Tear it all down


We’re going through a bit of a redecorating project this winter. We have lived in this version of the house for twelve years and now that the boys are teenagers, there’s less of the overall destructiveness that small children bring. We’re repainting walls, and replacing drapes and some of the furniture.

In the process, we are weeding things out. There are games the kids have outgrown or never used in the first place, cookbooks and recipe magazines I haven’t used in a decade or more, lego sets and  knick knacks i’m tired of looking at, outgrown clothes, and over worn blankets and throws. I’m getting rid of probably one large bag of stuff a week since the new year. Not enough by L’s standards, but I’m more of a collector than he ever was.

He once remarked that if there was a fire and we had to start all over again, it would be a relief. Although I don’t agree, I do understand the sentiment. If we were going to sell the house and move to our next adventure, it would be a lot easier for me to make these decisions. We’re just not at that point yet.

I’m writing this as our unexpected and most un-presidential president is giving his first state of the union speech. I can’t bear to listen, but L has it on downstairs (he’s picked up my political junkie habit where I have left it) and I can hear people applauding. The actual state of our union has me in a perpetual flight mode. As a fighter, I find this particularly unsettling. The game I have watched and written about for years has been upended and I am increasingly losing faith in our ability to eventually right the ship. The damage done is compounded every day by the rapaciousness of this man, his family, and the terrible people he has surrounded himself with. Nearly everything this administration does is the very opposite of the right thing to do. Every day brings a new act or policy of utter cruelty determined to tear our country down.

This state of our union makes me worry about our stability and security. It strips our needs down to the barest essentials, food, water, safety. I’m constantly worried about the reliability of our retirement savings. It’s growing now, but at what point to these supposedly pro-business decisions turn out to create the kinds of problems of the last recession? Businesses can’t help themselves, particularly when much of the risk is borne by the taxpayer.

We live a fairly comfortable life, but I still feel under siege in a way I never have before. I feel as if I should be preparing our escape plan or hunkering down to weather a storm. Either would give me a sense of direction I seem to have lost in the last year. As we’ve undertaken this project, a strange kind of renewal in this season of decay, I look at all our possessions and seriously wonder if I’m the same person I was when I acquired them, and whether they still mean anything to me.

I am no minimalist, but in the last five years my attitude toward stuff and messes has evolved. I never used to see the clutter. I lived in it and it never bothered me. Then, in the depths of a very difficult time in my life, I started to be far more affected by it. A lot of this stuff no longer comforts me, if it ever did. Nearly every day, I find something that I can part with. I’m not sure why that changed or what it means.

Perhaps it’s that when I am feeling frustrated, and stuck in a holding pattern, as I feel acutely now, I want to tear it all down and start over.

It just looks differently than it used to.

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