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Buying a House: Don’t Force It

Today I primed the living room and the dining room at our new house.  I had to do a bit of prep first: spackle some holes including the very big ones left by the television mount the previous owners left (that they left it baffles me, I think I could get a good chunk of change for this ginormous piece of equipment), take off an odd bit of baseboard that was nailed to the mantel and then scrape and sand down the paint on the mantel, and clean the walls and baseboards.  Then I very carefully laid down drop cloths, and tried very carefully not to spill paint even though I had the drop cloths down.  Two things kept running through my head.  First, do better than good enough — but I’ll get to that in another post.  Second, don’t force it.  

My dad used to say “don’t force it” to us about any and all doings with inanimate objects.  Turns out his dad before him used to say this, too (a survey of my household finds that all members’ fathers used to say this).  Yesterday, I was musing about material and labor and how the hard thing about manual labor is that material resists.  Thinking about “don’t force it” today, I was thinking about how to work with the material so that it might not seem so resistant.  I pulled up the tack board in the third bedroom much more efficiently today.  I realized if I pulled the nails more slowly they were less likely to have the heads stripped off.  When I pressed down on the stables with my (gloved) hand, they were more likely to come out at both ends.  There was a moment when I was trying to get the light knob off the wall to paint when I realized that it just wasn’t going, and I was about to just push the screwdriver to turn the screw, when I realized that it was actually connected to the mechanism on the wall and not a normal kind of screw.  If I had forced it, I would have broken it.  But I stopped and thought, don’t force it.


The place where the tv mount was over the mantel. Note the four large wholes.

At my Grandpa TT’s (that’s what we called the Trott grandparents because, you know, “Trott:” like a horse, with two T’s) funeral, one of my uncles spoke about that phrase and how it’s not just a saying for inanimate objects but for animate ones, too.  That’s kind of funny though because we kind of did have to force it a little to get this house.  In fact, I’m not sure not forcing it is the way that I go through life, or even the way that I want to go through life.  I mean, I get what my uncle was saying, but I think it might be a mantra for a person who already has power and force.  That’s kind of what I’m learning in this house-buying and improving process: there’s isn’t one rule — don’t force it.  In the pursuit of justice and truth, some things need to be forced.  Far too many times is the response to calls for justice not to force it, all in due time.  That won’t do.  The notion that some things might break if forced is a good thing when we are talking about patriarchy and white supremacy and capitalism (though, let’s be honest, they are likely to resist all the more, letting their heads be stripped off as they hold their place, just like my nails).

Living room, post-prime.

Living room, post-prime.

Aristotle says that virtue is the mean in relation to the thing and to the character of the person acting.  So I am probably the kind of person who, when it comes to material things, will do well not forcing it.  And while I tend to want rules and principles to follow, I think with Aristotle, that in life, as in home improvement, judgment and prudence about which principle to follow when is required.

I’m just glad no blood was spilled today.  (Speaking of the body… “don’t force it” would also be a good mantra for weight lifting and running.)

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