Third Saturday night in a row, I’m trapped in my bathroom with a couple of hammers, my 14 1/2 inch pry bar and a drink. Tonight, I fixed a vodka/cranberry and only took a sip before I began hammering away at the yellow 4” tile stuck soundly to the floor. Apparently, when this house was built, tile guys used to pour a mud floor and stick the tile to the floor using something very sticky and strong. It essentially bonded the mud with the tile and they became one.
The tile in this bathroom was laid long before the DIY craze. It was never meant to be removed, but to last for the life of the house. How were the guys who put this down supposed to know that in 2012 no one would want yellow orange-peel-textured tile from floor to ceiling, or that entire cable channels would be devoted to regular people tearing apart their houses and then trying to put them back again with varying degrees of success.
Special Report: The United States Post Office has discontinued the Forever stamp
I have hammered my left thumb and the third knuckle of my left index finger about a million times. Each time an expletive escapes more easily and is more foul. I’m asking myself out loud, “Why did these guys think this tile should last forever? Don’t they know that in 21st century America nothing is meant to last forever?” Most cars are leased for 3 or 4 years then given back. The divorce rate is more than 60% for first and second marriages combined. A sofa costs less than it did in 1980 because we throw them away and buy new ones every few years. Thousand dollar washing machines are only meant to last about 6 years. Nothing lasts forever. Nothing. And apparently we like it this way.
So then I start feeling like crap for tearing out this 50-year-old tile that was supposed to last a lifetime, complicit in this disposable world we’ve created. It’s too late to go back to the idea of laying down some vinyl on top of the tile, and I have hours—maybe another whole month of Saturday nights—to win this war of attrition with four-inch squares. And summer is coming and everyone has spring fever, drinking beer outside and bike riding until the sun sets. My left hand hurts like hell and I’m alone and feeling sorry for myself.
At least for tonight
I suppose I could do something to make it all go away. Call up someone who can make me forget about it for a while, drink some more vodka, or just walk away from it and go to bed. But I know it’s important to feel how I really feel right now (my left hand included) and keep working at it. I’ve been reading Pema Chodron lately and she says to get unstuck we must learn to sit with all of it; the pain, the joy, the unhappiness, the messiness, the general feeling of ugh that has no adequate descriptor. I know if I don’t, I will keep repeating the same painful patterns and keep getting stuck cleaning up someone else’s messiness–along with what I create for myself.
So at least for tonight, I will keep trying to get myself and this tile unstuck. All I can really do is chip away at it until it lets go one small bit at a time. So rather than looking for something extraordinary to occur or some sort of parting of the clouds, I will learn to notice the little changes and appreciate the small recoveries because they seem to fill in the smaller cracks in me; the ones in danger of growing wider if I don’t pay attention. And who knows maybe the little victories over each little piece of tile will help do the same.