Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Rising Expectations

Well it was quite a day here at Codfish Towers. We put in motion the wheels of the machine that will lift the casa far above the murky waters. Think pyramid looming in the distant horizon. OK, think rambler about a foot and half higher. Fasten your seatbelt and please return your tray table to its locked and upright position. Things are going to start happening now.

We have been dangling on the horns of a dilemma about what to do and in what order. There comes a time when you have pretty much gotten all the negotiation coaching you can absorb, all the philosophical support you can warm up to, and all the data you can comprehend from the technical matter experts, and the logical next step is to make a decision. It can be easy to lose sight of such a simple and obvious step-wise process when your mind is fogged by illness, drugs, and a skim-coat of worry. Plus in this new age of consensus building, team orientation, and partnerships, there are almost more reasons not to make a decision than to decide. What is that expression, ‘analysis paralysis?’ That’s where I’ve been the last few days. Of course one can never see the future but it feels good to be moving on, this feels like progress.

I have been nattering at the suppliers about getting estimates to us (“I want my estimate and I want it now!) This of course has been complicated by the facts that;

  1. We had a holiday squeezed in there (at least they did) and,
  2. I am not the only person in the neighborhood with a fix-it project.

So today I got a call back from the carpet/flooring /counter/linoleum/tile guy. He was very apologetic. He said he had been, and still is very sick! He apparently has some lung infection problem and has had it for a week or so: chills, fever, cough, sinus congestion. By the time he got through describing his symptoms I felt about 6 inches tall. It was about a week ago that we met with him and at the time I had those same symptoms. I am not suggesting that I blessed him with my disease but I do feel guilty for leaving my whiney nagging messages. I did my best to let him off the hook. I let him know that I too had been under the weather and could certainly appreciate his circumstances. It is amazing how self righteous I can be at times.

Speaking of feeling like a science experiment gone wrong:
I’m feeling better today than yesterday. It has been sort of two steps forward and one step sideways, or back, or grab the hand rail and wait for the spell to pass. Probably the thing about pneumonia that surprises me most is how it wrings the strength out of you like water from a dish rag. This happens amazingly fast. I’m accustomed to losing my strength over extended periods of time, not in a matter of hours or days. Somehow I doubt it’s going to return at the same quick pace. My fitness follows the seasons, sort of like an apple. I’m not exactly a fragrant blossom in the spring, but by October I’m usually more like a hard apple. And of course by February I often resemble that apple that never fell from the tree. I’ve got to get out of that cycle.

I have spent long hours on the couch … breathing! This allows plenty of time to ponder. It is incomprehensible to me that I rode my bicycle across France for 90 hours a few months ago. I doubt I could swing a leg over the top tube right now, never mind ride around the block. Yesterday morning came knocking frosty and sunny. By the time I was out of bed and on the couch, the thought that it would be nice to go for a little spin was just that, a pleasant thought and no more realistic than clicking my heels three times.

On another front I had a really nice encounter with an old friend during the week. When I say old I mean old as in old like me and old like junior high school locker partners. He’s an architect and we’ve been corresponding a bit about ‘current events’ down at Rocky Acres. He’s given me a few tips and I’ve told him about a few of the things we have considered re-working in the house fix. The next step beyond painting the closet.

Yesterday arrived in my in-box a ‘concept sketch’ of one direction things might go. This is the guy who used to doodle in class and end up with the most perfect looking ‘chopped, channeled, and raked’ little deuce coup on his pee chee’s you could ever imagine. It was of course accompanied with a long note that explained why this or that design element might be preferred and what the up side and down side of certain building materials are.

And today arrived on the porch a care package he sent. He’d sacked up a collection of Consumer Reports from the last year or so, sent them off to me, in a brown UPS indestructo envelope. He must have known they would be chicken soup for a sick house and owner. Opening it up was a Rockwell moment; me grinning stupidly at all the pretty pictures and Chairman Meow rubbing up against my pyjama legs trying to soak up the good vibes. I have thumbed through the mags and see that I'll have better things to occupy my troubled mind with when I can't sleep at night. Replaying those tapes of my arguments with the insurance adjuster (edited with what I SHOULD have said!) really does not help me drift off.

It made me realize how little I know and how valuable communication and friendship are. It occurred to me that I’ve been cooped up here in this little house in someone else’s neighborhood for most of the last week. Chairman is not the best conversation partner. Being of ‘royal blood’ and yet having ‘survived the revolution’ he watches his words, so most of what he has to say to me is condescending or slightly sarcastic. (Remember ‘Wilson’ in that Tom Hanks movie Castaway? Except of course for breakfast time. He loves me for 15 minutes every day.

Poor Mrs. C works days doing the government’s business and then comes home for a second shift to care for me. Orange juice, magazines, and meds on schedule don’t leave her much time to her own interests. Plus she’s been over at the house emptying the garage in anticipation of the house raising.

More than anything, my talks with my old friend brought home for me some truths that I seem to keep bumping into lately. Interaction with friends, family and loved ones and even a condescending cat … (well maybe not the cat) is life affirming. Circumstances have conspired recently to orient me toward despair; it is possible to get into that ‘invisible loop’ and not realize it. I pride myself on my independence. Those two things, pride and independence can be a dangerous brew. I take strength where I find it. I'll gladly say that a good chat and a laugh with an old friend, someone who understands the nuances of good conversation is a great gift.

Something that this whole adventure has helped both Sheila and I to see is that we have not been very 'social' in the last few years. I think of it as an element of my nature; happier to be left to my own devices than to have to exercise my limited mastery of the social graces. Is this another of my invisible loops or just a chemical imbalance brought on by pneumonia and strong drugs? It has come to me time and again recently as people have reached out to offer us some kindness or other. We've been invited to dinner with friends a few times and in every instance it has been better than tolerable, actually enjoyable, much to my surprise. Either I am befriended by a special brand of humans, or humanity is actually more 'human' that I have allowed. Maybe people really are made in God's image (except of course for insurance adjusters).

This wisdom is killer. The older I get the more 'valuable' the 'stuff' I amass. And yet the more I realize that it's just dust compared to the relationships that I have developed. Mrs C does better than anyone in reminding me of this. It embarrasses me to think of how I have fawned over a titanium bicycle frame, as if it mattered one whit compared to the value of a friendship.

I have an eclectic collection of friendships cultured in many different, overlapping universes, parts of my life lived in different places and under different circumstances. I'm sure many of you might not get along with each other if you ever met (perhaps that's just another of my invisible loops, am I really the important glue that holds the six degrees of separation together?) But you are the treasure that I have, the things that are truly valuable. In an odd way it seems this little knock on the head was needed to help me re-evaluate my priorities. More than stuff, more than houses, or insurance claims, it’s the people that I know that are valuable.

You are a lucky person if you have even half as many good friends as I do.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, the Talmud teaches us that yes, even insurance adjusters are made in God's image. It's just that this particular image of the Divine has, um, grooved a little harder on the dark side of things than you and me.

    Hope you're on the mend, and quick! --B