My house is currently under construction. Everything is covered in dust, there’s plastic everywhere, a paper runway taped down over my floors, and electrical outlets dangling by wires hanging out of my newly taped, floated and painted sheetrock. My dishes are displaced, my toaster is no where to be found, and my refrigerator is sitting in the middle of my kitchen plugged into an extension cord.
Everything is in disarray, and it doesn’t feel good. It feels great. As discombobulating and uncomfortable as it is to have everything in my house out of order, I’m excited about it all coming together in the end.
This house was my grandparents and was built in 1971. While I am thankful for it, it was really ugly. I’m certain that at the time it was built, avocado green, harvest gold and orange seemed like a winning combination. I’m also sure the dark, wood paneling covering the entire living room, kitchen and part of the bathrooms was also very much in style then, and so were orange polyester bell bottoms. Some trends just need to die. It was time to make some changes.
My boyfriend, Kevin, (yes- an actual boyfriend!) happens to have quite the eye for design. He has a knack for looking at broken down buildings, and spaces in general, and seeing them not for the condition they are currently in, but for what they could be or can be. That takes both creativity and vision, both of which are just two reasons I love the man. He is in the business of transformation, in the non-metaphorical sense. He’s in the business of buying run down buildings and making them livable.
While I had a vague idea of what I wanted to see this house transformed into, he showed me a picture a few months ago from a photo on Houzz. Actually, first he asked me, “What would you think about painting your fireplace brick black?”
“Black? Well I had planned on painting it white, but what’s your idea?” The truth is, I really thought it was a terrible idea and there was zero chance that was happening.
Then, he showed me a picture on his phone of what he had in mind, and that became the vision for what the goal is for this house. Having a vision for the future- such an important starting point for any new beginning. So, slowly we began making changes.
After much deliberation at the Home Depot paint department, we settled on a charcoal paint color and went to town painting the fireplace. Kevin took me to a home design store downtown, and after hiking up four flights of stairs to the discount section on the top floor, we happened to come across two fantastic chandeliers. We took down the old, dark brown and brass fans. Up went the chandeliers, and voila! Magic. With just two small changes, the entire room was transformed.
Isn’t that just like life? Sometimes the big changes can seem overwhelming when you look at all that has to be fixed or replaced, but if you take it one small change at a time, it becomes manageable.
I look back at where my life was in July of 2016, two and a half years ago, and I see how much I’ve healed and how far I’ve come. Making repairs just takes time and patience.
Healing a broken heart doesn’t happen over night. Just like a remodel can be a real pain at times and all you want is for it to be finished, the same can be said for grief. There is no “easy” button. There is no fast forward arrow. You simply have to take it one small change at a time.
Also, just like in home repair and remodeling, you may find that the job is simply too overwhelming to do it alone. Maybe you need to find someone who is an expert and can speed the process along.
I found that as I got my spiritual “house” in order, God (Source) never failed to bring people into my life to help me along the path. There was Dr. Mark Tong and his retreat center in St. Pete, Florida, whose guidance, wisdom and faith helped remind me how big and how loving God is. He helped me begin to let go of what was not meant for me and believe that God’s perfect plan for my life was not a fantasy but a real thing. Just like Kevin showed me a picture of what could be, so did Dr. Tong.
Dr. Tong told me after my second visit to see him a year ago, that he thought I was ready to set an intention for a “complimentary soul mate. ” By complimentary he meant someone who was strong where I was weak and someone who was weak where I was strong. He explained that the bigger purpose of the relationship would be growth, and we would grow together. So, we did just that. We set the intention. I grabbed hold of a vision for my life that included love and a partner I could grow and move through life with.
He told me to practice saying “yes” to invites as you just never know when you will cross paths with someone who would end up being the life companion I long for.
Three months later, an acquaintance who my friend, Barbie, and I had met out dancing over Christmas texted that he was in town visiting his parents. He asked if we would be up to go dancing again. The last time I had gone was six months prior, and I do love to dance. So, even though I was tired, I said yes. Barbie and I arrived around 10:00 and headed in to meet our friend. A few dances in, a man approached and asked me to dance. What a surprise when he turned out to be an amazing dancer. I mean, a phenomenal dancer. Barbie, our friend, and I all danced, but after my second dance with this man, I just kept hoping he would stick around. He did. He hung around us for the rest of the evening, but I couldn’t tell if he was interested in me. I’m a little slow sometimes.
As the dance hall was about to close, I still couldn’t tell if he was interested, but the fact was he wasn’t sure if the friend I was with was my date. He disappeared for a minute, and then he walked over to me as I sat in a bar stool next to the dance floor.
“Well, I think I’m about to head home, and I know I’ll probably never see you again, ” he said.
“Well, that would be sad,” I blurted out.
“What?” he asked.
“If I never see you again,” I said. “That would be sad.
“Let me ask you something. Well, first of all, are you married?”
“Ha! No,” I laughed.
“Ok, well you’d be surprised.” he said. “If I were to ask you on a date, would you go with me?”
“Yes. Definitely,” I said.
He asked me to come over to the bar, grabbed a napkin, a pen from the bar tender, and wrote my name and number down on a napkin, then wrote his name and number down on another napkin for me. As he wrote, he had a few follow up questions to the “Are you married question.”
“So, are you a vegan?” he asked.
“I live on a cattle ranch…so, that would be a no!” Weird question, I thought.
“Do you like to travel?” he asked.
“Well, duh… who doesn’t!” I said.
“You’d be surprised,” he said.
He handed me the napkin. His name, Kevin, and his number were written on it.
I handed him my napkin, name and number included.
The next morning, my phone dinged the familiar “You’ve got text” ding.
It was him.
“So, I know I’m breaking the three day rule for contacting you, but at my age, I really don’t have that much time left.”
Okay. He’s a great dancer. He’s cute, and he’s funny!
One first date and eight months later, I’m forever grateful he didn’t wait three days to text me.
Love has been a long time coming for me. While dating Kevin has been beyond anything I could have hoped or dreamed of, it hasn’t been 100% full of unicorns and rainbows. Trusting has not been a picnic. Learning to trust has been no less than torturous at times. The after shocks of betrayal have left a mark, and I am constantly learning and maybe even more challenging -unlearning.
There are times that my knee jerk fight or flight has me wanting to sprint, full force, for the hills. I am grateful that in my moments of every cell in my body wanting to “take flight,” I have found a man who keeps gently turning this tender and terrified heart back to him.
He isn’t perfect, but like he always tells me, he’s perfect for me. I am also far from perfect, but together, we make each other better.
I cannot predict the future. I cannot change the past, and while I struggle at times to live in the present, I can only say that I’m doing my very best to move forward and to grow. I’m doing my best to not live life constantly looking over my shoulder or waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe, like writer Alan Cohen says, there is no other shoe.
Life is messy. Love is messy. None of us are perfect, but as long as we keep moving forward in love, even when we’re afraid, then we’re headed in the right direction.
The truth is, sometimes it feels much safer to not love anyone. If you don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable, then no one can hurt you. If you put up impenetrable walls around your heart, you are guaranteed safety. One of the bravest acts is to choose to love again knowing full well you risk getting hurt. The way I have to look at taking the risk to love again is that I have no control over another person’s choices, and if the person I love ever chooses to betray my trust, that had 100% to do with them and 0% to do with my worth. I do know that, and I learned it the hard way.
I have a feeling that this season of remodeling- this season of doing away with the old and replacing it with the new and improved was all a part of a grander plan. Life lessons are best learned in the context of relationships, and I know that God uses people to help us learn and grow if we allow it. There are no coincidences, just divine appointments.
I look around at my house today, and I see how beautifully it’s all coming together a little at a time, and I look inside of myself and see the same process unfolding. One day at a time, my heart has been healing. It was time for a remodel, and I think God knew who the perfect person was for the job.