Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sunshine: Keep It Coming, but Come On.

I think February is probably my least-favorite month around here. The “fun” parts of winter, like Christmas, New Year’s, and those lovely magical snowfalls, are long past, and what we’re left with is crumpled brown grass, brittle gray trees, grit and grime anywhere within view of a road, and yet still plenty of freezing weather. Nothing has greened up yet.

But it’s more than just these proto-springtime blues.

We had an ugly surprise last week. After we’d had snow, and it had melted some, then refroze, then started to melt again (repeat for days), we discovered water dripping through the window frames on our sunporch. It was coming from the ceiling and the soffits. It was soaking through the plaster and stucco. It soaked the wooden windows. It got on the floor. It ruined the exterior paint, which we’d had done the year before the roof. We will lose thousands of dollars repairing these damages.

This had happened before, a few years ago, but the reason we were surprised last week is that we thought we had had this problem fixed. A friend had suggested a handyman who could assess and possibly fix our situation, and by the time he left our house two years ago, I thought the roof was okay. We were planning this spring to launch into the thousands of dollars of repairs and repainting.

But obviously it wasn't fixed. There’s no quick fix when an entire section of shingles have to be torn off, the incorrect padding removed, and ice-and-water shield (which should have been used in the first place) put on, then the whole section reshingled. This is why it’s leaking again.

The company that put on our roof in 2006 totally ripped us off. The roof isn’t even four years old yet, but we’ve been “repairing it” ever since they left. (Don’t ask. It’s a long story. Just a tip: Make sure such folks actually sign their guarantee before they begin work.)

The discovery of the renewed leak of course put us in a sour mood, and the long, overcast, rainy spell we just had only made things worse—the leak, and our attitudes. It was simply pouring there for a while, outside and inside, literally and figuratively.

So I made the mistake of posting a sour comment about this time of year on Facebook for all my Facebook-friends to see, and in return I received flowery, “inspirational,” Pollyanna-ish comments from a few of my friends. “Oh but don’t you know, this is when spring is just about to arrive! The sap is rising, the plants are preparing for growth, and the male goldfinches are starting to acquire their brilliant yellows!”

Yeah, yeah, I know all that. (Graduate degree in natural sciences, remember?)

But their candy-ass happiness angered me. In part, I blame Facebook and our mutual laziness as friends: Facebook gives you the impression that you are connecting with one another, but that connection is actually very superficial, and here’s a case in point. We’re out of touch with each other; we don’t talk anymore as friends do.

The people who responded to me have absolutely no idea about what’s going on with our roof, or about the whole suite of unhappy things on my mind, ranging from financial concerns to friends struggling with serious illnesses, and much more. None of these things go onto Facebook, or even this blog, for that matter. (Okay, today is an exception.) Like most people, I suspect, I don't broadcast about my various demons.

In other words, these friends really don’t know my underlying issues. I’m sure if they knew how I was really doing, they would have responded differently. (At least I hope they would. One of them is studying to become a doctor, for heaven’s sake.) My response was to retract; I blocked their posts.

Indeed, the two chums who countered me with gushing optimism don’t even live in Missouri, so they weren’t here to see the soggy ground, the mud, the clouds for days. They don’t see or remember what it’s like when the snow is reduced to icy, gritty mounds, the whole winter’s accumulation of soiled, damp litter revealed along the curbs. It’s just ugly, and when it’s not sunny for days, and then you’re looking at thousands of dollars sunk into that damned roof—well?

But I still wondered about my downright angry response to their optimism—why should I spurn the sunshine and lightness that I crave?

Then it hit me: I wasn’t at all craving their response, which amounted to “lighten up, you grumpy Gus! :-) :-) :-)”

No one who is depressed wants to be told to “cheer up and look on the bright side!” Their flood of happy-dappiness seemed unreal, silly, forced. Such light-hearted cheerfulness is truly beyond the ken of someone in my position, emotionally. The contrast only accentuated the great distance I was feeling from “happy.” At those times, it seems like years since I’ve felt that happy. (Maybe I’ve never felt “that happy.”) —See what I mean?

And I felt like I was being argued with. I think that’s what bothered me most.

I realized that what I really wanted was to be understood, heard, empathized with. I wanted someone to take my side. I wanted to hear something like: “Yeah, Julie, this has seriously been a long winter, and I’m sick of these gray, cold, rainy days, too. But if we can hold out for just a few more weeks, we’ll be seeing undeniable signs of spring, and that will make a huge difference! Until then, hang in there, my friend!”

That’s what I wanted to hear.

. . . Meanwhile, I have to admit—those daffodils are pretty relentless.


JaneL said...

What a major bummer about the roof. This has indeed been a long long winter, and it doesn't help that just about everyone has been sick for weeks on end at some point. But I remember how encouraged you were when you thought you had the roof problem fixed. And if Plan B failed, where do you turn and who do you trust to do the work for Plan C?

Julianna Schroeder said...

We've signed up another roofing company.

We had initially gotten estimates from three. The first company was substantially higher yet seemed to offer the same roof as the other two, which were about equal. We chose one of the two lower bids. We couldn't see any difference in what the three were offering.

Next time we're in that situation, we'll show the lower bids to the company with the higher bid and ask them to explain *why* they're higher, and why we should go with them.

Turns out the higher-priced company (for one thing) would have used regular hammers instead of air hammers on our steep-pitched sections (which is recommended on steep pitches, since the air hammer can slightly damage shingles, and it makes a difference on a steeper roof). Which explains the shingles that have been falling off every once in a while.

That higher-priced company, by the way, is the one we've turned to this time. They seem competent (knock on wood).

Plus some friends we know in Boonville used them to roof their mighty Victorian and seemed to have no trouble.

JaneL said...

And as of yet (knock on wood, twice!) we've had no roof problems. We did have them come back and make some changes in the gutter guards, but that was a different division of the company, and they did that work for free, which is always a good sign.