It all started with just a repair to a small section of one part of one ceiling of one room.
I knew that to fix it I’d have to have the asbestos removed from that ceiling and to have the asbestos removed, I’d need a special team of professionals and as long as they were in the house to do that, they might as well do the rest of the ceilings and then there was the painting and the rugs and, well… you know how that goes.
Soon I found myself in the garage, amid all my belongings rocking back and forth as large men raised a ruckus in the house with sprayers and scrapers and hammers and generators, gutting my whole house.
Maybe I am a person who relies too much on the perceived stability of place.
You use a bathroom vanity for twenty years or so and you start to think of it as an immovable object. Then, with one idea, one decision, with one signature on a line, with one word, people you have never seen before in your life come in and in an astonishingly short time destroy everything.
You see the toilet you used that morning ripped from the floor with astonishing ease. The vanity comes out in splintered pieces. The bathtub that you cleaned just last week is hoisted upon shoulders and carried off like a strange sailing ship being carried to the water’s edge.
What can be carted away that day is never seen again. The door, cabinet or toilet that temporarily remains until the next empty truck is deposited in the back yard and is tragically misplaced and out of context.
I have come to the conclusion the idea of permanence is an illusion that we need to have to just to function day-to-day.
It’s a lesson that I have learned in many ways over the last year. Fixtures in my life-- things I thought were solid and steady--were suddenly gone. Marriage, home, future plans—all ripped up, thrown away, carried away with one idea, one decision, one signature on a line, one word: divorce.
Divorce takes all the things you thought were heavy, stable and permanent in your life and smashes them up, carries them out the front door. It’s a mess. It takes a long time for the dust to settle and even long after there are still items, ideas, and dreams that mysteriously remain strewn about, weirdly out of context.
Renovation, in all forms, whether planned or unexpected, whether unwanted or desired, is a mind-numbing, soul-sapping process. When the air starts to clear, and the debris is carried away, you look around at what remains.
If you are lucky, like I was, you will find that the love of your children, the steadfastness of friends, your faith in a higher power, and the essential strength of your own character are indeed still there.
You may just find that all of those things were, in fact, the pillars of the original version of the house.
The new design may be simple and less ornate than the original, but the tradeoff is knowing exactly what the foundation is made of and insisting that each future choice lends only integrity to that new structure.