I have a tendency of looking at my toes. Metaphorically. When I perform tasks, I get lost in the minutia of each step, concentrating on making things line up perfectly, editing down to the pixel-level, agonizing over every jot and nuance. In some ways, the overall task doesn’t interest me as much as each individual component. I get more of a thrill watching two jigsaw pieces match up than I do at gazing across the completed puzzle.
This tendency can result in one of two outcomes. One, I can often get to a part of the process that no longer interests or fascinates me, at which point I’ll move off to some other menial task to get lost in. For me, the move is a fluid and natural transition. To outsiders, I suppose they see a train jump its tracks and plow off through the desert sands.
Two, I can often complete a task and find myself awed with where I ended up. Several times in my life I’ve done something that I would swear, even now, that I’m not capable of. When that happens, I’m the one that has the jarring sensation, looking up at the world around me and asking, “How did I get here?”
I once took a 100 foot yacht from Florida to Chicago in a mere two weeks. I had a mate and stew, but did every bit of the piloting and engineering along the way. To get through the Eerie Barge Canal, I had to chop off the top of a radar arch, which required hiring a crane to lift and set on the rear deck. We went through 50+ locks in just two days, then navigated the great lakes without GPS or radar. This was one of those things I wouldn’t think reproducible. Then I did it again a few months later.
When the trip started, I was only supposed to be taking the boat to New York. Filling in for another captain, I had two days of notice prior to leaving, so something sudden and moderate became a thing larger and longer. By the time I could catch my breath, I had moved a long way. Longer, swifter, and safer than I thought possible.
I built a porch like this once. We had a wonderful deck in Virginia, almost as big as my current house is now. Attached to this deck was a smaller platform, triangular in shape, that was inaccessible from…well…anywhere. We speculated it was intended for a hot-tub, or added to provide lateral support with its three 4×4 posts. When we decided it would be nice to have some covered screened-in portion of the deck, I decided to re-purpose this bizarre thing.
Despite my proficiency in AutoCAD, I set off without a plan, looking at my toes. The first thing I needed was some steps to get up to the deck, so I built those. Then I decided to wrap these around and connect them to the upper deck, so I did that, modifying the existing railing. The walls started going up when my wife suggested a little porch off the thing, so I did that. I designed each railing and rafter by hand, chiseling the wood so everything notched together perfectly. At one point, I had the entire structure standing up without a single screw it in, all the pieces went together so nicely (especially the notches my wife chiseled).
After creating a roof line that seemed to be screaming to get out, I stepped back and realized I’d done something I could likely never do again. Built something unique, functional, and beautiful. It was a familiar sensation. Pride mixed with fear. Accomplishment swirled with humility. A swelling in my chest and butterflies in my stomach. If I danced a jig, happy at what I’d wrought, it wasn’t because I was full of myself. It’s because I was surprised by myself. And somehow, knowing that I would never be able to repeat that feat, it made it easier to be proud of. I wasn’t applauding an accomplishment so much as marveling at an accident.
Maybe I had this in mind as I finished my first manuscript. Perhaps that’s why I immediately tore into the second book, eager to shuffle forward, not daring to look up from my toes. If I had, and seen what I’m taking in right now, I probably would have moved on to something else, propelled by my fear and anxiety.
People are reading my book. That I wrote. Which you can buy on Amazon.
How did I get here?
And . . . can I stick around?