The last couple of weekends have gone by in a flurry of designing and running. Hayden and I have pored over architectural plans and rough designs on bits of paper and his iPad, which houses a surprisingly sophisticated app that lets us envision our ideas. We have donned gumboots and walked around our section in the soft, waterlogged soil, tape measure in hand, planting sticks to work out distance and looking back at the house and realising we have no idea what three metres looks like when we’re outside. Theo follows behind us and picks the sticks up in his mouth – to him this is a game. Our conversation is ridden with those hallmarks of uncertainty. “We could”…”what if we”…”we haven’t thought about”…”what triggers resource consent again?”
In between, I run. I am training for two races – a shorter one in September, a longer one in November. I have downloaded a training programme on my phone that tells me what to do. The app says to run: I run.
The architectural plans we are looking at are serious ones, a highly detailed design that shows every beam and fitting and piece of steel that this house, sitting in its high wind zone, requires. We had multiple calls with the architects who drew them up in which they discussed animatedly exactly what things like the sub-floor would entail. I tuned out – I really only care about the floor on which I walk and I trusted the experts to design one that would support the weight of our family and our stuff. Turns out the devil is in the detail because somewhere between the first budget increase (the one we decided we could afford) and the most recent budget increase (the one we definitely can not), the decision about that floor, and a whole lot more besides, added up to something else entirely. Lots of little numbers make a really big number. Amelie, who is learning the basics of maths right now, could tell you that, but apparently it was beyond me.
So we are left in a place where these plans, which were not cheap, are detailed and considered and beautiful and completely useless to us. At first we try to salvage ideas from them, desperate not to see the back of all that money and time already invested. I have taken enough economics classes (one) to know about the sunk cost fallacy, and even as I do it I understand the irrationality of my behaviour, but that doesn’t stop me because that same one economics class also taught me that humans are irrational, and I, of course, am human. As the weekends roll on, we are relaxing our grip on what we have already and bringing the conversation back to what we need and want. We need space to have friends and family come and stay, where they’ll have comfort and some privacy. We want another living space. We
need want need another bathroom.
As it stands, our house screams summer, not just in its light, sandy colour scheme but in its very bones. Makes sense, given it was once a summer house. We didn’t predict the pandemic when we built it – we never imagined that one day we’d be there all the time, in all the seasons. Given our failure to predict the future six years ago, we now find ourselves floundering about how we should think about it now. What might our future look like? What will change, what will stay the same? What do we really want, beyond another bedroom and bathroom that is? What will matter? What will cease to matter?
I am sure I have never been so wracked with indecision before. I am filled with gratitude and relief when my phone lights up with an imperative. It’s time to run. I lace up my sneakers and time my exit between showers and leave my summer home to dodge the winter raindrops as I go.
I am in a plateau with my running right now. I hate it. Every run is anguished as I try to run a little faster or a little further or ideally, both, and fail at all. I do what the app tells me and nothing happens. I am as slow as ever and it hurts as much as it ever did. Still I run, because the app says run and I figure it knows what it’s doing.
Even an anguished run can be a good run and I carry my newfound calmness and clarity into the conversation. It doesn’t actually matter if we know what’s in our future – but our future matters. We need things now and we want things – some things – unknown and unconfirmed things – now and then. Plywood is up 18% and framing timber is up 15% but we surely can have both. We return to the iPad.
We plan and we plan and we have a plan, we think we have a plan, we might have a plan. I am tired. I do not thrive on process. I like ideas and I like results and the in-between is just a big mess of frustration for me. Hayden is pure process and I suspect that’s one of the reasons our relationship works so well. He helps me fill in the question marks in the middle.
Nothing happens without process. The voice in my running app tells me not to think about the next interval but to focus on the one I’m running now. That’s good advice, voice in ear.
What do we need now? We need friends, we need family. We need to accept that we’re in a process. We need to focus on this interval.
We nearly have a plan.
The app tells me to run. I run.