A friend of mine is studying for her masters in counseling, and one of her upcoming assignments is a 260-question self-assessment. This is some professional assessment that costs money and can only be administered by a licensed professional (in this case, her teacher), but my first thought was: Who has 260 things to say about themselves?
Which is a stupid thing for a blogger to think, especially a blogger some 400 entries into an exercise of self-indulgence. Particularly a blogger who, despite not yet committing electrons to it, has spent much of this week on the horns of a dilemma, one that has caused much self-reflection.
Here is my confession/realization: I have been, and am still, having a very difficult time with this move. We are now just over six months into this beautiful new house, and there are still many days I find myself on the verge of tears, for no reason at all. This week, I am slowly figuring it out.
The last time I moved was around 28 years ago. I went from two bedrooms to four so I didn’t have to give any thought at all to jettisoning the detritus of a privileged American existence — it all fit in the new house, with room to spare. And then new house was new only to me, and while I didn’t trash it other than gradually cluttering it with pile upon pile of paper, I didn’t worry or even give a second thought about putting nails into the wall. And — I think this is key — I was in my 20s and stayed up until 1 a.m. every night of the week without problem.
So 28 years ago I was not still tripping over boxes six months after I moved. Here there is a three-foot buffer between me and access to my closet. It has been there since the day we moved in, and I have no estimate for when it might go away. To clear out this buffer of boxes and shoes, which ought to be in the closet but I can’t reach it, I am in need of commodities that seem to be in short supply: time to move things, and a place to move them to.
I thought, once again, that I was lining up a plan to gain more time. It was at the expense of time at work, but since I seem to be spectacularly ineffective there as well, I doubted I’d be missed. I was going to take a third day off each week to spend it taking care of things at home. And then I got sick. So instead I took two days off this week, neither of them productive.
While this seems like it ought to be a short-term thing, this is what happens every time I plan to take time off. The day I designate turns out to be pay day, or some other obligation that draws me in to work. At any rate, I find some reason to not take that day off.
Which then leaves the weekends. I feel I’ve been generally productive with my weekends, but there are so many more tasks than time that I feel a little further behind every week. For instance, if I don’t devote at least three hours to household finances every weekend, I end up spending an entire day glued to my chair, and I still never get caught up.
Then there is the stress of trying to keep expensive new things new. Like the walls we have already put massive holes in, simply trying to hang curtains. (Lynn has found a new style of rod holder that pushes into the molding around the window, so those are on order.) And the fireplace glass that has already been cleaned twice but needs a third cleaning. We have been told if you don’t get the white stuff off the glass, it will etch in place and permanently stain the glass. We’re beyond white into iridescent after two cleanings and perhaps one month of use.
But cleaning the glass last time was a half-day project involving two of us. Time. There is no time.
In addition to the vanity cabinet that is going to take up permanent residence in our living area, I have a table filled with papers blocking access to the futon. I set them out weeks ago because I needed to find something, and then I had to go looking for the box containing file folders, which I found, and now I have to find time to unbox and label the file folders, insert papers, and file them in the filing cabinet.
Everywhere I look is an urgent project needing to happen, all of them seemingly equally urgent and many of them intermingled. If I could empty a tub in my room (which I did this morning), then I could put cords in it and use the tub with the cords for all of the holiday decorations still sitting on the table in need of a home. (They came out of existing boxes, but in our infinitely expanding universe, there is no longer room for them in those boxes.) Then I have to find room in our bigger yet smaller house for this.
In my woodshop class I am starting on a bookshelf, which so far is a pile of unassembled boards. I am hoping this will give me a place to go with things that are still in boxes in my room and storage. But wanting to work on this feels frivolous in the light of so many tangible obstacles to everyday living.
I feel, in short, completely overwhelmed. And everything that distracts from my attempts to put my life back together seems superfluous, which appalls me. I feel like I’m completely behind, even more so, because there was no time last weekend to devote to house projects. Instead, I spent time with friends and neighbors, and instead of feeling good about that, I am feeling like I “wasted” a weekend not trying to get my life back on track.
Which brings me to the dilemma bedeviling me. Lynn and I did not make it to Denver for Christmas because of her work schedule. (In years past, it was my work schedule at the airport, a place that no holiday can stop.) We had thought maybe we could go in January, because three relatives have birthdays this month. The party is tomorrow.
I of course scheduled work obligations for today without thinking, and now Lynn needs to work for someone tomorrow afternoon in addition to her regular morning shift. I could still get on the bus at 6 a.m. tomorrow and come back with Tia Sunday afternoon and spend some time with my family.
This is important, particularly after the last few months, when three men I knew here in town, all of them around my age, dropped dead unexpectedly, right in the middle of doing important things in their lives. Time is all we have, only we don’t know how much of it we have.
But I can’t get over my sense of near panic that I would be “losing” a second weekend in a row. Travel time, due to my severe motion sickness, is completely wasted time to me, and the thought of spending five to six hours just getting to the party with so many things that need doing — even as I acknowledge that it’s been six months, so what’s the harm of one more week — is nearly unbearable.
I have not solved my dilemma, even as the time for a definite decision grows closer. I do know, that whatever I decide, I’m going to regret not making the decision the other way. And I know this shouldn’t be so hard, but that’s how everything has felt for the last six months. Really, really hard.