Monday, November 23, 2009

A Bill of Divorcement

10 Things I've Learned Without Meaning To:

1. It won't always be like this. This has become my mantra in times of trial—I recite it robotically to myself even when I can't really believe that anything will ever get better. But no matter what, it's always true. As of today, the carnival of woes I described last time is over. The painting is finished, the plumbing repaired, the kitchen floor installed, the carpet laid. (Okay, so the walk-in closet somehow didn't make it onto the carpet guy's diagram and will consequently be done in a different color. I so don't care.) We lived; we laughed; we moved on. My friend So Lovely had a wonderful blog post recently on the origins of the phrase "This too shall pass." Like most people, I had always assumed this phrase referred to bad times—and of course it does. But guess what? Not only.

2. It won't always be like this (reprise). Those airy highs, the giddy squeals, the heartthrob moments—they too shall pass. Get over yourself.

3. If you post it in the "Free" section of Craigslist, they will come. I used to have lots of furniture. I don't anymore. I sold a few pieces, but most of it I gave away. Some went to Goodwill, some went to other worthy charitable organizations. None of it went to the sneery man from the Salvation Army. ("Pfft," he said, waving an arm over The Child's trundle bed in perfect condition. "This is heavy. And I have to think about me.") But Craigslist's Free section? A fantastic human drama playing out for an audience of one. People actually audition for you when you offer something for free. "This would be perfect for my little boy to put his crayons in!" "I grew up with those books, and I want to read them to my three girls." "We've been looking for one of these for a long time!" And they don't try to bargain you down from $40 to $20 because, you know, it's free. Time elapsed from the time I posted The Child's trundle bed on Craigslist to the time it left my house? 45 minutes.

4. Maximizing your pain is also minimizing your pain. Not everyone chooses to refurbish their house, sell their house, move across the country and edit a 650-page cookbook at the same time. Not everyone is a masochist. But there are definite advantages to boxing things up once and getting them out of your house once. I can't say the same for the cookbook.

5. Certain things stink. I have a cough I didn't used to have. I chalk it up to the new paint and the new carpet and the newly reglazed, cartoonishly white kitchen sink and resurfaced shower pan. They look beautiful, but they smell. Get out of the house.

6. Certain things should never be said out loud. "Maybe no one will take this middle seat between the aisle and the window." "Wow, traffic is moving really nicely." "I think we've had as many plumbing problems as one household can be expected to have."

7. It's all relative. We had no kitchen sink and no dishwasher (poor us!) for a week. Our friend Pam had no discernible hot water in her apartment through the entire summer and into the fall, and didn't complain to her landlord because her landlord's husband was unwell. When the truth finally came out, the landlord was not grateful for Pam's thoughtfulness; instead, she trudged up the rickety stairs to Pam's apartment and complained about having to put in a new hot water heater. "I'm the tenant," Pam explained. "You're the landlord. It's your responsibility." Did I mention she had no bathroom for several days after her floor fell on her downstairs neighbor's head? I no longer have any complaints.

8. Happy Hours are the answer to everything. Most things. Okay, some things. Nothing in the fridge? A new sink you can't touch? Fumes you can't breathe? Bring on the $3 beers and free hot dogs!

9. Your home leaves you before you leave home.
Our place looks kind of astonishingly great. It's clean, it's light, it's spacious. It's no showplace, but it's kind of a nicely Zen blank canvas. I think even Miss Hepburn would approve of its New England austerity. I thought I'd be kicking myself around the block for having waited so long to do these things. Instead, I realized something: It's not my house anymore. I'm just caretaking it for the next owner. And that's okay. This domestic Master Cleanse has helped me divorce myself from my home.

10. This too shall come. We're in New York now, preparing for a brand-new kind of Thanksgiving. The Child will arrive from college tomorrow. We're putting together the new bookshelves. The new futon chair was delivered today. It's a little bit of chaos, but that's okay. If it's chaos, it must be home.


Michele Hush said...

May your new home in NYC bring you as many wonderful memories as your old one has (before all the plumbing problems).

So Lovely said...

Its such a calming saying really - "this to shall pass". We need to consistently remind ourselves of that as we can all get bogged down in the insanity.
Good - you're back in New York and can finally breathe. See you when you're back in the land of chaos. xx

S said...

i wish you all the luck in your new home. i grew up all over the world and i feel very sad when i see some of my friends' childhood belongings- like their 1st grade journal from reading class or the bunny their grandmummy gave them. my parents had to do the 'keep or toss' exercise all the time, and most of the time it was 'toss'. i dont know whether to feel grateful or cross! once again, wishing you all the best in your new home in NYC. xo shayma
ps my sis in law (from your daughter's college) is coming to visit us tomorrow for Thanksgiving. She wants homemade cake. Lots of it. gosh. x

Miss Whistle said...

I think you have remained remarkably calm and graceful throughout. You're doing all the stuff that gets the highest points on the stress list all at once. It's miraculous you've managed to stay so sane.

I hope you have a lovely, lovely Thanksgiving. I feel so fortunate to have such a wonderful new blogging friend.

xx Miss W

Susan Champlin said...

Michele: One of the things I'm looking forward to most is creating new memories in the new home. And you've got me well on the way with your wonderful suggestions on things to do in NYC. Thank you!

So Lovely: It is calming, you're right—keeps you from getting too low OR too high! I think that's why your blog post stayed with me. Thank you for the inspiration!

Shayma: I've been getting pretty ruthless in the "Toss" category (except when it comes to my daughter's stuff). It is liberating, but there is definitely sadness, too, in watching these life moments disappear in all but memory.

Miss Whistle: A very happy and scrumptious Thanksgiving to you and the Maharishi and N and Minky. Thank you for being the one who got me blogging in the first place. I'm indebted.