Monday, January 21, 2008

Heading Home

One year ago this month we found a way to make our dream come true, to add onto our home creating room for our girls to have parties, for our sons to come visit, for our parents to recuperate, for future family members to spend time with us. Room to spread out, play, share. For over a year we have been making the dream reality.

In the process of finding the dream, I lost me.

Soul searching words, meditations, insights - gone. Beauty and pain overlooked, shoved down, 'Save it for later, too much to do.' Nose to the grindstone.

At the same time I am pleased with our material progress. The house is coming along. We'll be painting and carpeting before we know it, moving into new bedrooms. Cassie and Caroline, so patient and kind in their tiny room, no room for most toys - up into the attic they go - clothes jammed into too small closets, too tight drawers. Soon they will have a room fit for princesses. They deserve it.

And Tom and I will have room for a chair from which to read, or knit, or sit alone in the dark and think the thoughts that have yellowed with age and nearly died over the past year.

A hard, hard lesson was learned during this year of prioritizing the temporal. Tom and I are made of tough enough stuff to be ground down to the core - for 12 months - and yet survive. We beat the stress for a change, rather than have it obliterate us with remorse and hurt. Understand this, it was hard. Bickering ensued, disagreements and pouting stamped around. There was stress. And strain. Every single day. In our exhaustion we all but lost sight of the true. But we weren't overtaken. For the most part we managed to keep our cool, our patience, and our togetherness, knowing the ordeal was temporary, but we are not.

I am surprised. Awestruck, really. If you'd asked me a year ago how I thought this process would play out in the day-to-day I would have told you that there would be dozens of screaming matches, doors slammed enough to loosen the hinges, household items hurled and smashed, and regret aplenty. Rabid turning on each other would lead to guilt which would haunt for years to come. "Why do we do this to each other?" Such has been our normal reaction to prolonged, uncontrollable stress.

This time it didn't happen that way. Why? How can it be that I am so surprised, how can we have made it this far in our growth as individuals and as partners and not have noticed? Like Christmas in my heart I understand that God has given us this wearing down process to show us what we otherwise would not have realized. We are never so lost that we can't be found. Even again and again.

"God creates everything out of nothing - and everything which God is to use He first reduces to nothing." ~~ Soren Kierkegaard

Our lesson contains a nugget: The inner man is fragile and strong. Fragile in that neglect will dim it indefinitely. Strong in that sincere concern sparks re-ignition, eyes to see, to notice the starvation. Easy to dim the light, easy to become lost, for temporal things - though lousy substitutes - are great imitators. Inattention allows the fake to deceive, to mask the real, breeding a certain discouragement, for one senses that something is amiss, ill-fitting. Eyes to see, yes, to see and know that a precious thing is shriveling. Then, a heart to fight, a strong inner heart, engaged once again in the real.

For now the testing is over. Awake at last, Tom and I begin taking in our surroundings; we shake off the disorientation, look up and around, see one another, sigh. Smile. We made it. "Hello." Reaching hands, interlocking fingers, faces relaxed, feet walking toward the smooth path, for God knows how long. We begin to find.

It feels good under my feet, this fresh but known path.

I've missed us.

I've missed me.


tshsmom said...

Oh Cherie! You have just described the ordeals and triumphs of L and I. You have told the story so much more beautifully than I EVER could! You moved me to giggles and tears, all in the same post.

We constantly bickered and sniped at each other whenever we tackled a home improvement project. UNTIL, we had an emergency re-siding project 6 yrs ago.

We discovered the problem in September, and knew that we had to have the project finished by winter. We didn't say ONE cross word to each other the whole 2 months we worked on our project.

We didn't even realize this miracle had happened until SME called one day. She asked if we were still on speaking terms with each other. I told her that we hadn't yelled at each other once. We knew what needed to be done and kept plodding along in exhaustion to meet our deadline. SME couldn't believe it.

Ever since then, we've worked together like a well-oiled machine. Sure, we lose ourselves and each other, because we just don't have the time or energy. BUT, we don't hurtfully drive ourselves away from each other.

This fall, after 6 yrs of constant projects, we came out of our "disorientation". We looked at each other like strangers. Then we finally reached out, clasped hands, and hung on for dear life.

It's been quite a journey of re-discovery, but we know we want to go down that "fresh but known path" TOGETHER!

THANK YOU for your beautiful words!

Cherie said...

I literally got goose-bumps when I read your comment, Tshs. How can it be that we are living such parallel lives? Or are there many people like us in the world? Whatever the case, I'm glad you let me know that you understand - boy, do you guys understand!

"Like a well-oiled machine." It's much superior to the sniping and all, isn't it. Gets the job faster when one uses their energy for work instead of, in frustration, giving the other one grief. Ha! How nice to finally get here...whew.

It gives me great joy to read that you and L know you want to go down that 'fresh but known path' together. I'm very happy for you!

You are so welcome!

tshsmom said...

I had L read this post last night. He kept shaking his head, then said: "Jeez, that sounds just like us!" Then he clicked on your stream picture to enlarge it. He'll take pictures of every, and I mean EVERY, trickle of running water he sees in the mountains.

Cherie said...

Weird, huh, the similarity. It somehow helps Tom and I to know we aren't the only ones who've weathered such 'issues.' ;)

Most of the photos I post are ones I've taken. This one, however, is one my new acquaintance, Jill Homer, gave me. She lives in Juneau, AK and takes awesome pictures. I couldn't resist posting it here as I love the wildness of the water rushing downhill like that. It so looks so clean and refreshing that I felt it depicted how I feel now that the hardest part of our project is behind us. Kind of like WHOOPEE!!

Glad L enjoyed it. I, too, am captivated (and take lots of photos of) rushing waters.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this Cherie. Honesty like this can only encourage others to keep trying and have faith that things are growing and changing inside. I'm happy you and Tom are finding your way back together. Happy too that your house is nearly done. How nice!

Cherie said...

Thanks, Annie. Thanks a whole lot.

cecily said...

I loved this post Cherie... because we all lose ourselves really. Not in house renovations and extensions, but in all sorts of other equally demanding ways that show enough potential for good that we suffer through them. I'm not sure we all find ourselves afterwards (because I doubt we all take the time to go looking for the self we lost)... but I'm so glad you found you.

So I sigh a big happy sigh of contentment at the end of this...

Cherie said...

Thanks, Cecily. You are right that we all lose ourselves now and again in the cause of something or other. Some people stay lost - I'm glad I found me, too.

deanna said...

How romantic it can sound ahead of time - finding work for the hands, being given a useful, creative project that may help others. But, as you've eloquently described this past year, such projects are work, plain and unvarnished. Yet necessary for us to learn from. And as families we're all in these things together.

I relate, even though my project's a written one. A job's a job. Nothing magical, another part of life's curriculum. I treasure your insights, Cherie.

Cherie said...

Yes, part of life's curriculum, complete with pop quizzes and final exams. Thanks, Deanna!