Last year my advent was not one of quiet contemplation making room for the infant Jesus to be born in my heart. It was an Advent spent noisily culling my family’s possessions, loading a moving van, and, like Mary and Joseph, venturing to a new home.
This advent has not been quiet either, tearing out walls and chiseling out tile as my husband and I continue to remodel our home. But then I had surgery on Monday and I am finally still. Sore and prohibited from lifting five pounds for another week, ten pounds for a month after that, I sit in my recliner, atop a feather pillow and contemplate our future.
I received a packet of pre-surgery instructions and handouts to bring home along with prescriptions. At the surgery center, while one nurse tried unsuccessfully to start an IV, another explained what would happen once I was rolled into the OR. I was told precisely what to expect, exactly how to prepare.
If the rest of my life came complete with letter-sized folders and four-color printed sheets, I would know what I’d be doing a month from now, a year from now, when to fast and when to feast. But it doesn’t, and I don’t.
There was a job, one my husband was “promised” last spring, one that’s been our if-all-else-fails backup, a position that was supposed to be created specifically for him, to begin in February or March. But the hiring manager told us two weeks ago that he didn’t get funding.
“I’m a little bummed,” said my husband, the master of understatement.
I felt more than bummed, depressed and powerless, so later that day I swung a crow bar into some sheet rock, tore out a wall, and then slammed a hammer into the tiles of our downstairs shower. The crash of breaking tiles and the pile that built up on the floor below my stepladder were infinitely satisfying. I felt invigorated and powerful. In fact, I was so impressed with my own competence, amazed by my own transformation this past year, that I asked my husband to videotape me.
Demolition speaks to me, and allows me to see in a physical way that we are not bound by our circumstances, whether they be grungy tile and wallboard with rotting mice trapped behind them or unemployment. We can change our situation, our reactions, and our wall coverings.
And confirmation from the universe was infinite: The day after we tore out the shower, I was hired to edit a book. The day after that, I booked a fellow student from my MFA program to stay in our retreat in exchange for writing some online reviews, and the day of my surgery I received my first online booking in the retreat by someone I don’t know.
This week my husband had an exploratory interview, and next week he will be interviewing for two different jobs with major corporations he’s interviewed with before. One job, which isn’t posted to the public, he was recruited for. That’s a very encouraging sign. The job is also in California…the place we lived all of our lives, and left last year.
Kevin might not be offered the job, but the question, “are you willing to relocate?” is bound to come up.
He is for the right job, and the California job is a challenging, exciting professional opportunity. On the other hand, leaving this house we’ve worked so hard on with our Puget Sound view, is, as Mr. Understatement says, “kind of depressing.”
The idea of returning “home” to a place that’s no longer home has given us pause. But I am paused here in my recliner, unable to lift a laundry basket or a hammer, thinking about our future, preparing for I don’t know what, by using the skills I have developed in the past year or so as we have let go of the known and created something new:
I asked myself, “How could we make this opportunity exciting?”
I opened my laptop and relied on my go-to self-soothing habit—real estate websites—to both inspire and console me, and my search revealed these answers:
Keep this house. Live in two places. Figure out how to commute on weekends, or work remotely after a period of time. Buy a smaller house in California (we will need the mortgage deduction once Kevin has a salary again) than we would if it were our only house. Think out of our usual box: Live in a condo in San Francisco or a houseboat in Sausalito or a cabin in the Berkeley/Oakland Hills, or a small fixer-upper in San Leandro or Castro Valley with a Bay view, something urban we’ve never done before, knowing we can retreat and/or retire to our home on this island.
I would love to find an instructional booklet in my stocking Christmas morning, telling me how to prepare for what’s ahead. But I’ll settle for an Amazon gift-card and the realization that the next right thing for us has already been birthed and is thriving: our ability to embrace each other and the unknown without fear. For this gift I am so incredibly thankful.