The sound of metal scraping back and forth across our wood siding wakes me up and leaves me with a fractured dream. An electric sander hits a piercing high note as it smooths down the pealing paint across the walls just outside my bedroom window. The painters have been here daily for almost a week and have become my makeshift alarm clock. I'm groggy and not quite ready to rise and shine; my thoughts meander from my dream to thinking about all of the layers of paint that are stacked neatly one on top of one another, built-up slowly over the past six decades with a kind of quiet history in their color wheel.. I'm safely cocooned in my bedroom, nestled in bed, inside the sturdy walls that we call home.
Colors of bright turquoise, pastel yellow, powder blue and cotton candy pink adorn five of the structures here at the Ponderosa, a nickname bestowed on our property by a dear friend. Hues once chosen for their beauty by the previous owners, have taken on the characteristic of a muted rainbow splashed against the aged wooden siding of these funky little houses. Our home resembles a prop set for a 1980's children's television show. Yes, I could definitely imagine My Little Pony and her posse of tiny little horses getting into some trouble around here. We've lived with (ahem, tolerated) these colors for almost a decade.
The patina on our current home seemed like a beautiful metaphor for the patina of my life. I've been so immersed in conjuring up the past this year, and exorcising some of it from my physical life, that I think I've forgotten how all of it has added up to exactly where I am now. The ugly can be beautiful, too. Just like these five rainbow-colored boxes we call home.
The minimalist-driven purging binge that I've been on this year has helped me to go through dozens of bins of outdated stuff and really helped me let go of the old stories I was telling myself. I had childhood home movies converted into a digital DVD and that felt so satisfying to gift to my parents, my siblings. All the other stuff - The wedding album from my first marriage? The wine-stained wedding dress from my second marriage? The mound of blurry photos of random people that I don't even remember their names? Well, I burned all of that stuff in a raging bonfire and said goodbye to that young woman who made shitty, shitty choices. And you know what? It felt so damned good.
Sometimes I feel exactly like these old buildings I live in - sturdy and worn. At other times I take on the empty space that separates them, the leaky kitchen window and the settling foundation. Spackeling and duct tape can hide a multitude of sins, but when things are too big to handle on our own, we often turn to the professionals to help us out and do the heavy lifting.
I've been in therapy for six years and I feel ready for a new paint job, so to speak. I've worked hard on my wonky hard-wiring and rearranged all of my emotional furniture. I've recently quit drinking and started attending AA meetings. Foundation work is hard, but so crucial to the structures we add on top of them; husband, kid, in-laws and friends.
I think the slow and steady build-up of dirt and soot on my home can be likened to my string of lifelong bad choices and self-destructive habits. It feels so satisfying to know that maybe all I needed was a good power washing. The hard-to-remove spiderwebs stuck on the front porch of my life simply needed to be examined for their unique beauty and life-living lessons; it turns out that only after careful examination am I ready to truly get rid of them for good. I'm learning that I don't have to abandon myself or my family in order to accomplish this. All I need to do is pull out the big broom and brush them off myself when it feels right.
This whole house painting endeavor made me think about my own transformation this year so far. My word for the year is SHED, the noun and the verb. What better way to visualize the work I'd been doing than by actually painting the three sheds we have lived and worked in, right? I didn't plan on painting my physical house this year, but it seems so appropriate. Hiring the painters was all my husband's doing; he hired the painting crew, picked the color and ran it past me. Hammered pewter? Sure, fine by me.
Normally, I think I would have obsessed ad nauseum about the paint color choice for the exterior of our little farmhouse, but not this week, this year. No, siree. I had bigger fish to fry with a looming algebra test on the horizon, my soccer mom duties, continuing to purge our belongings and trying to stay sober.
When I pulled into our driveway and saw the freshly painted facade of our home, a feeling of renewal washed over me. Our home had undergone a baptism of sorts and now it was renewed, reinvented, refreshed.
Just like me.