Have you ever had something test a relationship to the breaking point? Sometimes it is with your spouse or significant other, sometimes it is with a really good friend; whatever the case may be, y’all are tested. For me, it was the day very early on in our relationship, when my not-yet husband asked me to help him build a shed. Now, he was a very handy man, and I knew a thing or two about simple construction from my dad….But that wasn’t the kind of shed he had in mind. This was the shed of all sheds. When I agreed to to help with this, our first co-project, I had no idea that this would bring us to our breaking point.
Looking out at the backyard; there was a clear side, and then there was a completely dense with brush and debris side. The clear side was already level and open, the other side was anything but. Now I ask you, which side would you have thought he wanted to build the shed on? Right?? NOPE! He wanted to clear and level the OTHER side! Oh my word! OK, so first struggle, we aren’t talking about grass and weeds. This was stuff taller than us and basically trees. We get out there and start grabbing stalks to cut when our arms start burning like fire. Oh, so this is actually Stinging Nettle, a plant that causes a burning rash when touched. Very nice! Long sleeves, gloves, pants…back at it.
Have I mentioned that he wanted to do this project in a weekend?? Yeah…
So, we clear and level the area for the new shed. Mind you I do NOT have a willing heart at this point. I am mad at the location as I’m constantly looking at the nice open, level piece of land just sitting there mocking me. Finally, it is clear. In this time, he has decided that because of this location the shed should sit on a concrete slab. Now let me interject that we are in our mid 20’s and have little to no extra funds…I knew we would be doing this concrete work ourselves. We mixed concrete in a wheel barrow and paint buckets with a drill and screw drivers…I still to this day can’t imagine how we survived not killing each other that day. I was literally on my hands and knees spreading wet cement while he mixed and poured. We were both cut to pieces from the rough mix. It was hot and were beat up and tired. I doubt a lot of you have ever mixed concrete by hand, but it gets heavy. Not to mention, we didn’t get the ratio exactly right; so that slab is solid as all get out.
Are you noticing that we haven’t even started the shed yet? The shed came in one of those DIY kits from the hardware store. The instructions were confusing because so many of the pieces, which weren’t labeled, looked exactly alike. On build day, his parents came to help, probably trying to mediate so we wouldn’t kill each other. In reality, they were snipping and we were snipping…it became a guys vs girls scenario because us girls wanted to follow the instructions and the guys just wanted to get it done. By this time, I hated this shed so much. I hated everything about this shed. I hated talking about this shed, I didn’t really care if it ever got done. I never wanted to see this shed again.
But we all pulled together, and the shed finally did get finished…after we realized that we had put the shingles on upside down. ARGH!!! In the end, it was beautiful, it was the best shed ever. We were able to keep so much stuff in there and nothing was going to get in there with that concrete slab.
Over the years, after the rawness wore off, that shed became more of a barometer for our relationship. It became a symbol of our strength, as silly as that sounds…if we can build a shed together, we can do this. The idea is this, we tackled something early on in our relationship that made us work together, compromise, communicate, and apologize. Funny enough, that shed also made us do all of those things in front of other people…his parents and our neighbors who came to gawk at the crazy young couple building a shed.
I often worry about this new generation of kids who expect instant gratification and believe that they should never be uncomfortable. When that mentality overflows into their relationships, will they have the fortitude to build sheds? Will they just expect someone else to build it for them? Those uncomfortable moments are the times when you learn the skills to cope with the bigger moments life is going to throw at you. That silly shed wasn’t actually the hardest thing we have ever dealt with in our married life, but it did prepare us for those days. It let us know that we could handle them together; because somehow even in the middle of hating that shed, we had still made each other laugh at the ridiculousness of the moment. That is something we can still do today. Maybe not in all circumstances, we definitely face some dark moments…we just hold each other through those.
The point is this: whether it be a spouse, a friend, or a family member, we all need someone that we could build a shed with if the time called for it. We need to build those kind of deep relationships; instead of 1,000 superficial acquaintances. Focus on strengthening the relationships you hold dear. Be present in those lives instead of worrying about what all of your acquaintances are up to online. Pay attention to more moments when they are happening instead of photo ops for posting online. Look up, look out, and be there, where ever you are. The people you are with are the people who deserve your attention. I think in this day and age, we are all guilty of this. Let’s just try it and see what happens…if you are with a living, breathing person, don’t check social media. You have a friend right there! I wonder if we will all feel a little more valued and special to the people we are with…a little more listened to…a little more connected….I just want my friends back. Don’t you? To be able to go to lunch with someone, and actually just have lunch with them? Connection, that is how you build a shed.
So, to end my long story, we finally finished our shed…in a weekend. We stayed together and were actually stronger in the end. It did take a while before we really thought the whole incident was funny. Now, years and so many construction projects later, we find our antics quite humorous. We must have looked quite foolish, but very much in love, to put up with each other the way we did. Today, I hope we don’t look as foolish when things come our way, but I do hope we look every bit as in love.
Hold on tight and build a shed, you’ll thank me for it someday.