Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Displaced, again

Feeling trapped by life is fairly common, or at least it has been for me. At various points I encountered circumstances beyond my control, such as the impending end of high school and college, or an unfortunate collection of obligations coinciding such that I simply didn’t know where to begin. Not that I find myself in this mental place with great regularity, nor have I ever been in so deep it’s impossible to dig out, but suffice it to say I am familiar with the sentiment.

Rarely, though, has the physical condition matched the emotional state as well as it has the past few days. The last major component of repairing our house following the early September sewer disaster began in earnest at 7 a.m. Monday when our contractor knocked on my front door about 10 minutes before my phone was supposed to wake me from what passes for sleep these days. Shortly after Jack left for the bus stop guys were hauling furniture from the dining room to the living room and wielding circular saws, crowbars and hammers in an effort to remove every last bit of original pine from the first floor of the house.

No, why would this bother me?
That was followed, at some point, by the process of installing the new floor. Thankfully know it’s substantially completed, though much of our furniture remains jammed into the living room. As much as I love the wood Kristie chose and praise the craftsmanship of the installer, it’s hard to overlook the impact of having an air compressor and nail gun operating precisely where I’m supposed to stand to wash the dishes or sit to eat dinner.

My parents let us come down for dinner Monday night and offered to do so again Tuesday, though our weekly visit to the allergy doctor took precedence. So there we sat at 8 p.m. Tuesday with six people crammed into our bedroom, along with a baby swing that’s supposed to be on the main floor, shoving down fast food takeout before moving on to homework and baths. The floor guy was gone for the night, and he’d tidied up after himself. But there was sawdust everywhere and stacks of dirty dishes in the bedroom, not to mention the frazzled nerves from all of us being within an arm’s reach of each other far too frequently.

It was not unlike being wedged into the minivan for days on end, only without the promise of spilling out into a hotel with a pool at the end of each night. Also the scenery was worse, though I won’t complain about ready access to a bathroom.

We knew these days would come as soon as we determined the whole floor had to be replaced. Once we got used to walking on a chunk of subfloor between the kitchen and living room, it made sense to hold off on this week until Isaac was a bit more settled into home life. Turns out he’s settled plenty, seeing as he was able to sleep perfectly fine despite all the commotion. The rest of us weren’t as amazingly adaptable.

That this all happened right after Thanksgiving and the first Sunday of Advent is perhaps more than happenstance. Between the flood and the newborn (and his hospital stay) I’ve been having a heck of a time sitting down to write with any sort of regularity, and I’m more or less shooing Jack out the door every morning instead of taking my own slow walk to the bus stop with a prayer on my heart. I was hoping the preparations for Christmas would also signal a bit of refocusing for my own sense of spirit, but all our decorations are still stuck in the garage where they don’t belong because now there’s no room to put them anywhere inside the house. There’s simply no time to get ready for anything when each day becomes a matter of, to steal a cliché from the sports world, survive and advance.

In keeping with the clichés, this, too, shall pass. The stuff will get moved back, the cars will fit in the garage, the Christmas tree will find its new home and we won’t have to eat dinner on the bedroom floor. It will have been just a few days of hassle, and you start to feel less put upon by your own challenges when you hear about people who literally lost their homes or their lives, as I alluded to last time I sat down to write.

Maybe that’s my overriding lesson from the past few months: sometimes life is brutal, but other people have it worse so chin up, count your blessings and carry on in gratitude. It’s not healthy to bottle up frustrations, especially when the feelings are valid. But it’s also important to retain perspective and develop functional coping strategies. This week has been a challenge, but how sad can a person be who gets to kiss his wife and four beautiful sons goodnight seven days a week?

We’ll get by — we always do. But no more dinners in the bedroom, please.

A prayer for December 4:

Lord, help me. I need to open my ears to hear when you are speaking. I need to open my eyes to see where you are at work in the world. And I need to fully open my heart to you, that I might do a better job of living a life worthy of you. At this time of year especially, help me prepare myself, body, mind and soul, for you to come and fully take over. I need to breathe new air, and I need you to help me move forward. Amen.

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