Yesterday morning, after weeks of angst over which of my many not-very-inspiring priorities should be at the top of the list, I found myself sweeping aside my boring and tedious plans for the day. After filing some papers that had been lingering on my desk at J~'s house, answering some long unanswered emails, I ate a leisurely breakfast. And then, instead of gathering myself out the door and onto the long road home to run a million little very important errands, I found myself picking just a little bit more wallpaper off the downstairs bathroom, lifting just a tiny corner from the hallway, a tad here and there in the kitchen, and then stripping the entire kitchen, right down to the sheetrock. By the time I finished and had the room put together again, it was six-thirty in the evening. I felt great, though a little stiff around the knees.
J~ arrived home from work and we looked at paint chips. "I'm having a moment," he said, and his eyes got misty contemplating all I had done, how incredible his house is going to look, and just how invested I have become in it, and, most of all, in him.
He ate some bread and almond butter before heading out again, to catch up with his son at baseball practice. I relaxed on the couch for a few minutes, ate an orange and a piece of bread with hummus, and set off driving to the community center. My plans for a swim were foiled by a little thunder storm: community center policy is to close the pool. So I took a hot shower instead, and a long walk around and around the nearby high school track, while the storm passed overhead.
It felt great to be out in the evening air, watching the last orange and gold flame of daylight on the horizon, sky full of dusky storm clouds in every shade of moldering purple, flickering with lightning. I thought about a children's story I want to write that involves this kind of sky. I thought about how nice it felt to stretch my legs. I thought about J~, who had only just allowed me to go at this home improvement project in my haphazard, energetic way, rather than holding me to his careful, one-room-at-a-time approach, beginning with the smallest, and least interesting room, the tiny downstairs bath.
I don't want to move into his house before the place feels like home, and all my work: cleaning out his basement, gardening, combing craigslist for second-hand furniture, and now painting, are to move us in that direction. Supposedly we would get it in shape by the end of August, but I'd begun to doubt we could pull it off. I'm the one with time and energy for the project, but recently, I've hit a block. I simply wasn't enjoying it anymore, which took the wind out of my sails, and got me wondering if maybe I should be putting my energy elsewhere. "It's not happening fast enough," I had told J~, to no effect except to jack up the stress. And the pushiness felt wrong.
Still, I couldn't help but wonder if his reticence was larger than a need for order. Could it be that he wasn't ready to accept that the family life these walls had housed for so long was over and gone? Who was I to force that on him? But would he ever be ready if I didn't? Okay, okay, I thought, so maybe I don't move in until October. Possibly even November. Maybe, and I have to allow this, though it feels extreme, maybe I don't move in ever.
Once I faced that scariest of possibilities, owned it, realized it's better than moving in too soon, I was able to take the pressure off J~, and he, in turn, took the restrictions off me. "I just wish I had more time to be helping," he said, "But if you're into doing it, I think you should go for it!"
Apparently, that's all I needed to hear, judging by my weary body last night and the naked kitchen walls, just begging to be taped off and spackled today.
After several laps around the track last night, I flopped down on a big red high-jump mat. Something had changed. I felt happier than I have in weeks. What is it? I wondered.
And then I knew.
What's changed is this: I know it now. I'll be okay. Not because of J~, not because of anything he does or says, or whether or not we have children. I'll be okay because I'm happy right now. I'm happy now because I am following my own bliss. And I'm going to continue to be happy because I know how to do just that. There will always be fears and pressures and things I can't control. But when I stop looking too far ahead, clinging to a particular outcome, when I really attend to right now, happiness is not an elusive thing.
Life demands it, life encourages it. It's up to us to embrace it.