I was a spoiled child. I fully admit it. As the youngest of two, my sister got to experience all the new stuff in life first just by the sheer fact that she was older. This obviously made things a lot easier for me which I didn’t mind a bit. If she didn’t die trying something new the first time, like making it through that first real hair cut, riding a bike, or going off to college, then it must be safe for me. I liked that feeling.
Fast forward 20 years, and I’m newly divorced and have just purchased my own house. I moved in without so much as a hammer for tools, and suddenly had to figure things out for myself…things like broken toilets. I had several choices. I could cry. I could call a repair guy and wait for days for a response. I could call my Dad, but he was hours away. Or I could get my act together, figure it out, and get my stuff fixed myself.
I did what any woman would do. I bawled my eyes out. Then I called my parents and bawled again in a sympathy plea. Then when my Dad didn’t magically drive 200 miles immediately to fix my toilet, I tried to figure it out for myself.
Now I’m a girly girl, believe me. I like my high heels, my lipstick, and my manis and pedis. But I also have zero interest in using my yard as an outdoor bathroom, and I really wanted my toilet fixed. So I drove on down to the local bookstore and tried to find instructions. I was flopped down on the floor in the home improvement section, books spread around me, and another girl came into the aisle. She was young and cute and blonde, and she immediately started looking for books on setting tile. And then she spoke…
She said, very quietly under her breath, “Hell, if a man can do it, I can do it.”
I’ll never forget those words. And the next day I figured out all by myself how to fix my toilet. Mission accomplished.
Flash forward another few years, and I’m meeting a date for dinner. He’s gorgeous, intelligent, and marriage material as far as I’m concerned. I drove 40 miles to meet him, drinking water in my car the whole trip, so of course I had to pee as soon as I met him.
The first thing he tells me is that his toilet was broken and he had a call in to get it fixed.
Seriously??? I was in my favorite leopard print heels and my little black dress, looking as cute and feminine as I could, but I really had to pee. I had two choices. I could pee and not flush, or I could stick my orange scented arm down the back of this toilet and fix it. Not flushing was not an option. Any girl on a hot date knows that rule. My arm was wet in two seconds flat, his toilet was fixed, and I walked proudly out of his bathroom, grinning ear to ear, and announced that I’d fixed it.
His jaw dropped. Then we had a lovely dinner and he never called me again.
I’m not about to claim that I enjoy fixing toilets. I would rather fetch a man cucumber sandwiches and a cold beer while watching him do it so I don’t mess up my manicure. But I absolutely relish in the fact that I CAN fix a toilet. It’s perhaps a silly sense of empowerment, but it’s what happens when you take the time to figure out the hard stuff. I have a system in place now for tackling challenges that seems to work well.
1. Get the crying and cussing out of your system. Go for it, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. One of the privileges of being female is that we’re allowed to cry at the drop of a hat.
2. Walk away from the problem until you have the patience and time to tackle it. It may have taken me 3 days to figure out how to fix a toilet, but now I can do it in seconds in my best heels without ruining my manicure.
3. Once you’ve tackled your challenge, give yourself lots of kudos. I usually call my parents to brag too. Parents are great for cooing over their children’s accomplishments no matter what age.
I’ll be the first one to admit, challenges sometimes scare the hell out of me. I’m a wuss. But each one I overcome gives me a little more sense of power and confidence in myself. Each accomplishment makes it easier to tackle the next one. My full set of basic tools I now own helps too ; )