We are renovating our new home. Not an exciting way to start a blog post, but it's the setting for what happened this week. In the midst of the pandemic, I sold my home in Toronto and we moved to Moncton, New Brunswick, on the east coast of Canada. We bought a beautiful home across the street from my cousin. It's an older home, with good bones and lots of potential. Yeah, this means renovations. It's begun with refinishing floors and painting every room. It will end (touch wood) with the bathrooms all reorganised and renovated, and the attic spaced opened up into a loft/movement space. I was hoping that would be finished soon(ish), but I'm realising now that it might be finished in a year. That was a disappointing realisation.
We took possession of this house July 2, and we moved in August 1. It's now September 4, and I had hoped that we could have a house-warming party / birthday party for my husband this weekend. On Monday I mentioned it again to my husband, and he seemed annoyed at the thought. Things haven't gone smoothly on some of the projects that we have been working on, and he's spent a lot of time on the phone with different companies trying to get things sorted out. Several things have had to go back, and people have had to return to fix things that went wrong. Everything is taking longer and is more complicated that we had hoped. This house is nowhere near ready for a party, even if it is only family coming.
The kitchen counter has been particularly delayed and problematic. There are two different surfaces that we are having installed — quartzite on two-thirds, and a birch butcher block on the last third. The butcher block finally arrived this week, much delayed, and when it came the box was shredded. It had been dragged, the box torn, the plastic wrapping around the wood torn, and the wood itself dented and scratched badly. We were upset. When we opened the box, we could see that the damage was mostly on the bottom, so we decided to move it around the corner, so it was out of the way until it could be dealt with and possibly installed.
I know this is sounding like a home-renovation blog post, but I assure you it is not. Because this was the moment, when I was annoyed, and frustrated, and rushing to put something aside so that I could get on to my very long list of things that needed to be done so I could try to squish in a party, that I dropped my end of the counter on my toe.
I won't post a picture of it, nor describe the damage in much detail. In that moment everything stopped, and I stopped caring about what hadn't been done or how long things will take. We called an ambulance, and I went to the hospital where I sat for many hours, bleeding and in pain, waiting to see a doctor. The big toe is broken, the distal bone smashed to pieces. The toenail is gone. I will have 6–8 weeks of pain, and then there will be recovery time after that. I've been back to the hospital three times now, and will be back at least a few more times, to have the dressing changed. There will be no party this weekend.
It was interesting to be able to use my knowledge of breath and trauma to help myself through, particularly, those first hours. Knowing what shock feels like, understanding how to breathe in a way that brings me to a calm and centred place (low and slow!), and understanding a little bit about the relationships between breath, trauma, and pain have all helped me manage the intensity of the first days.
I'm very lucky that I am still able to work, that my work is online and I can sit while I do that. I'm very lucky that although there are still many boxes to unpack, and much work to be done, that we have a semi-functional kitchen, and as of yesterday, laundry facilities on-site. I'm lucky that my son has work. I'm lucky that my husband is so caring and wonderful in many ways. That things need time to be finished doesn't matter. That the house is not as far along as I had wanted doesn't bother me anymore. The distance between my expectations and reality has shrunk significantly.
Suffering occurs in the moments when we want things to be different than they are.
Every day, I go and sit in the hospital for hours and wait for someone to change my dressings. Today, I took a book so that I could do something with my time, instead of being annoyed at having to wait. The time it took didn't change, I changed. It's difficult for me to do anything around the house (and there is much to be done) so sitting here in my beautiful sun room, with the sun streaming in, lovely plants all around me, I was annoyed, until I decided to do something (write this blog post). My situation didn't change, but my response to it did.
I'm not saying that if you are suffering you should do nothing. I'm not going to spiritually by-pass the need for action. There are many times when suffering is a signal that we need to act. We need to respond to injustice, to situations where people are being hurt, to protect ourselves, others, the world around us. That is our responsibility. There are many examples from this past year of suffering that have required action — COVID-19 and the many deaths, many preventable deaths, that have occurred during this pandemic; the obvious racism that has ended people's lives, people like Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis, and so many others. Vote. Protest. Act. This is time for change.
But what needs to change? Sometimes it is our circumstances, and sometimes it is our expectations. Knowing which thing, the situation or yourself, needs to change is wisdom. I'm still working on this. Like my house, I'm not finished. I'm sure I'll need to learn this lesson again, but hopefully it will hurt less next time.
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