We have some dining chairs that have seen better days. I’ve spent months trying to justify replacing them with something new and fancy. Between my scrooge-like and greenie tendencies, buying new chairs when we have perfectly serviceable ones is a hard sell. Too hard, it seems.
So I decided that I would repair the 17-year-old chairs. They are plywood and some of the laminate had begun to lift. Between that and the varnish that was very patchy, some wood putty and a paint job seemed like the solution. They may well last another 17 years and the trials of 7 children and associated family and friends.
I recently broke out the wood putty I’d purchased the day before. I didn’t get the tiny tin because I knew there were quite a few of the 6 chairs needing repairs. I puttied up the first chair. Easy! I then went looking for the next one.
Nope, not that one. Nope, nope, nope, nope. Wait what? I went round again inspecting more slowly.
Oh my goodness! The falling apart dining chairs was in fact a single chair. I have spent the last couple of years solid in the belief my set of dining room chairs were on their last legs. This was absolutely a false belief.
One single chair had 2 areas of peeling laminate. A quick run over with wood putty sorted it out. I have put this off for so long because it seemed like such a daunting job! The sanding and painting will take some time, for sure. But the repairing of the broken chair…quite literally took a couple of minutes.
It set me to musing.
How often do we feel something is very broken or will take a huge amount to repair, or needs replacing when it is actually a simple fix. I was sorting clothes with one of my daughters, her favourite top had a pull in the fabric, she was about to get rid of it. I said I could fix it. I pulled the threads back through. It was fiddly. I swore a bit, but in the end, she had her top back. A top that previously she had thought was lost to her.
When I told my older children about the discovery of a single broken chair, they laughed and laughed. OMG Mum!! We have been hearing about these broken chairs for ages. What do you mean it was only one chair?!? This is also a good lesson. What we talk about is what people take on as the truth. During those years they have spent many occasions sitting at the table and on those chairs. They too believed there were multiple broken chairs because they had heard me say there were. If we are constantly bemoaning the state of our relationship, people will begin to buy into the story it is broken. They will begin to encourage us to leave, they will support us in the idea it is broken beyond repair.
These simple repair jobs remind me of my work, especially relationship work. People usually wait to seek help when the wheels are falling off. Things often get so bad before people come to the realisation they need help. Often the first session is filled with expressions of hopelessness and fear the relationship can’t be repaired. There seems to be so much wrong.
As we work together and unpack what the issues are, the number of chairs that are damaged lessens. We begin to see the problem is often the same issue, it just wears lots of outfits and manifests itself in different ways. Fixing it is not the huge job it seems because it is a single problem, not a whole dining suite.
Focusing on what is broken or what is wrong can lead us to believe things are hopeless or broken beyond repair. Someone with the ability to see the larger picture than the everyday disconnects can see a pattern and identify the common thread. They can see it can be a relatively simple fix. A relationship that seems broken can be mended with the right skills, knowledge, and tools.
Relationships can be hard work, they can feel unfixable. Just like the top and the chair, very often they can be repaired.
Anita runs courses and provides mentoring for people struggling with PAS/Pathogenic Parenting, family culture, and boundaries. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. She is the Lifestyle Editor at Stepparent Magazine and is a step/mum to 7, ranging from tweens to adults. She lives in New Zealand but works with clients around the world. She specialises in helping people recovering from trauma navigate successful relationships and families overcome pathogenic parenting and parental alienation. She is a certified step-family coach, with graduate and post-graduate qualifications in psychology.