I keep on the sunny side of siding

I maintain that willful avoidance of difficult subjects is a successful emotional strategy, and I’m good at it.

Linda Bleck

I have been accused of having a sunny disposition. My accusers believe that optimism is reckless and unrealistic, that there is a downside to being up. But I prefer to be happy right up until the moment of disaster.

I maintain that willful avoidance of difficult subjects is a successful emotional strategy, and I’m good at it. Let’s take an example: Fifteen years ago there were indications that all was not well with my house, and I duly took note. Are those ripples in the plasterboard? Perhaps that is just what plasterboard does, all on its own, from time to time, out of sheer exuberance. Is the baseboard pulling away from the wall and the paint bubbling up? This is the sort of thing that can happen as a house settles. Houses are known to settle. Is the cedar siding bowing and flexing crazily in a vertical plane neatly corresponding to a downspout where the tower meets the roof line? Gosh, they don’t make siding like they used to.

I am perfectly capable of harboring all these thoughts.

And then a friend takes a squint at the exterior siding and says, “Looks like you have a water problem.” Right out loud and everything.

All right. I can accept that this is a sound alternative explanation for all the previously observed phenomena. Still, the weather is as sunny as my outlook, with no rain in the forecast, and there’s a garden to take care of, so I feel no sense of urgency. I plant a lot of nursery flowers and also entertain many that drift in on the winds: calendulas, foxgloves, evening primroses. And this year there’s a new arrival: a western bleeding heart. It blew in from somewhere on a hopeful seed. According to the literature the plant grows up to 20 inches high.

Ours is 20 feet high. It’s hanging right out of the siding. Blooming, too.

To my credit, I did consider that something of a tell.

The particular water problem my friend referred to earlier is, in fact, that the water is inside the walls, rather than outside, where it was presumably engineered to be. In fact, during a good rainstorm, a person still struggling to maintain denial might be able to observe a particular patch of siding where water is gushing out. A spring, as it were, of life.

You really don’t want life in your walls: all the way indoors, or outdoors, that’s our motto. No interstitial life.

As it turns out, even though fungi have a whole kingdom to themselves – it’s called Fungi – they have no compunction about waltzing over to your castle and eating it. You might not even know they’re doing it until your tower falls down. Fungi can do a pretty expeditious job of hollowing out structures you might have been counting on. Good to know.

The nice contractor man was not willing to predict a final tally. “We don’t know how bad it is until we get in there,” he murmured, thumbing through a BMW brochure.

This bad: top to bottom, rotten clear up to the tower and into it, not much holding up the house but force of habit and the spotless, untroubled mind of the eternal optimist. But you can’t put a price tag on 15 years of serenity.

Actually, you can. It comes in at just under $10,000.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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