04/13/2012 10:37 am ET Updated Jun 13, 2012

The 5 Stages of Household-Repair Acceptance

I over-filled the boiler the other day, causing water to burst out of the release valve and flood the entire basement. It's going to cost a thousand bucks to clean everything out and replace the carpeting with something more idiot-proof, like tile.

For the first few days after it happened, my emotions idled in Stage 1 -- Hope. There was always a chance that the carpet would dry without staining (it didn't) or that we would avoid encroaching mold (we didn't). Next, I went into Denial: How often do we use the basement, anyway? If I moved all the kids' stuff to the living room and put the washer-dryer in the garage, I could probably seal the whole thing off and let it rot.

The long, slow spiral into acceptance began when the smell of mold started making its way to the upper floors. "Has something died?" a friend asked.

Only my savings account, I thought bitterly. There went the money I was putting aside for a family vacation, or maybe to send a child to college. And what about retirement? That $1,000 was the only thing keeping me from a lonely, penurious old age.

I had entered the third stage of household-repair acceptance: Wallowing.

As anyone who has been there knows, you can hang out in Stage 3 pretty much indefinitely. I re-lived every life choice that had brought me here: What possessed me to put carpet in the basement to begin with? For that matter, why did I buy a house? Buddha teaches that the origin of suffering is attachment. Why didn't I listen?

I could have wallowed for at least another month if two things hadn't happened. First, a friend of a friend died suddenly of a stroke. Second, spring burst out in embarrassing profusion, like a teenage girl in a microscopic dress.

Faced with the transience and heart-stopping beauty of existence, I grudgingly moved into Stage 4: Perspective.

From here, I am willing to consider the possibility that this accident will not define the rest of my life. I went to Home Depot yesterday and poked around the tile section; a couple of things looked pretty good.

I might even take the opportunity to replace the sagging, malodorous basement couch with something an adult would want to sit on.

I'm not yet ready for Stage 5 -- Moving On -- but I believe it will come. Meanwhile, I'm trying not to breathe in too many mold spores.