Friday 31 December 2010

Determination - the 99-1 rule

I spent New Year's Eve "underground" - in my crawl space. I resurfaced 2 hours ago, wet, muddy, stinky, tired, but happy. I spent a good part of the day building a water trap to keep out the sewer stench that has been haunting our house (and entire town) for years now. With the severe snow and frost of the past weeks in NL, all plumbers were busy fixing leaking roofs and broken pipes so I was left on my own

A crawl space is the most neglected part of the house. Mine is two feet high, and a few inches lower where the concrete beams support the floor. Filled with pipes, plumbing, wires and cables, with stones, bricks and splintered concrete half hidden in the muddy soil, it isn't a place to throw a party - certainly not if you're suffering from arachnophobia

I have suffered from arachnophobia since childhood. Vaguely remember two incidents that might have caused it, but never knew exactly where the severe trauma came from.
I always knew it was silly to be so afraid of spiders that even a tiny one made me jump up and back off. I thought it, felt it, but all that didn't help.
It was believing that it was silly that changed it all for me. Trading the suffocating fright for a kind and even loving feeling towards the little creatures was what did it. You never see a mommy spider with a hubby spider and two little baby spidrettes, yet seeing them as just living beings trying to make a living helped greatly - and determination to get rid of this so very inconvenient habit was what drove it

Determination was what I needed to go underground today. I barely fit through the hatch, have to cross my legs and grab on to the floor, then stretch my legs further and push myself inwards. To get out, I have to crawl back in again, raise my arms first, pull up, put my arms on the floor and drag myself out.
I'm not fond of entering my crawl space. I get admiration from my wife who gets somewhat claustrophobic just seeing me do so, although the kids love the exciting idea and have joined me down there a few times - it's all in the mind

I spent 6 hours down there today. Sawing 12 inch plastic pipes filled with Lawd-knows-what (we all know what, just better not write it out loud, right?), some of which were next to the wall so it took me 30 minutes to do just one. Then, when the pipes are cut, some of the stuff comes out, the sewage stench is freed and all at once it gets very wet, dirty and smelly. I had to resurface a few times just to catch fresh air and recharge my energy

At some moments you lie there, wondering how long it will all take. There's no way back as a sewage system isn't redundant: one broken pipe at the right location and the entire house is out of the use of water, bathroom, toilet, sink. Setback upon setback I encountered, with pipes jammed, stuck or glued so "rich" that I had to sand down the glue remains before being able to fit a new one to it. Other pipes I had to carefully chisel left and right dozens of times to get them to move slowly off the pipe they were stuck to, with sometimes only 4 inches of room to use the hammer - not much power that way...

I lay there, irrational thoughts crossing my mind, adrenaline rushing through my veins every now and then, fighting instinct flight reactions whenever stench or water came out by the numbers. With all the cables, wires and electricity in the damp mud, electrocution was a mathematical chance. It was all going so slow, everything was tough and taking ages, I was wet, cold, while my breath was filling the space with damp steam. I was alone, in the dark, lit by a single lamp that could stop functioning at any given time

I smiled at them all. Silly thoughts: they only survive and thrive if you pay them attention. I kept breathing at all times, using a good part of my attention to breath in, and out, slowly, mindfully. Being very concentrated or occupied, usually the last time you remembered breathing was minutes ago - and that's not always far off the truth.
At some points I rolled on my back and lay right there in the mud, stretching out to give my permanently bent back and shoulders a rest

Determination. It was all I needed to have. I had time, energy, tools and materials. Unsure I would have spent New Year underground in my crawl space, although that would have made for a good story of course, but i had all the time in the world - I told myself. I had all the energy in the world - I told myself. I had all the tools needed to do the job, as well as the materials - I told myself.
What could I do more? Just continue. It was a path chosen, and I wasn't willing to abandon it

I got out, eventually. I left a beautiful and perfectly functioning water trap, necessarily redoing most of the surrounding piping. Never again will our house be filled with sewer stench, even if faint. No one will ever see or know what I had to do to get this far, well save for this blog post then

I have gotten out of many other situations. Especially this year - especially this year, but also many, many times, in all the many years before. I had the will, the patience, and the firm belief that if anyone else could do it, I certainly had a very, very good chance of doing it myself

I think that's what they call determination. It seems to get you places these days

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