Right now, I have a low-grade headache and my eyes are just beginning to water. I am home, but I spent last night in a hotel, the same hotel to which Tikka and I will retreat this evening as well. And so, once again, my plans are more or less on track, but the path has shifted and even perhaps meandered a bit. I have a friend who always says the plans are "firm as jello". It is a phrase I have pretty much taken to heart, as it mirrors so closely my own approach to life. You can plan and plan, and then you just have to let it go.
The flooring installation team will arrive in a few minutes to resume gluing down the new flooring in the master bedroom, the same engineered hardwood floor that matches the rest of the house. I had requested vinyl in that room when the house was built, knowing full well I would eventually need to replace it. But the process of aging can be rife with indignities and I was tired of scrubbing grout and carpet, and far too aware of the tendency of liquids to run between the floorboards. Perhaps wisdom comes with learning to accept the things you never wanted to know anyway, and then moving forward.
What I didn't anticipate was the fumes from the glue. It began when the vinyl was removed, but continued through the gluing of the floorboards. Burning, watery eyes, draining sinuses and a growing headache told me that I would not be sleeping in the house, and so other plans were made. I had thought that I would use my retreat to write a blog post, perhaps read, or knit. Instead I found myself overwhelmed with exhaustion, ready to do nothing further than watch tv, let my mind decompress, and go to sleep. And so I slept, slept better than I had for a while, not because the hotel was more comfortable, but just because I was in a space outside of my own routines and obligations.
And here I am again, home, enduring the headache because, well, I have stuff to do here, stuff that I will do best here, at my own desk in my own space, with occasional breaks in the fresh air. I am here because I want to be here. Granted the heat and humidity don't make the fresh air all that inviting either, but then, no one ever promised me that the world would revolve around my wishes and preferences.
And I am excited about the floor. I am excited about the process of moving things back into the bedroom, even though most of that will wait until tomorrow. I am very aware that my ability to replace the floor, my ability to chose to escape to a hotel in the evening, even my ability to chose where and when I work are all privileges. They are privileges I have worked for, but they are privileges none the less.
"Firm as jello". Even privilege is a tenuous thing. You can work hard to achieve a certain place in the world, perhaps even come to it by accident. But despite all one's effort, the result is still a tenuous thing. Circumstances can, and often do, conspire against your will. You may never achieve your goals; even if you do, you can still lose it all. I am comfortably secure. And I can make good choices with the goal of maintaining my status, my privilege, if you will. But if I am wise, I also have to admit it is never all about me, or my work, or my choices. The world intrudes. The unexpected and unanticipated intrude, and sometimes they intrude in terrible ways for which we are not prepared, and we all have to adapt. Hopefully, learning to adapt, and learning to let go, come with age. Increasingly I think this is a significant part of what we call wisdom.
I am not really a particularly patient person. I know people who think otherwise about me, but this is simply because they only see one side of my personality. Like everyone I know, I want safety and security and simply to be happily ensconced in my own little safety zone. But I also realize that there is no such thing. I see it as an illusion; an illusion I may yearn for, but an illusion none-the-less. We have to change to survive. The world changes around us daily, and eventually we have to change or be overwhelmed.
And it is this part of me, this part of me that sees change as constant, this part of me which is a corollary to the "firm as jello" part of me, that gets frustrated and sometimes impatient. I do get impatient with people who dig in and refuse to change, especially when they see the need intellectually but can't bring themselves to venture out of their comfort zone, especially when they say they want change and yet can't, or won't, take the necessary steps. I get impatient but not angry. This is one of the reasons I am not a person who has a natural gift of healing or soothing others. I can be good at seeking compromise, at moderating, but I am not a healer. I am far too impatient.
What people don't see is that I am just as impatient with myself. I get frustrated with others, but I get equally, if not more, frustrated with myself. I find self-forgiveness far harder than forgiving others. I don't hate other people, but there was a time in my life when I hated myself, and I do know how difficult it is to let go of that self-hatred. I do know that I often fall victim to the same pigheaded determination to be right and to be safe as any other person I know. It seems I am constantly learning about new blind spots. Each blind spot I overcome seems to reveal two more. I hope this is the path to something or someplace better, because it sure is a rocky road. I get frustrated, not because I think I am better, but because I am well aware of how treacherous the road can be, of the boulders lurking around the corner, and because I don't want anyone to fall by the wayside.