We’ve been busy around our house lately. Some days were so busy that we scarcely had time to do more than eat, hammer, paint and sleep. We’ve been up to our eyeballs in renovations since we came back from Cuba at the end of March. Because we travel so much in the winter and fall, late-spring and early summers have become our season for renovations. With the nice weather, we can do our sawing outside and keep the house cool with the air conditioning. And the occasional stormy days give us a much-needed break to do the errands and chores that we never seem to find time to do otherwise.
This year we tackled the living room and long entry hallway. As much as we both loved the burnt-sienna carpet in the living room, the ever-increasing dents and bumps were becoming unsightly and dangerous. So rather than just stretching the carpet out, we decided that if we were going to go to all the trouble to move all of the furniture out anyway, we would just replace the carpet with laminate flooring. So that’s what we did, and we’re very pleased with the end result. Add some new chic-looking baseboards, and some new oriental-style area rugs, and we’ve got ourselves a brand new living room! It’s amazing how much extra room the new flooring seems to have given us. Maybe it’s an optical illusion, but whatever it is, we’ll take all the extra space we can find!
So the living room was fairly easy, though it was a bit awkward with the furniture strewn and stored in every available nook and cranny throughout the house. The piano in the kitchen was particularly inconvenient. At one point we couldn’t use the hallway, which meant we had to allow ourselves extra time to get to the bathroom, which put us in somewhat precarious situations once or twice.
At one point in this phase of the renovations, the house looked like a disaster zone…recliner chair still in the hallway, piano taking up most of the dining room, the dining room table buried under piles of stuff with no other place to go, the floor a little more than half done, tools strewn from one end of the house to the other…and then the phone rang with news that our houseguests would be arriving sooner than later, putting us in a tizzy of frantic clean-up. We did manage to finish the flooring and nail in the rest of the baseboards which allowed us to move all the furniture back. We barely got everything back in place when we had to leave to go pick them up in Montreal.
In addition to all of this, I was also packing and preparing to go to visit my brother for a week (and very excited to meet the newest member of our family, my niece’s baby, the first child in our family in 21 years!) and to attend the first family reunion since 2007 with my side of the family. And since this was the first time our entire family would be together without our brother/uncle Gary [he died in 2007], it was both joyful to finally be together again, but emotionally excruciating at the same time, to have a family reunion without Gary…there was no escaping the still-raw wounds of missing him.
When we got back from Montreal with our house-guests (and only a few days left before I had to leave again), I admit to feeling somewhat worn out. Living under those cluttered conditions for over a month had been difficult, cleaning it all up in less than 48 hours had been dizzying, and not being able to find anything for weeks had been frustrating for me who enjoys organizing things, and craves ORGANIZED clutter, i.e., everything in its place and easy to find. So even though most of it was done, and we finally had a chance to breathe before starting on the next stage of renovations, I was still too wired up to relax. I was also dealing with the anxiety of traveling to see my family alone without hubby, the first time we’d been apart for this long in many years, and the first time I’d be alone without him for such an extended period of time. I was only just barely feeling recovered from my many years of being incapacitated by panic attacks and fairly severe social anxiety. So this was a huge step for me, and a huge source of separation anxiety for me.
As usual, my anxiety leaked out in all sorts of weird ways. The worst of all was the constant bickering with hubby. Renovations are stressful enough, but add all of the other stuff and I was feeling overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, and took it out on poor hubby. Nothing he did was quite right and I became way too vocal about how I thought it could look better. My perfectionism leaked out big-time, and because of all the added stress, I just couldn’t reign in my negativity. My whining was tiresome even to myself.
The result of all of this bickering is that we were both ready for a respite. So I went in one direction toward my family, and he went in the other direction with his family. We were apart for over a week. A week that turned out to be almost too difficult for me to handle. I became so overcome with insecurity and emotional stress, that old voices which I thought were long-gone and healed, came back to taunt me and threatened to undo all the hard work I’d accomplished over the past 10 years.
Thankfully, I was able to turn to some trusted online friends who had seen me through some very dark days in the past. With their steady wisdom to remind me of how far I’d come and to steer me in the right direction to get back on track, I was able to confront those insecurities and terrors, and refocus on the positive. And with my brother’s help, I was also able to see how hard I had been on hubby and how I also needed to renovate that relationship with a change in attitude as well.
So when hubby and I reunited, we were both overjoyed to see each other and to be together again. And ready to tackle the hallway renovations. I can’t say that those went without a hitch, far from it. We encountered unexpectedly crooked walls, we mangled our first attempts at the wainscoting, and the red paint didn’t behave the way it was supposed to without a lot of coaxing and extra coats. Which was pretty much how we had to approach our relationship as well…the nit-picking didn’t stop right away – it was a difficult rut to get ourselves out of without both of us consciously working at it – but gradually we managed to coax more kindness and respect out of each other, and became more appreciative and positive than cantankerous and critical.
In the end, our hallway turned out beautifully, better than anticipated. We both love the changes, and continue to revel in the richness of those red walls – and in the new-found respect we are nurturing for each other and our relationship in general. We survived the 2013 renovations. In fact, we not only survived, we are thriving within our new and improved “us-ness” here in our new and improved home.
Now I can relax!