The Joy of fixing broken things

I have to admit that I have the tendency to be a bit of a hoarder. Not the kind that keeps towering piles of old newspapers precariously scattered around the house or jars of human urine on every available surface. I have no attachment to useless things like rubbish or human waste. But I do confess that my determination of whether an object has value is more to do with whether it has the potential to be valuable in the future. I am especially bad at keeping old computers and phones and other gadgetry. I also think partly this is because they once cost me a good deal of my hard earned cash and although they have depreciated into the ‘couldn’t give it away’ state that all technology must enter, the things initial cost never leaves me. I also imagine all the things I could do with it one day when I have the time. Could I turn my old laptop into a home web server or media centre? Can my old phone be used as some kind of home security setup? I am quite sure I’ll one day need these piles of old hard disk drives for… something.

It is also sometimes quite useful to have lots of ‘spare parts’ around the place that can be transplanted into other things. You know, there is an almost ecstatic joy to be found in bringing life back to a piece of dying technology even if it is just a short life extension to get me through to my next upgrade cycle. It never fails to fill me with a pride of accomplishment and a sense that I have got one over on the manufacturer’s evil scheme of planned obsolescence. There has been a lot said these days about the wasteful nature of our throwaway society and I really hate to replace a broken thing and will almost always try to fix it first. Even if I have no idea what I am doing.

So I take the thing apart. Right down to its bones. I figure out what everything inside does then attempt to see if I can find the source of the problem. You would be surprised just how often disassembling something and putting it back together again can solve the problem. But before you completely reassemble the device you must check that it is working with half of its innards still shamefully on display. This is very important! If you completely reassemble it before testing it will surely not work and then you have to take the whole bloody thing apart again to find out why. Trust me.

Once tested and properly reassembled be sure to put the 3 or 4 screws that you didn’t seem to find a use for somewhere safe and enjoy the new lease of life you gave that machine and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

I recently realised that my love of fixing things went beyond the broken laptops and phones in my spare room. I have noticed in myself a tendency to try and fix people as well. Particularly, people, I am dating. Actually more accurately I try to fix their world rather than them themselves as I usually could not find a single thing wrong with them in my lovesick state.

I often find the women I have dated have had a string of not very nice boyfriends ranging from the neglectful to damn right cruel and as a man who likes to think of himself as a kind and attentive person; in spite of his many flaws, I end up attempting to create a perfect world for this broken weary woman to live in. Almost as though I am trying to make amends for the awful treatment she received before she got to me.

This is really dumb! You can’t do this in real life. It just doesn’t work that way. You can’t have the good without the bad and if a relationship has any value to either of you at all it needs to be at times really difficult. Something that you put lots of work into especially when done together has far more value and becomes worth fighting for even more. This is why I think my relationships tend to fail suddenly and without much warning. I used to get frustrated that women would break things off with me without even trying to work through the problems we had. Now I see it’s because I didn’t ever give them a chance to work at the relationship. I would try and shield them from all the bad stuff. From money problems, from my anxiety. I would try and make as few demands on them as possible never grumbling at the fact I seemed to be doing all the cooking and cleaning. I would provide them with anything they could possibly want that was in my power to get. Basically never giving them anything real. Of course my relationships failed because it was only me putting in the effort but it was entirely the wrong kind of effort. Not only that, it was actually quite dishonest and deeply disrespectful. In a very real way it made me as neglectful as those terrible men that came before me.

I have finally come to realise that I cannot fix broken people and I cannot fix broken worlds on my own. This is a team effort thing. Not just as couples in romantic relationships but for all of us all the time everywhere with God right in the middle of it all. We all have a responsibility to try and mend this broken world even when it feels impossible. There is always something that can be done, something that can be made ever so slightly less crooked. But we can’t do it in isolation.

I have never liked asking for help. That’s what makes all this so much harder. I think I am finally starting to believe if want to make a better world or live in harmony with another person I have to occasionally ask for help. That is what I am trying to work on at the moment. I have always been under the misconception that if you couldn’t do it on your own then you shouldn’t do it. Why burden the ones you love with your crap. There have been times in my life I have actually asked for help and it always made me feel like a failure. Like I was bad at life.  I don’t know where I got this from. Maybe something in my upbringing. I don’t believe it is a sense of pride or fiercely guarded independence. I think it is more to do with what I touched on before. I never wanted anyone to be at all inconvenienced by my existence. It’s like I felt like I was so lucky to just be around that if I ever burdened anyone that would just be a step too far and that I would be banished.

There really is nothing like a breakup to help you to learn to lean on other people. That’s not to say there are not worse things that can happen to us. Of course there are. But a break up is a more common and universally relatable experience. People have more of an idea what to say to you than if you had had a death in the family or a terminal diagnosis. These last few weeks I have learned I have great resources at my disposal in my friends and even acquaintances. They have all been where I am before and came out the other side and they have all been without question fantastic and invaluable to me.

I think my dislike of help asking also extended even to God. Like I thought he had better things to do than help me with my stupid problems. And yes of course He does! However he can deal with the earthquakes and the famines just as well even with me tugging on his robes every 5 minutes like some kind of petulant toddler.

This is another thing I am learning to do and I truly hope these are lessons I don’t soon forget.

Anyway I have to end it here now. My laptop fan is making an awful grinding noise and I have to fix it.