A year ago I was in over my head. And that was only because two years prior, I was in over my head and I had never resurfaced. I was renovating a 125 year old house. Alone. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t know how to do it. It was all just too much, and I felt stuck.
In that period of time, the above paragraph was the narrative running constantly in my mind. It led me to feel overwhelming anxiety. I was about 98% certain I would go bankrupt and ruin my life – and the life of every member of my family. And possibly my town. National implosion wasn’t out of the question either.
This percentage was on a good day. I’ll spare the details of my thoughts on a bad day.
In the midst of this confusing and tumultuous time, I stumbled upon Metanoia’s Catholic Coaching Podcast. They were covering the temperaments in depth, and I had always loved anything to do with self-knowledge. A friend and I dove into these podcasts, and then I started going through their podcast archives. I had unearthed a gold mine!
As I listened, I also began to use their journal. I journaled especially on the many fatalistic and catastrophic scenarios to do with my house reno project. I found myself discovering that many of the things I was thinking were, surprisingly, untrue. Many weren’t factual at all. They were leading me down a trigger-happy path, and I wanted out of this well-worn pattern. I responded to Matt and Erin’s invitation to join their Metanoia Catholic Academy, where I found more tools for growth, and also learned I’d have the opportunity to get coached. I began listening to their workshops while working on my house, and, as a result, found that I was feeling more in charge of my emotions and thoughts
About a month into the Academy, I was toying with the idea of getting one-on-one coaching. I knew I had A LOT of thoughts in my mind about my house project, and even though I had journaled many times on it, I still felt stuck. So, with shaking fingers, a pounding heart and slight/heavy perspiration, I booked myself for a 20 minute call with a mystery coach.
The day came, and even though every fiber of my phlegmatic being wanted to AVOID AVOID AVOID, and maybe “do it next month,” I logged in and showed up. After a brief prayer, I launched into how overwhelmed I was by the house renovation project in front of me. I was met with patience, understanding, and complete calm. I found myself calming down too.
As I recounted many of the things left to do, I explained my main inhibition: I didn’t know HOW to do any of those things. The house needed to be rewired and replumbed; the doors needed to be refurbished; the house’s exterior needed to be repaired, scraped and painted; the floors needed to be sanded and refinished. “I don’t know how to do these things!” I wailed. The coach didn’t appear to be unnerved by my predicament. But I figured she was just hiding her panic.
Then she asked, “have you ever learned to do something you didn’t know how to do before?” I paused as she diffused the situation with such a simple and grounding question.
“Yes…” I responded.
“Like what?” She asked.
“Well,” I answered slowly, “I didn’t know how to build casings for the lattice under my house, but I worked with someone and they taught me. And then I did it.”
As I responded, a flood of examples came to me of things I had learned. I mean, I didn’t know how to walk when I was born…I learned that, didn’t I? Heck, now I can even SKIP!
Suddenly it clicked: as a human being, I’m a learning machine! Just by living and growing, I had so much evidence to the fact that I’ve learned to do things that I once didn’t know how to do! The coach was smiling and nodding, appearing to be amused and grateful for the breakthrough that had just happened.
She asked, “So what else could be true here, other than ‘I don’t know how to do these things’?”
“Well,” I replied as my brain started trying out different ideas, “I don’t know how to do them…but I can learn them…so I guess I don’t know how to do them…YET.”
A sense of relief and even excitement ran through me as I practiced my new thought: “I don’t know how to rewire my house, yet.” “I don’t know how to run a sewage line, yet.” “I don’t know how to replace rotten wood on the outside of my house, yet.”
These sentences that, a mere 30 minutes prior, had been said in a tone of hopeless exasperation were now producing feelings of curiosity, anticipation, and enthusiasm!
I said a prayer of thanksgiving to God for this simple shift that had happened, first in my mind, and subsequently in my heart and entire being. We finished the call, and I paused to let this newly learned lesson wash over me. I realized that many of the lies I had been believing were blocking me from living in the gifts that God had given me. He had called me to this house project, and in my mind, I was assuming I had to do it all alone, figuring it out with no guidance. But in this, and so many other ways, He taught me to broaden my horizons and look to Him with trust, even in the unknown.
In the following months, I worked side by side with a generous and God-sent electrician named Gilbert. He taught me how to rewire my house. I learned to run a sewage line from helpful plumbers at a plumbing supply store, and successfully completed it solo and joyfully in two days. I worked with a friend to repair the rotten wood on my house and we spent a week scraping, sanding and painting it, restoring it to its former splendor. I didn’t know how to do any of these things, but now I do, and the little word “yet,” gave me the push I needed to keep going.
I still have a list of things left to do, and as I look over the list, I often take a deep breath and raise my eyebrows. “Replace rotten window sash?” I read. “Argh!” I respond, “I don’t know how to do that!” But in moments like these, if I pause and sink into the storehouse of graced memories, I can choose to remember that I’m made to learn new things. So, I smile and finish the sentence I started: “Replace rotten window sash? Huh, I don’t know how to do that…YET.”