Life Lessons from My Chair Project (Chapter One): What the Heck, It’s Worth a Try

Now that I’m not writing a book for a hot minute, I’ve decided to take on a task that’s been on my back burner for far too long—four years, to be precise. The project? I’ve been wanting to reupholster a ratty old Bergere chair I found at a thrift shop.

Guinness getting comfy on Project Chair

Those of you who read Bright Side Up or who follow the weekly optimism practices I create in my fun Vitamin Optimism emails know all about this chair already. Despite my big plans to upholster it, we’ve been sorting socks on it in the laundry room since the day we brought it home.

It’s not a major project, but I’ve still put it off for various reasons. There’s my lack of time, lack of skill and fear I’ll make a mess of a good thing among other excuses. But with weekends back on my plate, I’ve decided, what the heck, it’s worth a try. (Plus, Gustavo swore I’d never get around to fixing it up, so now I really have to just to prove him wrong!)

And I’m going take you guys along on the journey with me. Why? First, because putting my plans out there is one way to be sure I stick to them. (Hold me to it, people!) And second, although this is just the story of me and one chair, I think all the projects we take on in life—big and small—take us down a similar emotional path. Whether we’re fixing up a chair, interviewing for a new job, moving to a new city or looking for love after 40, we’ll face similar ups and downs along the way from eagnerness to fear to excitement to self-doubt and, ultimately, to learning and growth. So I think we can learn from each other.

So here’s the chair I’m going to re-do. My chair BEFORE:

BEFORE: My ratty thrift store Bergere chair

I’m using a beautiful natural beige fabric leftover from re-upholstering our couch, and I’m going to leave the frame unstained and unpainted. In fact, here’s what I’m aiming for, which I just found yesterday in a Restoration Hardware catalog. Except their chair costs $995. And mine, well, won’t.

My chair inspiration:

My chair inspiration!

And as for those life lessons? I’m already diving in. Here’s what I’m learning so far:

Lesson #1: It’s okay to admit I’m scared to mess it up. I know if I paid a professional, this chair would look divine. But that’s taking the fun out of why I took it home in the first place! It’s natural to be scared to mess up when we take on something new. But what fun is life if we’re not stepping out onto the ledge every now and then?

Lesson #2: I’ll never get anywhere without just diving in. I have researched and debated this project long enough. If I don’t do this chair today, I never will. The same can be said of a lot of things we put off starting. Whether you want to lose weight  (“I’ll start on Monday”), exercise more (“I need to save enough money to join a gym first”), start dating again (“I just don’t know if I’m ready yet”) or begin a project yourself, enough of the preparing. Dive in with me! Better we give it a shot than keep wondering if we have it in us at all.

Lesson #3: I have to remember that whatever happens, I win. Whatever I do to this chair will make it better than what it looks like now, which is beat up and un-sit-down-on-able. And the same is true for anything we want to get started on. Writing three pages in your Great American Novel is better than writing none at all. Exercising for one day is better than exercising for none. Taking a step forward is positive, whatever becomes of it. (Though if it ends up looking good, where in the world will I lay out all of the mismatched socks in the laundry room from now on?)

So that’s where I’m at for now. What do you think? Does anyone have any advice for me? Whether it’s a survival tip or a how-not-to-kill-myself-while-sewing all that piping tip (or, uh, a how-to-sew-piping-in-the-first-place tip?), let me know! And while I’m taking on this project, do you have something you’ve been putting off that you want to try diving into with me? Tell me what it is, and maybe we can do it together. Here’s to trying new things. What the heck, right? Like most things in life, it’s worth a shot.

Big love,