Saturday, September 4, 2010

Renovations Required?

I love our home. It is a place of refuge and comfort, security and, most of the time, sanity. As a result we plan to stay here for a long time, provided it does not become too much of a burden, given the progression of my Parkinson's disease.

Having lived in our home for 17 years now, it seemed about time to undertake some renovations. At least that is what my energetic wife felt. And she had some great plans and very specific ideas of what she wanted. This involved updating the kitchen and master bathroom, as well as changing some flooring.

As a lawyer who handles construction disputes, often involving renovation disasters, I did not warm to the proposal quickly. But, recognizing the subjective value to my wife and objective value to our home, we ultimately agreed. Of course it helped that I felt somewhat guilty taking multiple weeks a year away from my family for my annual motorcycle journey.

But, alas, by their very nature, renovations are unpredictable. Usually that means they cost more and take longer than expected. Take the new flooring for example. Tearing up the old stuff proved to be somewhat difficult given that it was both nailed and screwed to the subfloor. In the process, the subfloor was ruined, requiring its replacement. Doing so left our storage area directly under the floor exposed to thousands of shards of wood and an inestimable amount of dust and dirt to be cleaned. At last the floor was completed (conveniently at the same time as I returned from my motorcycle trip). However, despite our expectations, that was not the end of the story. Apparently a manufacturing error resulted in the floor delaminating, “cupping” and lifting, leaving the surface looking like small waves on a pond. It all had to be torn up and new material installed. About 3 weeks from now I will let you know how it turns out.

"Renovate" comes from the Latin root, "nova" which means, "new", with the "re" meaning "again". In other words, "to make new again". A dictionary definition gives two alternatives: 1. To restore to an earlier condition, as by repairing or remodeling; 2. To impart new vigor to; revive.

During our experience I began to realize the metaphor of renovation applied to my life, as well as to the lives of others. Is it not true that we often believe certain aspects of our lives need a renovation? It may not be to "restore to an earlier condition", but it needs to at least "gain a new vigor".  Most of us intuitively realize that once we start a renovation it is almost certainly going to cost more, at a multitude of levels, and take longer than we expect. And dealing with one area that needs renovation usually discloses another area in need of repair. So what have I learned from the application of this metaphor?

First, be careful in identifying what part of your life needs to change and why. Are you simply trying to impress your friends and neighbors, like one might with a new car or the latest technological advance? Write the “what” and “why” down.

Second, make a plan and count the cost of the process. You would best not try to renovate everything at once, even if you could. Planning and budgeting seem to be a lost art these days, whether it is government projects or personal finances. But when it comes to renovating one's life, a well-developed and prioritized plan and realistic estimate of direct, and indirect, cost is critical if success is to be achieved. Have the plan reviewed for feedback from others who might be impacted by it.

Third, be prepared for surprises, usually not the pleasant kind! It is very easy to become disappointed when self-discipline fails, circumstances conspire against you and resources dwindle or disappear altogether. Anticipate how you will respond to each "what-if” you can think of, and develop a contingency plan B.

Last, develop an accountability "buddy" system so that you are not alone undertaking the renovation. It might be another person sharing the same type of renovation project, or someone who is paid to encourage and cajole you.

Parkinson's disease requires me to undertake some fairly radical renovation, given that I intend to live my life to the fullest of its potential.

What kind of renovations do you need to do?

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