Holidays are not always welcomed diversions. Often the holidays are a microcosm of family and personal dysfunction, reminders of failings or deprivation. Often they contain concentrated doses of complicated relationships . Those of us raised by parents who turned to alcohol to ease their distress may remember these as times of exaggerated merriment, anger, broken promises and uncertainty. Many breathe a sigh of relief when the period passes and the new year is clearly underway. Perhaps we should have a quiet celebration of survival on January 7 each year, marking the return to our regular lives and the proportions of happiness and distress we usually feel. I’m not feeling that need this year.
Somehow the holidays are approaching and I do not feel the usual gut clench or anxiety about getting things wrong or being terribly disappointed. I’m not filled with exaggerated hopes or fears – I just am here in the day, the evening, the event as they come. Maybe I have graduated into some stage of adulthood or wisdom, or maybe I am fooling myself. I’ll have to wait and see. It would be nice to stay calm and open to whatever is.
I am drawing to a close the reconstruction of a house. It has been long in the making – many years in thought and over a year in the actual demolition and reconstruction. It was a house much like a life – started as a small complete structure (in 1929), then repurposed, reshaped, added on to, redone, converted to another use, then back again. It was a house with no flow. The rooms added on to serve a specific purpose but without much thought to how they fit or complemented what existed before. Often rooms appeared to be spontaneous reactions to an idea and a burst of energy. Things were designed to make do rather than to facilitate or assist the functioning of its residents.
That is changing. The footprint of the foundation remains the same- but that’s about all. Today the house presents a place for its family to live and thrive; to move easily from room to room; to provide comfort (Insulation and a good heating system are doing their part as tested in our recent polar weather); to allow camaraderie in cooking and eating; to shelter guests; and protect aging bones from exposure to the weather when coming and going. The windows face the beauty of the lot and bring in light. It no longer just makes do. The house welcomes, protects, and comforts us. It has been long in coming and it took a change in me to have it happen.
It is hard to explain the shift. It isn’t about luxury or poverty. It isn’t about frivolity. It’s about something more subtle and in a way about something more primal. This house represents wanting to be kind and caring toward myself. It’s about believing finally that it really is ok to have ease, comfort, and pleasure in my everyday surroundings and to be able to share those with others.
It’s kind of complicated. I was raised believing I would never have all that I needed, let alone wanted. I don’t think I particularly wanted more than others, But our family was just always in a financial situation that fell short of others we knew. My father couldn’t provide for us financially and my mother’s father stepped in, but his help came clearly labeled as something that could be withdrawn if taken for granted or if perceived in any way as being mis-used. We were taught – as I’m sure many children were- that whatever we had was good enough. Of course, we were also taught by experience to seize the opportunity when there were resources. Money management always seemed a struggle. Over the years it was difficult to discern wants and wishes from necessities, and to learn to trust that there would be enough. I’m sure my siblings and I have had some similiar and some unique spending patterns over the years, but I know I struggled between buying supplies far ahead of any needed amounts, and sometimes careless spontaneous spending trying to fill some emptiness I didn’t recognize. I believe I have come to develop some balance over the decades of my adult life, but it wasn’t easy nor a fast process. Luckily, I have also been generous with my earnings – as I never really saw them as just mine but rather a resource I could share with others. I have not regretted any of that sharing.
Once years ago, I had a psychic reading and was assured that I did not need to worry about money, that I would always have enough. For some reason, that was very reassuring to me. I believed it. At first, I believed that there would be some other source of funding that would become known to me as I needed it, and then, over time, I came to believe that whatever I had, it would be enough. That has given me great relief.
So in retirement, we have decided to take our resources and create a home that comforts and protects us. I love the land where we live, and so it made sense to build the home there, keeping the foundation and creating an entirely new structure. We will greet the new year in this new house – compact, strong, revitalized, and ready to live new chapters. The holidays mark a beginning this year, rather than an end, and it is a beginning I am excited to see.
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