2018 has started off differently for me. For years I have begun the year with the chorus of chipping away at a series of long-term goals: paying off debts and renovating various projects, like my beloved VW van or literary bed and breakfast. As a result of all this chipping I have made enough headway to actually cross projects off the list. The van is out of the garage—largely thanks to Jock and Darrell of Silverlake VW. The Loft above the book store is open, and debts are paid down to the point of having only one credit card. I almost don’t know what to do with myself.
This year I have one resolution: to progress the renovation on the Market Street house to the point of getting it open as a B&B by early summer.
“That’s not really a resolution,” a friend responded during conversation.
“Oh, yes it is,” I answered. “My life is starting to feel like a country western song, and I need to finish this project.”
Rather than an ethereal resolution of “work on completing long-term goals,” it is more of a concrete one: finish a specific goal. I think it is more life changing than losing 15 pounds or taking up jogging. There are a lot of subtexts to my resolution: financial stability is one goal, and with it, the ramifications of what that means for my loved ones and bookstore staff.
It is really like misdirection in a magic act—a means to an end and using distraction to mask a true purpose. First, I am going to ask encore’s readers to forgive me because I know I talk about the project a lot. Partly, it is because it is so important to me and my lens for seeing the world. Partly, it is because the idea of a family home is one many people can understand and thus makes for a good metaphor to discuss weighty topics.
Last year I had to get the slate roof repaired. The idea of a leaky roof and the trouble it causes is something most people can relate to (the price tag for slate roof repair, however, is not). For almost a year leading up to the decision I planned to do it myself, Jock and I consulted our friend Stephan at The Camelia Cottage Bed and Breakfast who did his own slate roof repair. We bought a book. We watched video tutorials, and after much discussion, Jock convinced me to hire Francisco to fix the roof. As Jock is fond of saying, “If you don’t have a roof, you don’t have a house.” As a metaphor for life, it’s pretty powerful.
The overarching protection is it creates safety and security. We don’t notice it on calm, sunny days, when life is fine and the winds aren’t blowing, but when we need it most—when we notice every leak, every fissure, every hole. We see all the things we needed to attend to before they were called upon to protect us. In other words, like the relationships we depend upon to get us through hard times, they need nurturing when everything is great to make them grow and develop.
A leaking roof does seeping damage down walls. I spent a lot of time last year (and will this year) replacing rotting wood and fixing plaster that has born the brunt of the leaks. The stress, the fractures the damages, of the winds and rains of life are insidious and creep in when you aren’t looking. But, with time, effort and care, repairs can be made and walls can be strengthened. Though they might be as beautiful, they can be even stronger than when they were first built. Sometimes we have to learn to love the very wabi-sabiness of it all.
“What about the drip?” Allison pointed at an almost-finished wall in a B&B room. There is a large paint drip that, at this point, to undue would require a week of moving furniture, sanding and repainting.
“Well, we are just going to have to hang a picture over it,” I responded. “At this point, I don’t have the time or resources to mess with it.”
Behind the wallpaper in the adjoining bedroom is a crack in the wall that is discoloring the wallpaper. “What about that?” she pointed to the line.
“We are just going to have to live with it,” I responded. “It is an over-100-year-old-house; there are imperfections.”
“I guess we’ll hang a picture over it.” She smiled.
These are small things that could become huge setbacks if we let them—which is really one of my failings. I dwell on small, inconsequential and don’t-matter things. If anything, the house renovation is really teaching me to focus on the big picture and keep moving forward.
It’s only January but so far there have been a lot of lessons about setbacks and what I can’t control—like the weather and its impact on plans, cash flow and crisis management. The snow and ice were far more detrimental than I expected or budgeted for. Of the big picture, I’m still working, chipping away, trying to keep my head above water, and get a line of sight on the next bit of dry land. Somedays it’s all I can manage. On others, I can see a big picture and put the priorities front and center.
The fun part is getting to finally do some landscaping and planting in our backyard gardens. We all like new growth, the hope of possibilities it brings. A big part of the year is going to be dedicated to planting and tending new growth in the yard (which will be “A NC Poet Laureate’s Garden” with décor themed around the work of NC poet laureates) and in my soul. Eating from the land is very important—letting it sustain and nourish us as we tend to it is a life-long relationship I aspire to attain.
So here is the subtext of my resolution: I need to get to a stronger, safer place financially, so I can be there for Jock when he needs me. I am working toward actually having some sort of financial cushion when it is needed. Jock falling through the floor last month was scary. Six years ago it would have destroyed us monetarily, now, thanks largely to Medicare, we are going to be alright.
Most importantly Jock got medical care within an hour of his injury, and within days he had reconstructive surgery. The first morning he was home from the hospital, he walked to Folks Café with a walker. My gratitude knows no bounds—that he is back together in one very functional piece—but the whole experience also reminds me we need to go have adventures together sooner rather than later. My hope is getting the house functional and bringing in a little income (instead of just guzzling resources). It will allow a little breathing room to take off in the Volkswagen with Jock and see some of our beautiful state—maybe even some more distant parts of the country. Even if we only drive around the block, if we do it together, I will be thrilled.