Should it be surprising that as it has warmed up slightly in the last few days—from below zero to almost 20 above—the nano-catastrophes of the last week have found solutions? Perhaps I am warm brained.
We are settling into the cold. Flannel duvets on the beds, insulated shades in colder rooms pulled up only on sunny days over 10 degrees, lined pants and silk long underwear are not merely fashion statements and neither of us runs out of the house without coat, hat and gloves. Recently, I has a conversation about living in New York City with someone who felt that he would never move to the city because of the high cost of living. I thought it was about priorities—cultural, education and business opportunities, etc.—but he still couldn’t see it. Then I said that we choose to live in Wisconsin even though we are predictably miserable due to cold for at least three months, and many years almost six months, every year. Home, family, job, beautiful and vibrant town, public schools, etc.—a good deal of priorities.
Turning that idea over. And over.
So, challenges of last week—On Saturday evening, I lit a fire and smoke started pouring into the house. I put the fire out, opened doors and turned on ceiling fans, had Julia running to shut upstairs doors, overcooked the pork chops that were in the oven but salvaged the evening with only a slight scent of smoke in the corners.
On Sunday morning, we woke up to a dusting of snow. Accumulation was enough to quickly take care of it with the snow blower. But the snow blower, the one that was tuned up in December, didn’t start. First there was a whirring sound and then a little puff of smoke and then nothing.
And then there was the wii game that Julia wanted. She completed a behavior sticker chart before the winter break and I promised her Mario Kart 8, but at Toys-R-Us, we found out that it could only be played on the newish wiiU. We have the “vintage” wii.
Five years ago, these challenges would have fallen squarely on David’s to-do list. Not that David was excessively handy or knew anything about engines or had his finger on the pulse of video games, but he would have done the figuring out and solving. Are these mannish chores? Was that why he would have done them? Did my ambivalence have something to do with it? There were things that would have fallen into my almost exclusive purview—travel plans, landscaping, children, holiday planning. Some because of interest and some because . . . was it David’s ambivalence? Or my own decision to do wifely duty?
And what came to mind was all of those little preferences and tolerances, and how, by no choice of my own, I have had to pick up all the balls and keep them up, up, up, in the air. And what I have discovered is not new abilities and expertise, but my annoyance when I have to plunge into pools of David-ish chores which are, in truth, gender unspecific and completely doable by anyone, including me. I wish with all my might that I could hand over some of this stuff to some better half. Ah, yes. Back to the ‘slack.’ Going a bit deeper, I see the root of my annoyance—the anger of being alone and left—all of which needs release. After a moment (or two) of self-pity, I find my feet, and like in so many other challenges of these last four years, I actively seek adequacy, competency and even expertise. I have learned to ask for help, albeit by status posting on Facebook and texting with friends. The things that I had preferred not to do have not defeated me.
What saddens me some is that it took David’s disappearing to bring to my attention the depth and breadth of the ruts we travelled. Not necessarily unhappily or uncomfortably but I do wish we found the wisdom and trust to mix it up a bit. I have become at least adequate when I take up that which I shied away from, and I am sure David would have planned a splendid vacation or found a ‘perfect’ summer camp experience for one of the girls. We, or at least, I lacked some bit of trust. I had some ego invested in the wrong places and I could all too easily get lazy.
And I have changed. Changed a good deal. I am sorry that I could not change ten years ago or twenty, but happy that it has happened at all. And I hope that if ever I am partnered again, I can make shallower ruts and dance on the entire path.
*art by Duy Huynh