I received a text with the words “Here we go!” yesterday morning. The photo attached caused my heart to dip.
My mom’s having the downstairs bathroom remodeled in the house I grew up in. Gone are the blue vanity and wood-rimmed mirror I stood at each morning, curling my hair to get ready for high school. The traces of eye glitter from middle school swept away into a dumpster I imagined a contractor put in the driveway.
In the dip, I had the irrational thought, “Hey, Dad used that toilet! Now it’s gone!” Grief, ever present, is a constant saying of good-byes. Even to toilets.
While I wallowed the minimal loss linked to a bathroom remodel, threads started binding together from several recent conversations I’ve had with friends. One is contemplating a job change. The other, preparing to say good-bye to a co-worker who taught them valuable lessons about themselves. In both conversations, we came to a point of agreement – knowing familiar chaos is less scary than saying hello to something new and the accompanied uncertainties. We can handle the worn and tolerate the sloping floors. We’ve learned where to step so the boards don’t squeak and how to jiggle the faucet to make sure the drips stop.
As I look at the aged, patterned linoleum in the photo above, I’m reminded how we hang on to the old and grimy, for fear of what saying good-bye could cause us to feel.
When the pandemic started, I tried encouraging people to share their beautiful experiences with me each day. I probably made it 30 days in a row before the search got repetitive. Motivation to participate waned. Now, here we are, approaching year three, and many of us have been forced to say so many good-byes. To routines, to feelings of comfort, to jobs, and to people we love. But what of the good-byes we have a say in?
Where are you holding on to the grime, the grit, and bits of life that are ready for a refresh? What are you holding onto for fear of what unknowns could come next?
I remind myself, again, to let go of the idea that we have to keep everything, simply because someone we love used to use that toilet.
At the end of the day, Mom sent another photo of orange sub-floor going in. Whether the contractor ripped up the linoleum, or instead covered the old floor, the stage is set for shiny new tile to take its place. Memories of linoleum are better than the real thing.
Sometimes, beauty comes in the removal, the tossing into dumpsters, and the saying good-bye to worn familiarity no longer serving us. And sometimes, beauty comes in the hello; the brave choice to keep moving forward, one design choice at a time.