Operation Barbarossa on Curtain Rods

            I started the day with a to-do list.  The first thing I wanted to get done was to install a curtain rod support above one of my windows.  There are two windows, side by side.  One already had a curtain rod I’d installed on it months ago.  Recently, I’d found a matching curtain rod at the store, so that the two windows would have identical rods.  I just wanted the curtain rods to match, that’s all.  Following me so far? 
            I expected the project to take about forty minutes.  The windows are tall, I’d have to be climbing up and down on a step, I was doing it by myself, blah blah blah. 
           Well, it didn’t take forty minutes.  Or an hour. 
            Why?  you ask, honestly perplexed, good gentle reader. 
             Because when I said “I just wanted the curtain rods to match,” I meant itLiterally.  I had no intention of this when I started the project—I just wanted the same curtain rod set on both windows.  That’s all.  No biggie! 
            So I took measurements, installed it, and then looked at them from across the room.  The new curtain rod was slightly closer to the window and off to the left than the first curtain rod.  The difference was nominal, really (and come on, it’s not as if a photographer from Home and Garden is coming over to do a pictorial on Chez Margo).  But I suddenly decided that I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like it at all.  I wanted the curtain rods and the curtains to be perfectly symmetrical, and this unevenness just wouldn’t do.  There is no excuse for shoddy workmanship!  I would have to re-install the rod, adjust it.  Then things would look right.  Then they would look as they should
             That this neurotic, OCD Monk-esque thought popped into my head in the first place was not great.  The fact that I picked it up and ran with it was much worse.  Complicating this matter was the fact that for some reason, there was a metal plate behind the drywall of the second window where I needed to put the screws in order to make the rods “even.”  The metal plate was thwarting my endeavor; I could not make a hole big enough to accommodate an anchor and screw. 
             Did I let the fact that I would have to somehow penetrate through metal of unknown thickness and composition in order to hang a curtain rod discourage me? 
           Fuck no!  I’ll show that metal who’s boss!  I thought, breaking out my power drill and bit set. 

          Four hours, two broken drill bits, and three trips to the hardware store later (the Pakistani clerk, though silent, was looking increasingly concerned about my appearance), and I had made a half-dozen holes in my landlord’s wall and the curtain rod still was not even.  My arms hurt from lifting the tools and my legs were bent in a stress positions for minutes at a time. It was hot and I was sweating profusely and because I was doing all of this in front of the window, I thought that people on the street were probably looking at me and thinking I was totally unhinged. 

   Which I was.  I had a half-dozen other chores I’d meant to do that day, and I’d wasted hours of time on a  curtain rod that any moron should be able to install and it still was not straight. 
           (Please let me put this in a little perspective for you, good reader.  I am a very patient personality.  I can work at things like sewing or aquascaping or whatever for a long time; I’m detail-oriented, I’m not one of those people who gets frustrated after ten minutes and stops doing it.  When I see criminals on TV, the ones I think I understand the best are the bomb-makers.  The long nights in their basements or kitchen tables, curtains drawn, teaching themselves what to do and how to do it, stealthily acquiring the supplies, slowly—ever so slowly—constructing the device. The device is their baby, the thing they have poured their heart and soul into, but it is dangerous. One wrong move and they blow themselves into a fine red mist.  The constant worry of being discovered by family, co-workers, the mailman—ah, paranoia, the spice of life.  Oh yeah, I understand the way those sick cats think very well.)
            So, the condition I was in this afternoon over the FUCKING CURTAIN RODS was atypical and overwhelming to me on several different levels—I was frustrated, irritated, humiliated at my incompetency (why I expected myself to know how to do home repair is a mystery in and of itself), angry that I’d broken my drill bits, angry that I was even angry over something so inconsequential.  But by God, I was going to conquer that curtain rod!  I was the Germans launching Operation Barbarossa or Caesar going for the Helvetti. 
            And I suddenly wanted Riesling.  A bottle of Riesling.  Chilled, perfect for summertime work.  I pictured it, condensation on the glass bottle.  Dry, a dry wine.  Delicious.  Just perfect.  It would be my ally in the war against THE METAL BEHIND THE DRYWALL THAT WAS THWARTING MY WILL. 
            My rational brain said: Yes: wine and power drills and clumsy furious girl who does not know what she is doing.  GREAT LOGIC THERE, ARISTOTLE!
            I cannot drink at this time in my life.  So no Riesling for little Margo. 
            I eventually acknowledged that I was not being rational (I felt personally insulted by the curtain rod and was determined to force it, which is nuts) and that what I was doing was not working.  I had to stop.  I contacted other homo sapiens.  I left my apartment for the first time that day to meet with other homo sapiens.  It made me feel better, but I was still very tense when I came home a few hours later.  I couldn’t calm down enough. I mentally flipped through options that could help me relax. Options? I’d gone to the gym late last night and was very sore.  I couldn’t concentrate enough to read (which is very unusual for me).  I kept thinking: I want to turn off my brain by drinking a bottle of champagne and watch TV.  To check out, to just check out.  But, checking out was not an option. 
             I was restless so I decided at least I could do something productive.  I donned rubber gloves and scrubbed the bathtub maniacally with bleach and Comet and a very stiff brush (I am not a super clean freak; this violent cleaning urge was atypical of me). The grout, the tile–why couldn’t I get it a uniform color?  I was sweating.  My arm hurts now; my elbow, I have bruises on my knees from kneeling on the tile floor.  I could not get it clean enough, it had to be just right.  My Saturday night, folks.  Every time I thought it was perfect, I saw something else that needed to be cleaned (I gotta run this one by my psychologist—I suspect Sigmund. Freud would say that I was trying to scour something other than my bathtub).  Then it also occurred to me: You are doing just what your mother does.
            That gave me a case of the flaming heebie-jeebies and I ceased immediately, shucking my gloves and throwing the brush down as if it had turned into a rattlesnake in my hand . I decided to clean my aquarium instead.  It usually feels nice and soothing to work on it, and I like to know that it keeps my pets healthy. The fish are pretty and it is relaxing to watch them swim to and fro. Well, I cleaned their fucking tank so well that now the algae-eater fish literally have nothing to eat today.  Every rock was scrubbed and bleached, the gravel vacced, the plants brushed.  You could probably have preformed open-heart surgery in that tank once I was done with it, it was so sterile.  I had to add zucchini tonight so that they’d have some food till some algae grows back. Frankly, I’m surprised that I didn’t kill any of my fish, careful as I was to rinse the ornaments of cleanser after scrubbing.  Thank God I didn’t touch the filter media. 
              Then I changed the paper in my birds’ cages and gave them fresh food and water.  It makes me feel good to take care of them.  I even made a fresh veggie and nut treat for my new big parrot, the Senegal.  And get this: because birds are very sensitive, and she’d been around me and watching me all day, she was very wary of me.  I held out her treat to her for her to eat, and she sat in the corner of her cage and wouldn’t take it.  I know in her mind she was thinking: “Uhh, thanks but no thanks!  Not much of an appetite tonight!  I will stay in my corner for the rest of the day, you crazy person.”
              Broke my heart.  I had a sudden flash of empathy.  It was like if you were a little kid and your passive-aggressive mom was really tense and pissed off, and you didn’t know why,  and it made you fearful and uncomfortable, and she baked you cookies and handed one to you and said, “Here’s a cookie I made for you!  What, you don’t like it?  It’s not good enough for you?  Why won’t you eat it?” 
             I made Parrot afraid of me.  She sat in her corner and didn’t want to look at me all night.  I was not even angry with her or had done anything mean to her, but she didn’t understand why I was acting so crazily.  It never occurred to me how I must have looked to her. 
               I think that is the way it is with parents and children, and parents don’t realize it sometimes.  It’s really important to protect your kids from your shitty moods and destructive emotions, whether or not the kids have anything to do with them (your moods).  I don’t know if I’ll ever have kids—I highly doubt it—but if I did, I would try to remember this.   Like my Parrot, they lack the boundaries and perspective to protect themselves from the emotions of the adults around them.  And like my Parrot, children cannot escape.  They are essentially held hostage.  My bird could not, say, go out for the proverbial pack of cigarettes and hang out in the park for the rest of the day. 

            ……Finally, when I accepted that the curtain rods did not have to be perfectly symmetrical, I was able to install the set in less than 20 minutes.  It is two inches higher than the other window curtain rod.  Probably nobody will ever notice and even if they do, nobody will give a damn. And now I have to seal the other holes with wood filler and paint them over.  Riiiiiight. 
            I hope I learned a few lessons from this.  Important lessons.

           Update: the Parrot came out of her cage this morning and let me scratch her head.  If she forgives me, I should learn to forgive myself. 

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