Lately, building a home feels impossible. Even so, I keep slogging along, not out of hope or excitement or joy, but because I feel shackled to the task. It doesn't feel like I'm living out my wildest dreams, it's more like my life is being held hostage by them.
I've all but forgotten there was a time when I didn’t subsist on cereal and pickles, gas station ice cream, cherry-flavored booze, ramen and cold hot dogs. I used to have a life where I cooked delicious things, had hot running water, a bathroom, and a washing machine at my disposal. It's hard to remember that there was a time in my life that wasn't based solely upon construction.
I miss Tyler. He's busy most of the time with his 9-5 (or 8-6 or 7-7), unable to join me until the end of the day. Trying to build a house without him makes me feel incredibly lonely and intimidated. Not to mention ineffective. When we work together, we get so much more done than I can alone. Not twice as much, more like three times as much. I miss my team.
This morning, when I headed up to the house, I was paralyzed by the never-ending list of things that needed to be done. It was all I could do to be in the space, let alone get anything done. I just stood and stared at the shaggy, uneven walls of our house while my brain assaulted me, listing everything we need to do in an un-ending stream of worry. My heart began to race and tears began to well up in my eyes.
Breathe Tara. Focus on one thing at a time, Tara.
And so I grabbed the weed wacker we’re borrowing from Charlie and trimmed the straw bales on the upper eaves and the upper gables of the cottage, spots I had missed during a previous trimming session. As the loud buzz of the machine filled the air, sending with it a flurry of straw bits…
All I could see was uneven framing.
The rafter I accidentally got too close to while weed-wacking, and thoroughly fucked up.
The door whose paint is peeling already because I didn't know I should sand it before I painted it.
The door trim that needs to be put on. (Affix it before or after plaster? Paint it before or after plaster?)
The box under the eaves that we’ll have to finish sealing with foam before we blow in cellulose. (How does that even work?)
The countless holes that need to be filled.
The thousands of tasks I don’t know how to do.
I’m worried about everything.
The work seems endless.
We will never have a house.
The bales will get wet and will rot away before we’ve even moved in.
It was foolish to build with straw bales in this climate, on this ridge.
We will live in that camper forever.
As I was working, my heart started to race and my breathing became rapid, anxious and desperate. When I realized I was hyperventilating, I let the flying straw settle to the ground, took off my mask, and walked away from the weed whacker fumes so I could force myself to calm down. My rational, focused mind was no longer on the winning side, but it managed to rally for one last battle.
No. Dammit, Tara. One thing at a time. Just keep weed whacking.
I picked up the weed whacker again to finish the wall I was working on. After another few minutes, a fleck of straw made its way under my safety glasses and into my eyeball. This was the same eyeball I recently had a chunk of metal in (from cutting blood lath) that had to be removed by patronizing doctor wielding a miniature ice pick and a tiny drill. Thank god for Tyler’s job with insurance.
While cursing and blinking furiously, I set down the weed whacker and headed down to the camper to flush out my eye with the drops that have become a routine part of my life now. “What’s the matter?” Tyler asked immediately, somehow sensing my upset despite the fact that he hadn't taken his eyes off the screen and is generally oblivious to the entire outside world when he is programming.
In response, I burst into full-on sobbing, and collapsed to the floor of the camper, its crappy linoleum cool against my back. “I just can’t bear to be up there." I said. "I hate it. I hate this project. I hate our house. We’re never going to finish it, and it’s going to be all fucked up before its even finished, and…
Tyler held my hands and kissed my face and looked so concerned for my well-being that I burst into tears all over again. "You're doing an amazing job," he said. "Learning so many new things is hard, but the house is going to be great!" For a few minutes, Tyler sat with me and comforted me, and then he left to clean up the work site a little so I could bear to return.
Building a house is really fucking hard.