It is 6 AM and I take a peaceful walk in the garden. I look to see if the beautiful zucchini plants have left another gift. Lots of volunteer tomato plants have popped up crowding out the coveted peppers and weaving their way through the rows of carrots. The kale has escaped munching from visiting deer that come in the darkness. Then I glance over and see THEY have already been here this morning. The big box full of testing supplies are outside in our yard where the temporary water hose connects to the house. I know my quiet time will be short lived. Soon after I complete my garden exploration the earth starts to vibrate, the high pitch whistle of trucks backing up begins and the pounding and excavating begins for the day. The symphony of noise will continue all day into the evening.
The City is a doing a total reconstruction of our street complete with replacing the old sanitary sewers, storm sewers, water mains and street surface including curb, gutter and sidewalks. I have been dreading it for two years knowing our street was most likely next after the same work was done to an adjacent street. We live in the oldest part of our city with systems over a 100 years old. While I knew it would be loud and inconvenient I had no idea the magnitude of the energetic toll it would take. I decided I could either be anxious and resentful the whole time or use it as an opportunity. The situation was clearly out of my control, it was going to happen and as a bonus, we will get assessed about $3000 for the work. Perhaps this could be my own inner excavation as I soon learn there is nowhere to hide.
They start prepping months out so it was a constant flow of workman around our home. When the construction makes it way to my front door – there is nowhere to hide. We live in a hundred year old 2 story house. I work out of my home. My office is on the first floor so I decided to take my laptop, go upstairs and set up a card table in a corner of my bedroom to get me through the construction project. Much of the work I do with clients is over the phone, so I figure out if close the windows and keep my AC on I can get through sessions. But when it comes to writing, and planning – it doesn’t help much. The constant pounding is so intense it feels like the house will collapse. After a few weeks of this…it feels like maybe I will too.
I take my daughter with me to the local coffee house. Here I will work. She picks out a treat, I get soup, fire up my laptop, she on her tablet, and now I will work. I listen to the conversation at the next table between a professor and his student. Darn, their project sounds exciting. They both seem so engaged and I lament never going back to school for a master’s degree in anthropology. Then I remember my propensity to miss classes, cram for exams and that I would really need a doctorate to do much of anything. Ya, good thing I didn’t go back to school. My daughter’s battery is fading and so is my focus as I eat half the scone I was going to bring back to husband. The library! Yes, the library is quiet. I can work and she can pick out some books and play.
I pick out my cubical on the second floor of the library overlooking Main Street. It is quiet. Oh, these chairs are so hard. I connect to the Wi-Fi and spend way too long trying to find the name of a minor league baseball player I once knew for a piece that I am writing. Smells start to waif upstairs from my favorite Asian restaurant in town, Green Tea, which is next door to the library. The actually reality of the smells penetrating through the massive concrete building are slim but I am inhaling it in my mind at least as I start dreaming of Thai red curry while I scan the Internet.
While trying to work other places didn’t seem to help, going to the beach at one of my favorite lakes did. The ungrounded unsafe feeling seemed to ease as I made frequent trips this summer to Sunset Lake with a good friend and our children. While the kids play we chat about our lives and what is coming up for us. Often I was hearing myself sounding negative and critical of both myself and others. I don’t like when I get into that mode but I found myself slipping there more and more lately. In particular, I repeatedly expressed frustration at an acquaintance who I felt was being disingenuous. She posts things often on Facebook about her life that seemed to be for show and contradict what she has shared with me. She (let’s call her Betty) often offers a modification of the truth in my communication with her. I am pretty straight forward and have an expectation of other people to be the same way. My friend delicately pointed out to me that I have mentioned my challenges with this person before (okay, a lot) and essentially, why am I still engaging with her at all?
When someone in our lives triggers us as much as Betty was triggering me, clearly there is something to learn from it. I was up high on my self-righteous horse. As the excavation was happening around my house so too was an inner excavation going on. I have been feeling that I have been watching life go by and not fully participating in it. Betty was out in the world and documenting a piece of it all on Facebook because she needed to be seen in a certain light even though she was hiding in her house most of the time. She wasn’t being authentic. And now hiding in my own house is feeling very uncomfortable and I am calling my own authenticity into question. What show am I putting on for other people?
The summer was the excavation. This fall is about seeing where the parts of me fit together and building a new foundation. I am still raw, sitting on the floor with all these jigsaw pieces of myself. My soul isn’t going to let me put myself back together in the old way. They just don’t fit that way anymore. Finally – the fear of not moving is greater than the fear of moving. So I am taking the first step and putting in a piece of me – the writer.