It is what it is

I can’t believe it’s autumn already.

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(I just decided to write autumn instead of fall. Does anyone say autumn anymore? Where has that word gone? … Anyway …)

It seems impossible that 2016 is nearly three-quarters of the way gone. The days come and go like a sneeze. This is a sure sign that a) I have WAY too much going on this year, and b) I’m getting old. I’m okay with that. Like always, I still say I’d never go back in time. And I’m much more aware than ever how important it is to make each day count.

The past year has shaken me up. I have had too many reminders of my own mortality. Add to that, too much seems to be falling apart as I sit here helplessly. There is a constant worry about a loved one’s child destroying his life with drugs. (You always think it can’t happen in your own circle, until it does. And it’s horrifying.) There’s the exhausting dysfunction that continues to plague the relationships among my extended family. (Why are some so comfortable being hateful to their own blood?) Sometimes, it’s simply the thought of this county’s next leader that leaves me fearful of tomorrow.

Some days it all weighs on my heart to the point that I wonder why we bother with any of it.

The upside of aging is that while it is still and probably always will be in my nature to worry first and give a heavy amount of attention to the negative stuff, I’m learning not to stop there. There’s just so much I can do nothing about. If I’ve learned anything from losing my 47-year young best friend almost two and half months ago now, it’s that life is simply too short to waste the days giving energy to battles that can’t be won.

There’s a lot of anger and hatred between my siblings, and I guess … I’ll admit … me. I don’t want to own any of this, but if I’m honest, I’m not completely without blame here anymore than the others. I’m just as capable of refusing to see past faults as anyone else. In years past, I found myself constantly trying to fix it. Now I realize that maybe we’ll never be able to understand where each other is coming from. I’m tired of harboring resentment though, and I’m tired of feeling that if it’s going to be fixed, it’s going to have to be me who takes the initiative. As many times as that’s happened, I’m just sick of coming back to the same place again. I’m tired of swallowing my pride and opening my heart and home to others who refuse to acknowledge that they have played and continue to play a role in the fraying of our family life. Maybe it’s enough to just concede that we can’t force togetherness and we should just love each other from a distance.

There’s a woman I work with. We’ll call her Dee. Dee is the most bitter and angry person I’ve ever met. She’s constantly using sarcastic humor to express how stupid she thinks other people are. I know there’s probably a lot of history behind it, but even as I try to understand what might be beneath the surface, there’s a limit to how much thinly veiled judgement I’m willing to take. I think everyone wants to have some friends at work. But Dee? She’s alienated all but me and one other person. We are the only ones willing to eat lunch with Dee anymore. All others have gone their separate ways. This week I told that one other person that she shouldn’t take it personally if I opt not to spend my precious lunch break with her and Dee some days. I see how easily in the past, I’ve been where Dee is right now. I don’t want to fall back to that place and I just don’t think it’s good for me to spend time with a person who doesn’t ever seem to want to let go her darkness. I’ve had enough darkness. I need light in my days.

This year has been good though too. It’s shown me I am strong in ways I never thought I was. The experiences of this year have created a bond so strong between my mom and me that I never thought possible. I will never regret this, I know. But sometimes I worry that I’m falling short in my friend relationships, with the in-law side of my family, and that I should be doing more to give of myself in a wider circle.

Then often comes a reminder from somewhere else. My mom needs me right now more than anyone else needs me. She is my calling at this time. It always comes back to this. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I realize that there will be other days for those other things that pull on me. My friends who have been here? They understand this and I love them for it. (Shelly! Rose!)

This year has taught me that there really aren’t any solid lines in this life. As much as we try to tell ourselves as much, there just aren’t. There’s no real black and white. As angry and abandoned as I feel sometimes with some of my siblings, I’m willing to admit that we just haven’t found a way to “get” each other. I love them, but right now, I just need to keep my distance. I don’t have enough energy to do all that I must do every day, and understand things they can’t or aren’t willing to share with me. I frequently remind myself that as much as I’d like to think there’s a way things are supposed to be, things just are what they are. I’ve come to believe that what is supposed to be is mostly an illusion anyway. Someday, it might all be made clear to me, but for now, I have to accept that there’s a lot that isn’t going to make sense. We all choose what we choose in life. We can’t do so for others.

None of us knows what it’s truly like inside the hearts of each other. Sometimes people can’t share what drives them, and rather than hang on to the hurt, we have to either accept it, or just walk away from each other. Sadly, because this world is so broken, sometimes it’s just not possible to have the relationships we imagine in a perfect world.

I’ve come to accept that with precious few hours in a day, and precious few days in this life, I have to put my energy where it’s welcomed, where it can make a positive impact. For now, that’s my immediate family, my mom, and anyone else who is willing for us to accept each other as we are. If someday it’s possible for healing with those who have drifted away, I’ll welcome it. In the meantime, I’m not going to force it.

With age and the experiences of late, my mind and heart seem to be breaking free of the limits I’ve spent a lifetime enforcing on them, in both profound and simple ways. I don’t have to hate. I don’t have to be sad. But I also don’t have to keep exposing myself to people and circumstances that make me hurt. There’s a degree of freedom in finally accepting that I can’t force life to be what I expect it to be. And when I finally begin to see it as it is, it might actually be easier to be happy.

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Deepening Our Roots

I feel guilty for not having written in so long! Of all the things I like to do in my spare time, writing is the one thing to which I used to be truly dedicated. It’s been hard to find the time these past few months as we’ve been putting an addition on our house.

The addition will be our new living room. Along with it, came a new deck to the back yard and a million other little things. We’ve spent the last four months talking windows, siding, decking, lighting, and discussing what we want in a gas fireplace. The house is in a constant state of chaos.

It’s amazing how one fairly significant home improvement project turns into a domino effect of smaller projects. We had a knock-down ceiling done in the addition. And then decided to replace all of the popcorn ceilings in the main level with new knock-down ceilings. What a mess! But the ceilings look GOOD! The drawback? It’s nearly impossible to spray a new ceiling and stay perfectly within the borders. If we had leftover paint in the color of every room, we could touch up the top edges of the walls, but we don’t. Well, a fresh coat of paint will be nice. We’ll get to that … eventually.

And as long as we had to put windows in the new addition, why not replace all of the windows in the house? Okay, to be honest, we’ve had BAD windows for years and we had planned all along to replace them when we started this addition. But installing new windows meant removing all of the trim work, staining the new windows, (which hasn’t been done yet,) and replacing all of the trim work, (which also hasn’t been done yet.) We pulled off the old window blinds which consisted of varying levels of quality, depending on our finances at the time they were purchased. Most have been thrown away. I bought cheap, room-darkening curtains for the bedrooms and hung them on tension rods until the staining and trim work is done. They do the trick until I can figure out what we want for permanent window treatments.

This weekend, the hardwood floor was installed. Now to find an area rug. And some furniture. I have visions of a cozy, sectional sofa!

While all this house stuff goes on, the yard stuff falls to the back burner. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve talked about the list of chores we need to address next spring. There’s a tree that needs to come down, gardens that need attention, and landscaping that will have to be replaced in the aftermath of the construction. Also, it bothers me that the shed is not the color of the new siding. Jack says he’s not spending the money to put new siding on a shed. I’ll get over it.

Really though, I’m not complaining. In the back of my mind, I always wondered if Jack and I would stay in this house for the long haul. (There was never any doubt in his mind, but I have always wanted better living space.) With this addition, the house will be everything I ever hoped it would be. My kids and their significant others … and maybe someday, some grandchildren … can come visit and we’ll have a great space to relax together, or celebrate holidays.

It’s been a productive few months. We have gone from this …

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… to this.

 

Every day with this project is an adventure, and I always have something new to look forward to… even if that means trying to make dinner in a dusty kitchen. The dust is never-ending!

Jack hired a crew of guys to help him build this addition. (He knows “a guy” for every type of project – electrical, sheet rock, you name it.) They all have day jobs, and are doing this outside of their normal work hours. The upside is that we’re saving so much money over hiring a contractor to do the work for us. The downside is that many days, the workers are here working over the dinner hour. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to relax in the quiet of my own home, but those days will be back soon enough. And since the guys are spending all this time away from their own families, what I lack in manual labor skills, I make up for in cooking for a hungry crew who is always grateful for a hot meal. They have worked so hard and everything is turning out just beautifully!

There is a certain satisfaction in this process, slow as it may seem at times. It will all be so worth it in the end.