For a while now, I’ve been searching for the words.
The words that would act as some kind of rally cry, a cheerleading chant that I could use to tell people “Listen, it’s going to be okay.”
The words that I could use to tell myself that.
You see, on the last day of July, I turned my life upside down. Over the course of a week, I took the main floor of my house apart, piece by piece, with my best friend and my children at my side. We smashed and lifted tiles, we pulled out cabinets, we dragged out the laminate floors, one plank at a time. We plucked staples out of the floor, opened walls, and prepared the house for renovations – this house which I’d bought with my ex husband as our “forever” house. This house, which was now only mine, the first home I’d ever owned all on my own. Home.
When things started going wrong, at first it was humorous – poorly laid tiles, a step built of out scraps and paint stir sticks. And then it was scary – raw wires in the walls, and a hidden leak which had been letting water into my house for almost 10 years. As more and more of my house was taken apart – walls, ceilings, the entire backyard – the more I joked, that jovial, too loud, isn’t this hilarious tone that exists only to mask the rising sense of panic I could feel washing over me. The renovation was rapidly barreling out of my control, out of my carefully planned project scope and into some wild unknown, where dread would fill my throat with a lump each time someone would call my name from a room they worked in – “Um, Stephanie… you might want to come look at this.”
My home was Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong will. My home was a gutted, dusty mess, with one functioning sink (upstairs), an open shaft from the family room to the attic letting the wind blow inside, a hole in the floor where my ensuite shower used to be. My home was falling apart. And alongside it, so was I.
So I did what I always do. I moved. I stayed in constant, relentless motion. I painted baseboards. I pulled up (more) tile. I put together furniture, wiped up dust that would only be back again the next day, learned how to use tools I’d never dreamed I’d set my hands on. I socialized, shopped, I held meetings for the volunteer work I do. I refused to let it all catch up to me, shaking drywall dust out of my clothes, biting back tears of frustration whenever something -else- failed to work the way it was expected to. Friends, ever supportive, gave thoughtful gifts, stopped by to help, let me borrow their washing machines to do laundry.
Four full dumpsters have left my home – discards of a home that had hidden some awful secrets. And my secret, shared only with my closest friends recently, is that things have gotten really, really bad around here. The things I’d been open about – that I sit at the 70% complete mark on my renovation, that the wind still blows in my living room, that I have exhausted my bank accounts. None of that was nearly as hard to admit as this: I’m scared. I’m sad.
I’ve long believed that happiness is a choice you make, that bad feelings will come and go, but happiness is enduring and underlying, once you’ve decided that it’s there. And as the bad feelings have rolled in and piled up, as frustration has given way to despair, I’ve struggled to keep that hold on happy. Tomorrow marks three months of a renovation that was supposed to take three weeks, and as I have since the middle of August, I will dig my clothes out of a Rubbermaid bin, sweep up a fresh layer of dust, and keep moving. But reality is catching up to me.
Murphy’s Law. Anything that can go wrong will. Ever the cynical optimist, I think I’ve always believed instead that anything that needs to go wrong will.
Because I needed to find those raw wires. I needed to find the slow leak behind the fireplace, the crack in the foundation. If I didn’t find those things, my house very well might have burned down. My house might have made us extremely sick. My basement might have become my inground swimming pool. My house is me – holding it together with a convincing facade, hiding secrets. I needed to learn that I can haul a bucket of bricks, that I can tear up floors, that I can make hard decisions on the fly and not second guess my choice.
My house is you, maybe. My house is your best friend, or your neighbour.
Maybe my cheerleading chant is “Anything that needs to go wrong will”.
I’m a communicator. That’s a PC way of saying I like to talk, but I also spend a lot of my time listening, and over the years, I’ve developed a sense for subtext – how one or two words can change your entire message, what people are really trying to say and how to weave the varied layers of your story into one cohesive brand message that your clients fall in love with.
When I'm not acting as editor in chief for Vivid & Brave, you can find me geeking out over words here.
Latest posts by Stephanie Ostermann (see all)
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- You Don’t Have to Be Friends With Your Ex (Or His New Wife) - November 23, 2016
- Grief & Landlines - September 20, 2016