Today I replaced the fill valve on a toilet. I’m reticent to confess how long this project has waited for me to accomplish it, but the important thing is, I did it.
The toilet is squeezed into a tiny cubby hole that only allowed me to get one arm into the project, and that by lying on the floor, looking up at the apparatus, hoping nothing fell in my face (tools, water, whatever).
I don’t know if it’s like this for anyone else, but when I start a project and the very first step goes haywire and is much more challenging than I’d anticipated, it tends to lead me to think: “oh no, I didn’t expect to start out with trouble, so now I suppose I’ll be at this project for days, instead of the two hours I’ve set aside for it.”
That’s where I was, physically and mentally, when cranking away at the plastic nut of the original broken assembly on the outside bottom of the tank, which only produced remarkably loud groaning, whining, squawking sounds from the nut, like a Halloween dungeon, augmented by echoes from the empty porcelain toilet tank. I was certain I was turning it in the correct direction… it can get very confusing when lying on the floor looking up. Righty-tighty, lefty-Lucy (or is that loosey?). A mega-sized, red-handled, pipe wrench and I were dogged in our conviction that left was right. That is, correct. Widdershins. But no-go.
I slinked out of the sliver of floor space and called the 800 number on the box of the replacement fill-valve, which took me on an endless loop of dial this, dial that and someone will help you… and back around again. I left the phone on speaker, and let it loop itself. I figured if someone live answered, that’d be great, but in the meantime, I’d shuffle along.
I got the idea of spraying Liquid Wrench™ on the nut, even though I’d never used it on plastic fittings. After doing so, I crawled back under the toilet (and, BTW – ick), got the pipe wrench on the nut, and presto! it instantly came off with no whining or groaning. At that moment a human being came on the phone.
“Just a sec,” I called, snaking my way out from under the toilet, reporting the progress of my contortions to the patient man on the phone. Then I told him I’d just accomplished the main reason I’d called, by spraying Liquid Wrench™ on the plastic nut. He replied that I could also have lathered it up with dishwashing liquid. Okay. Good to know.
“But,” I said, “as long as I have you on the line, the directions have a list of tools I’ll need to complete the project, which includes a hammer. What do I need a hammer for?” having, but a short time previous begun to imagine it would come in handy to demolish the entire tank in situ.
“You don’t need a hammer,” he replied.
All righty. I forebore asking, then… why is it on the list? “Okay. Anything else you might mention?”
He gave me a couple of pointers, and was clear to let me know that I was very lucky to get him, as he was the only person to answer the phone and it was now 5:02.
I thanked him and told him he had done his good deed for the day.
I hung up and subsequently had the entire assembly in place in under 15 minutes. So a project I’d allowed two hours to do was completed in under an hour.
I had some observations about this experience:
One: Things in life are sometimes more difficult than we expect them to be. We may walk away from something that simply wants a bit of oil on its cogs. If you’re stuck, move away from the situation a little ways and think about what might be the Liquid Wrench™, the WD-40™, the dishwashing liquid you can squirt on it. This contemplation works just as well with emotional, inter-personal situations, as with creative, inventive endeavors, as with the physical world.
Secondly, as I stepped back, proud of my handiwork and pleased with how easily, ultimately, it all came together, I thought about the many times I’d done this project in my mind. I already know that every time one thinks about doing something, the mind does it. I had to ask myself, what I might have accomplished in all those times I did this job – in my mind. Reminder to self: if something needs doing, do it!
And a third observation I had was motivated by my having just read The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, wherein it’s noted that one often experiences beginner’s luck, because the Universe conspires to inspire and assist the beginner.
But I’ve often had the opposite experience in which the first step is very difficult… finding the door is arcane. But once through the door, things click into place like tumblers in a lock. I believe both types of experience occur. It may be helpful to know which sort of energy you generally have, so that your intentions are not waylaid. That is to say, if it starts out easy and gets hard, keep going.
If, on the other hand, if it starts out hard and gets easy, well then, keep going. Beware of moving away from things that are clicking. When tumblers fall into place, keep at it. They may never be inclined to line up as readily again if you move away from the current energy.
Back to Scene: So I turned on the water, put the tank lid in place, happy to see it all as it was meant to be. I put away my tools and went back to work. Then… two, three, four times I heard the new fill valve make a whooshing sound. At which point – you guessed it – I discovered I also have to replace the flapper.
But that’s a gnostic lesson for another day….