life coach, looking for the growth opportunities. With an added sense of peace and harmony I reflected on the reminders.
While my painting puzzle was not life threatening, or dramatic, and in many ways can seem very petty, I find the same lessons show up for me again and again. Awareness of my physical responses, of where my energy is going, validating my intuition, and honoring what is showing up, effect my behaviors and responses. This approach has changed my experiences with challenges themselves, transforming me and the lens through which I see things. I’d rather be reminded of my lessons on the smaller scale, so I can practice behaviors that help when the bigger challenges arrive. And they always do.
Do your past trials inform you in dealing with new ones? What do you struggle with? Are you able to find the opportunities in the challenge? Have they changed you in ways you didn’t expect? I’d love to hear about your experiences.