When I first heard about the construction project the contractor planned for the vacant lot between us, I took it in stride, imagining that its effects on me would be simply annoying. I had no idea.
The noise began in December with backhoes. It crescendoed in January with the addition of a backhoe three times the size of the first, a dump truck, and a special machine to pound the newly excavated dirt solidly. Think jackhammer, accompanied by a choir of grunting, growling machines ripping the earth with giant maws, beeping shrill voices with each backup, creaking and groaning as they swivel to rip again.
Inside my apartment, that chorus vibrated my floors and everything on them, including me and my cats. The cats responded with diarrhea; I got my first headache in 30+ years.
A writer friend who lives in complete isolation in the woods said, “Just consider it white noise….” Uh huh.
By February the large machines began their retreat until there was only a crane to pour cement, and it snowed: quiet bliss!
Then the framing began. Multiple hammers and saws do not shake floors, but when the pneumatic hammers shoot nails around each orifice of that structure–two houses each larger than mine–the effects in my apartment are cats scrambling to hide under the bed, and me looking for the aspirin.
I tried getting up at 3 a.m. to get in a few hours before they began. That worked for about a month. I tried staying up into wee hours. So against my internal clock which has always gotten up at dawn and gone to sleep by 10 p.m.
Ultimately, I packed tote bags for activities I could do off premises:
- Writing at the library: a very heavy laptop
- Soaking at the hot springs: swimsuit, robe, slides, towel, etc.
- Hiking: special boots, hat, gloves, coat, water bottle, snacks
- Working out at the gym: gym rat stuff
But none of those bags could be left in the car overnight because below-freezing temperatures would damage the contents. That meant lugging them up and down the stairs each morning and evening–a challenge that proved to be too much considering a temperamental old knee surgery, the walk across inevitable ice, and my flight of stairs.
Finally, I just gave up. I recalled our conversation when the contractor told me late December about his plans to develop the lot. I commented, “I won’t be able to do my life.” His reply was the same.
Suffice it to say, I have conceded that for the next ? months, he gets to do his life, and I don’t. I don’t get to write, I don’t get to “clear clutter,” I don’t get to read the 400+ emails that have stacked up in recent months, I don’t get to… Fine. I’ll simply have to create a new life–something I can do until he finally finishes his weather-drawn-out project sometime in May.
I must be stubborn as a mule. All this time I thought I could “practice yoga” with this experience, be the Wakame that “goes with the flow.” LOL! What this experience has taught me is this: when the building is on fire, even your guru will be heading out the door!
I totally get it now. This is a time for me to be somewhere else, doing something else. This is a time for me to get out of my house, out of my life, out of my rut.
Who cares if my apartment is cluttered? Who cares if I answer email “in a timely fashion?” Who cares if I don’t write another word until June? Maybe by then I’ll have something worth writing about. Whew! Huge shift.
I had been laboring under the misconception that my tiny life mattered. When I couldn’t do it, I felt anxious and desperate to find a way around the challenge. Now I am reminded of one of my favorite sayings: “Sometimes you just have to let go.” (That’s me talking to me on pages and pages of my journals.)
“Just letting go” is what I think Panther was doing that afternoon I followed her in the yard around the house. She was a graceful, petite, short-hair black cat with upward-slanted emerald eyes, an indoor kitty who I thought had escaped her human’s apartment. I was following her to help her get home. I wasn’t running or shouting or doing anything remotely threatening, but she knew I was following her, and she didn’t like it. All at once she turned to face me, holding very still. Her posture demonstrated great courage. When she recognized me, she came to me and let me pick her up.
Like Panther, I stopped running, have turned to face my challenge–that I can’t do what I want to do, that I can’t “do my life.” I now see how ridiculous the perceived danger actually is. In the greater scheme of things, it’s simply annoying. My life is not threatened simply because it has drastically changed. On the contrary, this monumental irritation could be the best thing that has happened in a long time–a jolt sufficient to dislodge me from my “stuck place.”
Till next time, I’ll be Skating Thru the obstacles of my construction challenge while holding an in-the-moment posture, accepting the gift proffered: an invitation to explore a larger experience outside my rut. How about you? Have you turned to face your demon and found him “ridiculous?” (Harry Potter reference).
Related articles in this series re’ living next to winter construction: