Navigating Chaos

There is a fine layer of dust over everything.  The cat calendar on the kitchen table still says Friday, October 1st.

That was the day before two carpenters arrived for a whirlwind, weekend remodel of my tiny home.  The plan was to replace the siding on the west and south walls and to replace six windows with vinyl thermopanes. Also, a new door for access to my back yard.   Up until now, I have only had one door…this would be a serious chicken coop upgrade!

Oh, the poor innocent carpenters… laboring under the notion that it was a two day job.

And me, suffering from a head cold that hit on Friday and banished to living in my studio in the barn sans running water or bathroom facilities.

Did I mention the word chaos?

     The siding came off the south wall first and revealed rotten boards beneath two of the windows.  That necessitated tearing that part of the wall down to the foundation.  They removed the heater as well as one west window at the corner.  And, of course, nothing is square or level in my funky farmhouse.

Occasionally, from the warmth and safety of my barn retreat, I viewed the progress.  The two carpenters spent large chunks of time talking, pointing, solving…

By the end of Saturday, the wall was partially rebuilt, the windows tilted in for the night.  I crawled into my makeshift bed on top of the sewing tables with a fever of 101 degrees accompanied by a cold thermos of apple juice and a jug of filtered water.   And my two cats.  Sara and Sadie are good sports and were happy to be away from the pounding and sawing.  Soon they were tossing spools of thread in the air and chasing bead embellishments for the book I was hoping to finish.  I say hoping because I felt horrible.

But my pains were small compared to those carpenters.  Day two, they arrived late.  One of them started on the door project while the other pulled out the rest of the west windows.  Each of the windows had to be reframed to compensate for the smaller replacements and, oops! the header on the west was 3/4″ lower than the south, so, at the corner, they no longer met.  The interior muntins wouldn’t quite line up, but, oh well…

And the new door.  Too tall for the short opening between the 12″ high exposed concrete and the 8ft  ceiling.  The sawsall made crooked progress down the (thankfully!) wire free wall and cut into the ceiling sheetrock as they tried to maximize the opening.  Next, they jack hammered the foundation and exposed a sill that was more rubble than concrete.  This necessitated building a new sill and, while they were there, why not add an apron for the oustide landing?

Day two ended with blue tarps across the gaping window holes and a tent of plastic over the new concrete.  The door opening was boarded up and, uh-oh! I was locked out of the bathroom.  I forgot to tell the carpenters that all of my clothes were on shelves above the washer and dryer next to the bathroom sink.

Sometimes I think that chaos is the new normal.  That getting back to my idea of a simple life is fantasy.

What happened?

     Complexity happened.  Not just complexity in the form of Internet connecting me to global news in an instant and inboxes filled with messages demanding quick responses.  Or the complexity of a cell phone making me uber-available no matter where I go.  No, these technologies are not inherently complex.  My choices determine the difference between chaos and serenity.

     When I gaze backwards toward my simple years of living in the old Queen Anne high school in Seattle, I see that I was not commuting an hour and a half to go dancing.  I was not growing my own vegetables and flowers.  I was not painting or making handmade books.  I was working, walking, cycling and journalling.

Now I do them all and more.

     So when the cottage remodel began, it was just one more layer of complexity.  One that would have wonderful benefits for me in the very near future.  Rather than wish the chaos away, I could choose to survive it.  Maybe even thrive within it.

I count among my blessings that I have had great training in navigating chaos.  Beginning with the early loss of my parents in my mid twenties and the subsequent launching of my own business, I have deconstructed and reconstructed my interior life in tiny, manageable steps.

The tiny steps were weeks, months, years of therapy.  First, I sat and talked calmly while the therapist listened.  Then I did Primal Therapy and beat padded bats against padded walls.  That was anything but calm!  Next I had conversations with parts of myself as I alternately sat in two different chairs and learned to listen to myself.  Then came Corrective Parenting to build my inner parent and self nurturing.  They all felt like chaos and they all helped immensely.  I learned, most importantly, that I could stay present during my own remodel.  I was the cottage and I was the carpenter.

As I look around me at the current mess… the piles of boxes in corners, my writing desk propped up against my bed, my dining table piled high in the things I had to remove from the walls and shelves… I feel uneasy.  I like tidy.  But tidy is not on the to-do list today.

Day three and four of the project has passed by.  Some progress was made.  Then the first carpenters were let go and a new one hired.  He starts on Tuesday.  Meanwhile, I have some blogging to do and I can still sit at my computer with a small space heater at my back and choose to simply allow the chaos around me.  Not Hooray, I’m happy about it, just a nod of acknowledgement.  I can do this.

4 Thoughts

  1. Wow Jeanne… Just had a chance to see your posting about your remodel and being ill… I had no idea so much was going on! I must be in one of my entrepreneurial microcosms of self-absorption!!! Sorry… I hope all is well and that your little haven of creativity and kitty-happiness is back to “normal”… well, ??? whatever that means! Sending hugs,

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