For those of you familiar with the Finnish or Finnish American community, you know about Sisu. The dogged persistence that Finns are known for. According to Wikipedia,
“Sisu is…loosely translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. However, the word is widely considered to lack a proper translation into any other language….The literal meaning is equivalent in English to “having guts”, and the word derives from sisus, which means something inner or interior. However sisu is defined by a long-term element in it; it is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain an action against the odds.”
While most folks of Finnish background, including myself, feel proud of this trait, I’ve come to realize over the years how it can work against us: causing more work and suffering than needed. Yet I guess that’s part of Sisu – if we don’t suffer and work hard it somehow means the end result wasn’t worth it. Those who know me well know that it’s hard for me to back down once I’ve set my mind on something or once I’ve been challenged. It’s difficult for me to just move on in a different direction once I’ve realized I’ve made a wrong decision, even when changing my course of action or abandoning a project would make my life so much easier. If I haven’t given something (a job, a place, a relationship, a creative endeavor) every last chance or 100% of my effort how can I walk away from it? But sometimes the smartest decision is to walk away. So, how does this Sisu quality relate to my tiny house?
Well, after I found out about the ‘lil house in Charleston (see previous post), I just really wanted to make it work. It seemed like such a good deal, and I’d had many conversations with Mike, the original builder, and felt good about carrying his dream project to fruition. Tony and I spent a month researching the trailer and tracking down an MSO (Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin) to get it registered. The trip down there was a journey in and of itself, and Tony and Zach put in a lot of work to make sure the house got up to DC safely. But, at the end of the day, I should have probably asked myself “is this worth it?” All this time and energy for something I thought was a good deal wasn’t exactly what I wanted in the end. The original owner had built the frame without utilizing the entire trailer space (a foot extra on either end, losing two feet of potential interior space). I wanted dormers and a porch. I would have done the roof pitch differently than he did.
We thought it would be relatively easy to incorporate some of my design ideas by removing the roof and extending the walls, so Tony took off the roof last week. He was about to move the walls this week when we realized that the walls have racked (they are not totally plumb anymore). This racking may have happened during the move, but it may also have occurred during the extreme storm we had here at the end of June that brought 80 mph winds. This, unfortunately, means more of Tony’s time spent getting the walls plumb again, and, in many ways, it would be easier just to start from scratch. A complete build from the ground up was why Tony was excited about this project in the first place – to get out of the remodel work he was doing out West which was frustrating, to have control over a whole project from start to finish. But, here he is remodeling a tiny house and again starting from someone else’s design, decisions, and mistakes.
While it wasn’t a bad deal, it’s not going to save me money in the long run and it ate up a lot of our time and energy over the last couple of months. So maybe sometimes this dogged persistence to an idea or a goal is just plain dumb. My favorite translation of Sisu is this one I’ve seen on a tshirt:
“Sometimes the line between sisu and stubborn however is very vague. One form of sisu could be a person walking 25 km home during winter just because he decided to do so. Of course that person would be drunk, but that’s sisu…or stubborn stupidity.”
I have hope that I did the right thing by carrying on someone else’s project, and I’m sure it will all turn out beautifully in the end. Still, there are days that I wonder if it just wasn’t my stubborn stupidity that led us to South Carolina.