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If I Start Screaming, Don't Mind Me

by Tara

Tyler wraps me in his mud-smeared arms, and I bury my face into his sweaty, grimy neck, whispering, "We can do this, right?" He's trying to keep it together as much as I am—we're both outwardly calm and inwardly teetering on the brink of total meltdown. Taking a deep breath, he responds, and the answer is neither reassuring nor depressing:

We are doing this.

By this, we mean getting our workshop foundation done before our timber framing class begins. Never mind building our house, when neither of us has ever done anything of the kind. Or finishing my book some time this century. Or wrangling the stupid wire mesh we're laying into submission so we can affix radiant heat tubing to it. All of this while squelching in a maddening mess of calf-deep mud.

Above all, I mean surviving this phase of our existence. Earlier this year we moved our entire lives across the country, setting sail into uncharted waters in search of a quiet life of gardening and homesteading. Right now, the safe harbor of "normalcy" is long behind us, and our destination is achingly far away. Who knows when or if we'll ever reach it?

Today, I feel like we're just bobbing along in the open ocean, slow, seasick, and dirty, with a never ending stream of sea monsters to battle. Being so far from where we've come and where we're going, it's easy to lose perspective. I find it nearly impossible to believe that we only moved out here three months ago—it feels like we've been here a lifetime.

It poured this morning, with an onslaught of torrential rains that reminded me of May and June all over again. We had intended on waking at 5AM to attack The Final Step of Finishing our Concrete Forms, but with drenching rains sheeting down, we slept in a couple hours longer, until the worst of the storm abated. Then, on our misty, dark, mud-filled hill, we got to work installing radiant floor heat tubing and laying wire mesh, the final two items on our workshop form to-do list.

I've been dreading this day.

Wire mesh is awful to work with. It's rusty and dirty, and even with gloves on, it somehow makes my fingernails feel chalky, which in turn gives me a nails-on-a-blackboard feeling no matter what I touch. It has sharp, rusty metallic spears sticking out of it every six inches. It snags on everything, including itself—the sharp tines weave themselves into everything, creating infuriating tangles.

As it rains in fits and starts, soaking our clothes, we fight through the mud, weaving unruly heat tubing through the web of rebar we've already laid. We need to place one run deep in the floor along the outer perimeter, as a "dump zone", something we now realize we should have done before laying the rebar. Every step we take knocks a few more carefully raked rocks out of place. Mosquitoes swarm around me, doing their drunken zombie dance, buzzing their ear-piercing drones as they land and begin to feast before I can swat them away.

We can only shimmy the heat tubing along a few inches at a time before one of us has to run back over to the main coil to dispense some more, trying hard not to tangle it, making sure we won't kink it as we drag it along. It's a slow, muddy, frustrating process that takes immense patience to complete. Once we have the first course of mostly laid out, we zip-tie it to the rebar every few feet.

Miraculously, we get two loops installed and we only kink it once. We have a repair kit, so we'll have to fix it eventually. Now, we need to lay wire mesh over the entire surface of the form, threading it over all the pipes and outlets we have installed everywhere. We complete the job, but not without cutting my finger open, blood mixing with mud.

Finally, I attach the mesh grids together with metal ties. It takes every ounce of my wherewithal to not run like a crazy person from the work-site. The stupid mesh won't freaking line up because the tines are all fucked up, getting caught on things. "If I burst out screaming suddenly," I tell Tyler, "don't mind me." "Roger that," he says, understanding. He's liable to run screaming, too.

After fighting with the mesh for another hour, the job is complete. All that remains is to run radiant heat loops over the entire surface. But that will have to wait until tomorrow. Right now, I need a shower, I need a break, and most especially, I need a hug.

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Of course you can do this!!! :D :D :D
Posted by Cori on July 28th, 2013 at 10:12 AM
Oh my lord, what we left you with that day! I so admire your courage and intrepid determination. Hang in there, guys.
Posted by Mary on July 30th, 2013 at 10:34 AM
Cori - Thank you! :D

Mary - Aw, thank you. We miss you two already! Hope Maine was wonderful. Love ya!
Posted by Tara on July 30th, 2013 at 1:03 PM
I really admire not only your determination and creativity, but your honesty about the ickiness and frustration that also accompanies "living the dream." If it's some small help, know that when you are in utter despair, you are still inspiring. My thoughts on reading these gloomy entries are something like "If Tyler and Tara, with all their amazing accomplishments, can feel completely hopeless at times, maybe I, though feeling completely hopeless at times, can also accomplish amazing things." Thanks for sharing the bad stuff along with the good, and I hope sunnier days are coming your way.
Posted by Jennifer on July 30th, 2013 at 5:19 PM
Jennifer, that was the nicest comment I think we've ever gotten. You seriously just made my week! I am so touched to know that some good is coming out of our struggles. Just knowing they're of some comfort and inspiration to you makes them easier to bear.

I don't know anyone doing difficult things who doesn't experience hopelessness at some point (or at many, many points) along the way. What helps me sometimes is to think of my life as a story. Any good story is going to have some seriously rough times that the main characters must overcome. It's the rough bits that shape the character, and cause her to grow and develop as a person. (Which is easy to see when it's a story, and less easy to see/appreciate when I'm the character in question).

If I can, I'd love to recommend a book: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. It really changed the way I think about life in general, and I think it would tie in nicely with the feeling of hopelessness and the doing of hard things. It gets a tad religious in parts (not usually my thing), but still I found the book to be fantastically transformative and inspiring. It's also hilarious. Anyway, I recommend it. If you end up reading it someday, let me know what you think!

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Jennifer. Just so you know, we're having the most glorious weather right now, and our various projects are coming along swimmingly. :D Hooray!
Posted by Tara on July 31st, 2013 at 10:47 AM

I am a bit behind but wanted to give you a big hug for all your muddy work. I wish I could send you some late winter Aussie sun, with resort stay and spa bath thrown in, wrapped in a hug. But know how much I admire you for doing the hard yards, and I hope they will yield much joy and rest later.
Posted by Cathy on August 10th, 2013 at 3:46 AM
Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Cathy. That all sounds lovely!
Posted by Tara on August 22nd, 2013 at 12:29 PM