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The Handy Guy
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The "Wu Word" Blog

The Handy Guy

“If I can do it on my own, then why can’t you?”  My Stepmom asked me while holding the shiny and beaming canister with the nozzle that was meant for caulking.
It appeared as a question.  But, it was really a statement.  No, it was more than that.  It was a challenge.  And, if there is anything that I love more, it is a challenge that I could meet and succeed in.

From January 2019-July 2019 and especially the peak months between February to May, I felt ready to put my apartment up for sale and ditch it all together AND, even worst, return home to my safe haven and security of my parents’ and the place I grew up in.   In those months, I had experienced three water incidents, electricity issues, jammed windows, peeling paint, screw pops, and fine-lined cracks in ceilings and even walls.   In those months, I had come to depend on two people: a guy buddy of mine AND my long-time and faithful handy guy who came to my rescue more than once to more so calm me down along with reparations of what had broken.   When I first turned to my guy friend for help to find the matching florescent light and install it for me, he said to me: “I will teach you how to do it, so you will know how to do it on your own.” 

I quipped, “Well, why would I have you teach me when you can do it for me?”

He chuckled, but then said seriously, “It’s important to learn how to do it alone in case no one is around.”  

The Handy Guy

As far as my long-time handy guy, he had started out as a colleague to one of my relatives.  Time and time again, he came through for my relatives, my parents, and, eventually, me in just about this decade that I had lived in my apartment.  He had rushed out from his nighttime job when I was literally having an anxiety attack over water spilling over on my kitchen floor from the faucet that broke.  In all these years, he had calmly fixed my kitchen sink at least twice, repaired electrical outlets, checked on my fridge, taught me how to change air conditioner filters, scrubbed down my kitchen floor, and fixed my toilet.  No job was too big or too small for him.  I fully admired him—for his workmanship, but mostly for his patience. 

As the household issues increased, my anxiety and lack of feeling like I was in any kind of control increased.  Soon, I became a downright paranoid pest with harassing my handy guy and my guy buddy to come over for what I was fearful was my apartment falling apart and that it was time for me to say good-bye to this place.  As Papa Wu wisely said, “Mary, these are all cosmetic issues.  The two things you need to worry about when it comes to a place are electricity and plumbing.  Fire and water are the two most powerful substances that are difficult and just impossible to contain when they are out of control. You are getting fixated on fixing up what does not even require immediate or urgent fixing.” 

Eventually, my guy buddy who I had come to depend on stopped responding to my household concerns and to me all together.  Eventually, my handy guy said exasperated: “I do not know what to say to you anymore.”  And, just like that, ‘no one was around’ to help me out.  So, I had to help myself.  All this time, I had been determined to depend on others, leaving me in a weak and vulnerable place of NOT knowing what to do with my place when something went a wee bit off and just letting anxiety and ignorance get the best of me and bringing out the worst in me.  I could not keep running away and running to other people to ‘fix’ my problems when I had to ‘fix’ my own problems.  

The Handy Guy

My Stepmom set off a spark with her sharing of how she was doing basic household repairs of caulking, light installations, and sealing.  Indeed, if she could do it, then why couldn’t I?  I began to do research on YouTube and Googling basic household repairs.  I was extremely disappointed to find that there was not ONE SINGLE WOMAN doing any basic household repairs.  It was ALL MEN and ONLY WOMEN had videos of doing superficial and surface household tasks of making the place look nice with home décor and crafty items.  I was surprised.  I was shocked.  Most of all, I was disappointed.  I had an idea to take a class on household repairs.  No such luck.  Finding a class was much harder than imagined in this tech age.  The wheels in my head continued spinning with the formation of another idea: “Could my handy guy who had helped with so many reparations in these ten years teach me?” 

I tentatively called my handy guy.  I know he was annoyed with me.  He picked up the phone timidly.  It had reached this point and I had to undo the mess I had made.  When I presented my idea to him, the first thing he said was: “I am very proud of you.  I would be proud and honored to teach you.” 

A chain of amazing events began to happen.  I went to a paint shop for the very first time in my life.  I learned that the paint color to my apartment was “Navajo White.”   I was such a novice that the guy called out to me after he gave me the gallon of paint: “You are holding the paint can wrong.  You are cradling it like a baby when you can hold it by the handle!”  My handy guy advised me of a starter paint kit to purchase.  While waiting for the day to do these basic handy tasks with my handy guy, I also learned about my circuit breakers and electricity from an old-time high school classmate.  I also learned about bathtub knobs and seals from a plumber.  I learned that graphite powder could loosen up a keyhole.  I learned about the magic of DW40. “Home Depot” was suddenly becoming my favorite and most go-to hot spot.   I was not so scared anymore.  I was learning.  I was empowering myself.  

The Handy Guy

On the day that my handy guy came, I learned more than I could ever imagine.  I learned how to hold and wash a paint brush.  I painted with a rolling paintbrush for the first time.  With every roll of slick and brand new paint that coated my walls, I felt a surge of glee and strength coming back into me.  I followed my handy guy’s instruction and guidance of bright blue painter’s tape to then caulk and fill the cracks above the tape. My handy guy sat calmly and almost meditatively as I did the work and he oversaw and taught me how to do just about every task.  To rock/pop music, we worked together with me handling the lower parts of the walls and floors and him reaching the highest areas of the walls and ceiling that my short stature just could not do.  Ricky supervised in bread loaf pose on painter’s drapes.  Above all else, I learned about my handy guy.  He was from El Salvador.  He had two sons.  He learned all these reparations on the job, special people along the way, and, yes, of course, life as the greatest teacher.  I apologized to him for me being a pest and he said to me on my birthday (a week before our first lesson): “I understand.  Now you feel like you have no one.  You are scared.  It can be scary.  But, remember, we are born into this world and we leave this world we nothing.  It is everything in between that matters.  We learn.  We live.  For as long as I have known you, you have been independent.  Very independent.  You can do anything.” 

For ten years, my handy guy had fixed everything imaginable in my apartment.  For ten years, I barely knew anything at all about my handy guy and the life he lived outside of repairing all that had been broken. Ten years later, I was just beginning to get to know him and delving into a deeper sense of me of how I can empower myself for what cannot be controlled (which is pretty much nothing).   Ten years later, I have a gallon can of ‘Navajo White,’ paintbrushes, bright blue painter’s tape, caulking tubes, and the best handy guy who is teaching me to fear nothing and ‘fix’ what can be fixed while letting go of what cannot be BECAUSE, if you do not let it go, then you can make it even worse.  Ten years later, he is helping me so I can help and do it myself. 

The Handy Guy

In life, there is a fine line between empowerment and control.  What is the difference between empowerment and control?  When have you felt the most empowered or, maybe, the most out of control?  What did you do with these feelings?  How have you empowered yourself?   

Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 
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