Up-heaved and OK


A few days ago, on Thursday, we set to work preparing for the long-awaited remodeling of our kitchen. This past weekend was slated as demolition time – and that’s just what we did! We spent the last two days making a HUGE mess and then cleaning it up and hauling it to the landfill for a fond farewell.

As a bit of background, my husband and I have gone small room by small room, of our humble 550-square-foot house, completely tearing down each one to its fir studs since purchasing it in 2004. The kitchen has been the hardest to figure out, given the complexities involved (including an old brick chimney embedded in the cabinets and the fact that our kitchen is also our utility room, which houses our water heater and electrical box), which resulted in our having been stalled on just how to approach it for the last few years. But, alas, the time has come and we finally have a plan!

Our local Dharma teacher, Rowan Conrad, is fond of saying that you can tell your practice (of mindfulness) is working when you encounter a certain occurrence or experience and have a different response to it than you did before. While it’s only been a few days, in what will likely be a summer long project, I am already noticing a large difference in my relationship with this home renovation, verses that which transpired when remodeling our other rooms. I’m noticing not feeling full of stress and worry about the mess created, which inevitably accompanies tearing down heavy plaster walls embedded with mats of gridded wire. I’m noticing having a more realistic overview of our time-line, rather than chomping at the bit to get it all over with. And I’m noticing that I am filled with a deep and pervasive sense of gratitude: for the ability to do this project with our own hands, for my husband’s know-how, for my industrious nature and enjoyment of manual labor, for the satisfaction of bettering our home, for the sunny weather, for having an old Ford truck that managed to start up and haul hundreds of pounds of bricks, plaster, wood, and wire to the landfill, for my husband and I being well paired together and having different strong suits to bring to the table, and for both of us having a cheerful disposition through it all and being able to enjoy the process together with fun and laughter! It’s a true testament to the quality of our relationship as husband and wife, not to mention our own individual characters, that last night around 7:00pm, after two 10-hour days of hard labor, we could be seen in the Home Depot parking lot playing with the metal shopping cart that we used to transport our windows and door to our freshly emptied truck, with Mike wildly pushing me around as I rode on the cart in childlike glee.

The last room we remodeled in our house was our living room and it was so long ago now that I don’t even remember what year it was. But I do remember it being really stressful. I remember being grummbly a lot and short-tempered. And I remember feeling really inconvenienced by it all, passive-aggressively huffing and puffing my way through it. So this new set of responses is a welcome sign of transformation. I don’t feel weighted down this time – as strange as it may sound, I actually feel freer. Yet another experience that shows me conclusive evidence about how it’s not what happens that determines our quality of life, it’s our outlook and how we choose to respond.

We have a temporary make-shift kitchen that will suit us just fine and dandy through the work week, until we can make additional progress on the weekends, which, truth be told, I somehow like much better than our original kitchen. We have everything we need and so much more – a life full of abundance and opportunity and an inspiring level of the capacity for making joyful progress along the path of practice. What more could we ask for?!

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