paint

Things We Try to Cover

The previous owners of our house loved color. A different one for each room.

When I got the phone call my dad died, I was working in my plum purple bedroom.

I passed tan stairs as I staggered down the stairs and leaned against mustard yellow basement walls to call my boss and spread the horrible news.

I kept working in my off-putting “home-office” for a few weeks more. I sat by myself, staring at the pillars, willing two contrasting colors to blend as my eyes glazed over with inability to concentrate.  Mustard yellow and sky blue will not blend. Their stark contrast refuses to budge and kept reminding me of the day he died.

And then I lost my job. And time kept moving.

I had to reclaim my bedroom and cover the purple with a lighter shade of wasabi green last summer.  The primary colors remained in the basement and I hated being down there.

I’ve been nagging about the walls in the basement for a few months. For some reason, after three years, I was ready to turn my attention to reclaiming my creative space. Dylan and my in-laws helped me rip down, paint, and repurpose the old cabinets. They hang on fresh drywall in our built-out laundry room.  I’ve picked up a roller and Dylan cut in, covering spaces where ceiling and wall and floor and carpet meet.

We need four gallons of “Veil White” Behr paint to cover up the hideous mustard yellow and sky blue. One coat will not cut it. Two may be insufficient as well. Despite primer and luxuriously plush roller sponges, the old is still infiltrating the new.

As we apply the silky liquid, I keep thinking no matter what we do, that gnarly yellow will still be there, underneath our applications of white.

With each arm extension and application of the brush I am not erasing the grief nor the trauma created as shock moved through my back and into the radiant walls.  The yellow remains under fresh layers, a muted witness to where I once stood, shaken and weeping. I cried as I rolled blue to white, wishing Dad was here to remind me to add more paint to my roller. More tears came for the beautiful truth that I’m capable of transforming this pain. Whispering to myself and my experience, ‘Take that – this grief need not be the top layer forever.’

As I painted, our garden sat ready and waiting for love and attention. Six months ago we filled our little plot with all kinds of leaves. We dragged in detritus and waited – hoping the simple act of covering would encourage nature to do its thing, turning the leaves into something useful.

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This morning, Dylan threw four bags of soil on top of the crunchy pile and set about to mix and mulch two forms of earth together. Our rototiller machine failed to break up the mounds which had not, like we’d hoped, decomposed in time. Our attempts to cover failed. Too much matter remained.

I got out the shovel and he the rake, and we moved mound after mound of material into the green trash toter. The more we removed, the less resistance we faced and the fresh soil was able to mix with the old organic material. Rake, sweat, stomp, mash, repeat- all to prepare the pile for its next life.

Dylan did the math. We still need more cubic feet of soil to sufficiently cover the leaves and turn the mixture into something capable of growth.

We can’t cover our pain. It has to move and mix and honor the layers it added to our lives. We can, however, transform it.

We can use handcrafted brushes, and cushy rollers, and salty tears from our hearts or crumbling earth and warm, wooden rakes and heavy-handled shovels to do the lifting. The chemical components of what you started with still remain. Traces of previous layers compound adding thickness and texture to your heart.

And clean slates and fresh plots of earth come together, eager and waiting for what you will create next from your new form. What a beautiful thing.

 

 

 

Twenty Things I Learned in My Twenties

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Photo by Charles Etoroma on Unsplash

Today I turn 30. The ‘big birthday.’ When I started this blog I was 23, unmarried, and unanchored. A lot has changed in the last seven years and I’m eager to see what the next decade brings. Thank you, dear readers, for watching me grow up.

Reflection brings its own kind of wisdom and before I dance into the next new decade, I’m sharing my love letter of lessons I’ve learned about myself in the last ten years. Enjoy.

  1. Career may not fulfill your soul.
    I spent my early twenties bouncing from job to job searching for the perfect fit. I had nine jobs in ten years. There will be conflict at work. There will be days that feel tedious and boring. It is important to find people you can learn from and environments to push you out of your comfort zone. It’s ok to make a switch, and ok to fail. At least you tried. There’s more to your worth than what you do from 9-5.
  2. Ask for that raise sooner than later. 
    You’re worth it. Practice negotiating and communicating how your skills bring organizations different value. It takes practice and it pays off. The least they can say is no, not right now.
  3. New paint makes a big difference.
    Make your spaces your own. Your house can be a reflection of you. Paint is affordable and it takes just a few hours to reclaim space for rest and rejuvenation.
  4. Planning a wedding is fun. Planning for marriage is improbable.
    I got engaged at the age of twenty three and walked down the aisle at age twenty five. That was young. We did marriage counseling, had dated for six years, and talked about many things. We weren’t prepared for how unemployment, unexpected death, and financial uncertainty would change and shape our young marriage. You can’t plan for all of the scenarios. You can, however, pick a partner who will fight for you and hold your hand when things fall apart.
  5. Pick up those shoes.
    Really, I leave them all over the house. Weekly shoe round-ups should be a thing. I’m messy. Tough.
  6. People will die.
    Yes, your people. They will die. Before your heart is ready with things left unchecked on bucket lists and words left unsaid. This is the worst truth of the universe. Surviving the death of my dad has rearranged me leaving gaps for compassion, empathy, and tears. Death sucks. Grief sucks. People die. It sucks so frickin’ bad.
  7. Say I love you every chance you get.
    The last time I saw my dad, he left my house without me saying good-bye. I just assumed I’d see him the next day. I didn’t say ‘I love you’ and I regret that. Life is short. Tell people how much you love them every chance you get.
  8. Friendships change.
    As you grow and change, so will your friends. Give others grace, stand up at weddings, cheer when they announce they are going to have a baby. Honor the space of sadness when the people you could always count on don’t respond as much as you’d like. Hold space for new relationships. Be the friend you want to have.
  9. Metabolism slows.
    Damn. Buy bigger-sized pants. Eat a few less french fries. Get back to the gym and love your body.
  10. Stop resisting when they offer to do the dishes.
    For a long time, I’d be mortified when my mother-in-law would do my dishes. It made me feel like a horrible host. She’s not silently commenting on the state of the kitchen. She’s instead using her gifts and sharing her time. People will show you their love in all kinds of ways. Stop resisting and say thank you.
  11. Having a dog is beneficial.
    They’ll pee on the carpet and destroy a few of your favorite things. But the little creature will warm your heart, absorb your tears, and take up space on the bed when you’re cold. Eye contact with an animal will soften your soul.
  12. Get a few stamps in your passport.
    Planning a trip and traveling abroad will give you confidence and joy in unimaginable ways. Gelato in Paris is delicious. Kidney pie in London is not.
  13. Graduate from an amaretto sour.
    Try different alcoholic drinks and explore how your tastes evolve. Know a few classic cocktails to ask for in a bar. When you order a shot of Fireball with your brother’s friends, they will laugh at you. Don’t let shame shape your choices. It’s ok to like what you like.
  14. Softball is not fun.
    I’d just rather not spend my summer evenings on the ball field. Practice saying no to the things that don’t bring you joy so you can say yes to the things that make your heart beat a little faster.
  15. I’m sensitive. So be it.
    My awareness of others suffering is a gift, not a weakness. Refuse to let others squash the sensitivity out of you. Continue to give the homeless woman a granola bar, make donations to charity, and cry at the news.
  16. People want to read these words.
    I must believe this every time I click publish. Your voice matters and you have every right to share your thoughts. Not everyone will resonate and likes and comments don’t qualify my words as worthy. Keep typing. It doesn’t have to make you money … though that would be nice.
  17. Family is complicated.
    It gets tricky when pain trickles through long-standing relationships. Keep trying. Keep praying. God’s grace can fix holes in family tapestries. Where we come from matters. Hold onto the good stuff, let go of the crap.
  18. You can take care of yourself.
    Of course I want others to take care of me. Bring me soup, vacuum the dirty carpet, offer tissues for the mountains of snot grief creates – yes please. More empowering though? Learning how to care for myself. Take space to sit and be sad. Invest in good shoes, honor your body with clothes that fit, and pay for a therapist to help process. Accepting help is self-care. Putting things in place to meet my own needs – even better.
  19. Money is a tool – let it flow.
    While I prefer to sit on my savings account for fear of not enough, I’m learning money is a tool for joy. Using funds responsibly can create positive, life-changing experiences. Travel. Save for the car. Get a haircut. Sponsor a child. Trust you have the capability to make more money and believe God provides.
  20. Hope lives in the relentless search for beauty.
    The gifts God gives are in the small and ordinary. Keep seeking good and you will find beauty. Clean water, fresh flowers, a kiss on the nose. Bubbles in sparkling wine, puppy breath, baby toes. Suffering and beauty co-exist. We won’t live in a world without both.