92: Don’t Hammer Afraid

92: Don’t Hammer Afraid

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Don’t Hammer Afraid

Coming out of your comfort zone is tough in the beginning, chaotic in the middle, and awesome in the end… because in the end, it shows you a whole new world.

~Manoj Arora

I stood in the garage holding a nail in my left hand and a hammer in my right. If I was going to be an independent woman, hanging a dog leash was as good a place to start as any. I didn’t want to smash my thumb, so I pecked timidly at the nail until it sank a quarter of an inch into the rough-hewn paneling. But with the next tap, the nail went flying across the garage. “Rats!” I muttered as I searched for it. Second attempt, same result. Ditto for the third.

Was this how my “new” life was going to be? I’d recently filed for divorce from my husband of thirty-five years and had moved to a small house in a quiet neighborhood. Though I’d always considered myself a fairly competent person, I quickly discovered how many things I didn’t know. Hammering a nail was only one of them. I sighed and draped the dog leash over the doorknob.

My friends Steve and Lucy stopped by that afternoon to see how I was getting along. “Okay, I guess…” I told them.

“Do you need help with something?” Steve asked. I told him about the hammering fiasco. “Get your hammer and nail and show me how you did it,” he said. Steve did an admirable job not laughing when, once again, the nail went flying across the garage when I tapped on it. “The first problem is that you need a real hammer,” he said. “This one’s more like a toy.” But he took it from me and, with just two blows, drove the nail deep into the wood.

“Wow,” I said. “How come that didn’t work for me?”

“Because you were hammering afraid.” He pried the nail out of its hole and handed it to me. “Now you try.” It took me four blows, but I hammered with confidence. The nail sank into the paneling, and I didn’t smash my fingers. It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

In the coming weeks and months, as I learned to live alone for the first time in my life, I thought often about Steve’s advice: Don’t hammer afraid.

I remembered it when my toilet stopped up. I didn’t have a plunger and wouldn’t have known how to use one even if I did. Did I call a plumber? Nope. I watched a YouTube video and learned that an accordion plunger works best and how to use one. So off I went to the hardware store. I bought not only a plunger, but also a real hammer and a new furnace filter. Back at home, I unstopped the toilet. Then I turned my attention to the furnace filter. I popped the dirty one out of its slot with no problem. But what was the right way to put the new one in? I turned it this way and that. Lo and behold, I discovered writing on the cardboard frame. THIS END UP, it said, and THIS SIDE FACES OUT. Voilà. Done!

I won’t pretend I solved all my problems that easily. Having a husband to do “man things” for most of my life had allowed me to avoid learning some pretty important stuff. It took me several practice runs before I mastered checking the oil and tire pressure in my car. (I certainly didn’t know that the mysterious little dashboard light that looks something like a harp is actually a tire pressure warning.) When a horrible smell permeated my guest bathroom, I feared the septic tank needed to be pumped out. As it turns out, the drain trap in the shower was dry, which had allowed sewer gas to back up and cause an odor. Solution? Pour two cups of water down the drain once a week.

Other challenges were much tougher. What was the smartest way to invest my money? What level of deductible made sense for my health insurance? Did I really need a new water heater or could the old one be repaired? I learned a lot on the Internet, and I wasn’t shy about asking friends for advice. And I didn’t hesitate to hire a professional for jobs I couldn’t handle.

I never imagined I would be starting over as a single woman at age sixty. The road has been rocky at times. Really rocky. But anytime I feel overwhelmed by fears and insecurities, I remember Steve’s advice: Don’t hammer afraid. And I drive that nail deep into the wood.

~Jennie Ivey

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