For the last three years, our apartment has been perpetually under construction. When we moved in, the house (in which we reside in the basement) was two colors, white on the front, yellow on the sides. Our door painted burgundy. Our door is only 5’5” high. I can stand in it and just miss the edge of my head. Our laundry room is accessed through another “short door outside. We had hot water heat with old school furnaces. But, we could afford the rent as two unemployed newlyweds, one of which just finished a degree and the other in year two of four in medicine. The neighborhood gets more shady as you go up the hill, but our neighbors are great, the landlords are friendly “out around da bay” folks. We are a 5min drive from both hospitals, our church and two malls.
The construction began shortly thereafter. It seems my landlord is famed (at least to his wife) for coming up with various projects. They have another house “around da bay” that he has been working on forever. This one is his other project. Apparently he “was going to side the house” for the past few years. The projects occur whenever he happens to be in town (an equally sporadic occurrence) and consisted of him siding the entire house, putting in new windows in their half, building a new set of front and back stairs for their part of the house… Our apartment projects until recently were when we were away for holidays. One Christmas cocking windows, another, replacing broken tiles. The summer before last, new windows, this past summer, putting in electric heat. The whole electric heat affair is something that caused us to rearrange furniture and everything. I still haven’t recovered. This year, while on my one week of vacation between third and fourth year, he cut a hole… A HOLE… in the office/spare room and installed a new window, but then decided to move some old pipes and the room is still not back to normal. Apparently he wants to replace some of a wall in there next. My textbooks are covered in a thick layer of sawdust. Last year, he re-floored most of their house… including on my post-call days. He is planning on taking down walls and making the apartment bigger and connecting the laundry room and such… Perhaps even a full size door. He has already started preliminary work… Jackhammers and the works. He asked if he could take down our living room wall sometime in April (right around my licensing exams). We politely decline. We are moving come the end of May anyway. Sometimes we get volunteered to help. On my vacation, I was peacefully knitting and watching Gilmore Girls when I got recruited to help build a wall. My favorite is when Patrick helped hold some pipes that he wanted to cut. Sparks started flying and the landlord started cursing. It appeared there were some wires in one of them… yes, wires. We then had said wires hanging down in our bathroom for the next few days until he got the appropriate stuff to attach them to the wall.
We appreciate that he is trying to improve the house. It would just be nice to not live in a perpetual construction zone, complete with noise and personal space disruptions. I have to say, I am thankful for our affordable housing, pleasant neighbors, friendly faces and the improvements to our lodging over the years. It has confirmed that I will likely buy a house that needs little work and will live in it as is until it is excessively outdated just to avoid the chaos and noise and mess that comes with renovations. I am so anti-change and renovations at times that our dresser, that we built ourselves upon moving in cannot be changed out until we move. Sounds normal, right? The thing is, it was a Wal-Mart bargain build-it-yourself contraption… It didn’t stand up well to my volume of clothing and such. The drawers have all fallen in on top of each other. I go to bed at night and have to move Patrick’s underwear drawer from the bed. Yes… his entire drawer because he has to take it out to get to his shirts. We have fixed it countless times, but now its beyond the point of no return…The drawers go back in, then one by one fall down on each other within a few days. Building a new one would disrupt not only our budget, but our time. We move in a few months. I will wait.
Renovations in our lives can be just as noisy and messy. We are creatures of habit and when those habits become engrained, it is difficult to break them and more difficult to create new ones. Making space for new family members, dealing with the death of a loved one, trying to develop healthy habits and break bad ones… they all resonate into aspects of our lives we don’t anticipate. Eventually, things get cleaned up and look shiny and new… or at least different.
People deal with really big life changes and come out on the other side almost unscathed, and yet changed. Today, in clinic (procedure free – day 3!), I saw someone who had been in remission three times and was in clinic to be reassessed for surgical resection of his third liver metastasis in the last 2 years. He told me of his lifestyle changes that came from his cancer experience, how he learned to value his time more and how he changed his diet and exercise. He also talked about how it changed his family. How he reconciled with his son after his first diagnosis and that though strained, they have developed a relationship. He told me of how they had to rearrange their entire schedule for his current chemo regimen. While saying all this, he smiled and said, despite all of the difficult times, he has grown into a better person. This is not always typical, but such a diagnosis does remodel lives in one way or another. Unfortunately, he had multiple metastases in his liver measuring over 3cm each and too little remaining liver, so chemotherapy is his only option at this time.
Some people don’t change in the way we expect; the smoker who doesn’t quit despite lung cancer diagnosis, the criminal who steals the day after she gets out of prison, my habit of putting too much spice in my spaghetti sauce despite Patrick getting heartburn each time. Some of the change may not be visible, maybe the change wasn’t in the way we hope, but has made a step in some direction that has yet to declare itself. Maybe it is a conscious choice not to “renovate.” With each opportunity to “renovate” a seed is planted, the idea revisited. But, change is scary. Necessary. But scary.
In our household, we have tried to make renovations for God. We have been striving to do nightly devotions both alone and as a couple. At first it was a struggle, mainly for me to maintain consciousness, but now it is happening. A little remodel can go a long way. More recently, Patrick has become the director of our church’s “Wonder Ministry” for 3 and 4 year olds. I find myself supporting him in this role. It is messy at times… paper jams and crumpled photocopies. The frustration of contacting volunteers. This ministry is out of my comfort zone… I’m more of adult or baby person, but he is built for this. It is taking extra time and energy, but overall, it is just another remodel we are going through for him accepting a new role and me being supportive. God is preparing us for a big move in less than a year. I think He is working through these little remodels to prepare us for bigger changes to come!
Well… That was a cheesy ending. I will try to minimize those in the future.