|In the National Gallery in DC - by Thomas Cole - the Voyage of Life|
Processing unwanted change is such a surreal experience. It is all so disconcerting and bizarre. We all recognize that life can be brutal but when everything collides it knocks the wind out of you. Lemony Snicket is a children's author that my daughter loved and he puts things so well:
It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.
Regaining one's sea-legs during and after a storm isn't all that easy. Especially when the storm is unrelenting and from all different angles and you have no idea where to start bailing the water first. I guess you could spend the time green and hanging your head over the side of the boat or you could run around all over, trying to steady the boat or you could plop yourself down cross-legged in the middle of the wood floor... or I guess you could try to pretend you are Life of Pi... I tried them all in wild succession (except the Life of Pi) but eventually settled into quarantining myself, reading copious amounts of books, upping my red wine intake, planing lots of travel, and I doing every house project possible.
So, I've read from Diamant & Larsson to Brene & Glennon and then to Fey & Pohler. I've organized closets & the garage, repainted, updated bedrooms & bathrooms, and when those were done, my husband started pulling everything out of the basement and tearing out paneling from 1962. I asked him to stop. I told him that it was too much and that I just needed to sit in a corner, I needed order not chaos... but he kept going. And he was right. For the next months, we cleaned and built and dry-walled a little guest room, storage room, and revised play area. We would just turn on the music and sort, organize, run electrical, prep walls.
It was all even more therapeutic because we were doing good. We were using the skills that my dad had taught us and we were building a room where we could give anyone who needed rest a bed. His beloved wife could stay at anytime. It took us all summer because we hired out for almost none of the work. We took our time and worked at it until we were done. Each step was a clear path: After everything was out, we needed to frame the new walls, and then run electrical, and then put up drywall... there were no real decisions to make (except how many outlets, and let me tell you, 10 in a room that is not quite 10 x 10, might be too many).
The rough waters raged on, but we huddled and nested away. That made sense to me, but then a couple more storms hit and I found that I couldn't always just stay in my corner. I needed to go out and survey the damage, and maybe check on a couple of the other people on the boat... and at this point, I'm not sure why I started with a boat analogy because I'm from the midwest and I've never actually been on a boat in much of a storm and even when I was, I could always see safety and land... and admittedly, I haven't read Life of Pi and I fell asleep during the movie.... but it is too late now. I've started with the boat... and I'll see it through.
This getting out with the storm not yet over, checking the damage, and patching some areas until I am ready to fix them is a new part of processing. I'm not even sure what direction we are headed or if we even want to go in the same direction we were heading before all of the storms of unwanted change. Like some of our route was initially because the wind and currents were taking us that direction and there was very little need to fight it. We need to head for new land and even if our geography doesn't change-- our life and world-view will. Because unwanted change does that to a person and a family. It isn't just about me... it needs to be about us...
Things that took our time and energy and attention seem like they may need to be refocused, not just in the wake of our own heart-break but when surveying the pervasive brokenness all around. So we are slowly peeking out to check the damage and regrouping and trying to find where we are, what needs to be fixed, and what needs to be thrown over-board... and eventually maybe where we should go from here... because it is okay for now, but in the big picture, one thing I do know is that I'm not real thrilled with just bobbing around... so we will move on... just beyond that cliff... and those rapids... where a couple of rays of sun are breaking through... So while another plan develops... I'll just try to head there...