Okay, I know I’m a little slow with a new post this week, but hopefully you will somewhat understand the reason when you’re through reading it.
The last six weeks have brought home some forgotten elements of how we react to events in our lives. I had forgotten, or at least paid little attention to, a lesson that was learned over twenty years ago. Six weeks ago I chronicled the sudden interruption in my life as a result of a simple leak in the water supply line on the toilet in my bathroom. Since the initial clean up at that time, absolutely nothing had been done to begin putting my home back in order. I had learned to live without electricity in two-thirds of the downstairs and the appearance of a disaster area there, and in a portion of my bedroom. I said, “learned to live with,” I did not, however, say that I’d become comfortable or happy with it.
Twenty-five years ago I landed my first job in the home remodeling industry and was fully expecting to learn new things about construction and kitchen and bath remodeling, which I did. The lesson which I had no idea was waiting for me was one which I was slow to learn.
I would meet some absolutely lovely people along the way. They would tell me what they had in mind for their home; I would visit the home and gather all the information necessary to begin making the changes and improvements they had in mind. Drawings would be prepared, eventually they would approve of what was proposed, a contract would be drawn up stating in detail what was to be done, what each element was going to cost and they would give me a deposit so the process could proceed. During this phase, the relationship I had with them would be excellent. Soon, however, as the time for the actual process of doing the work neared, one of them and at times both of them, would begin to morph into what I considered nut cases. Dr. and Mrs. Jekyll would become Mr. and Mrs. Hyde.
I couldn’t understand for the life of me what had happened. Had I done something to offend them? Had they misunderstood something in the contract and were now having second thoughts? It was baffling to say the least. I don’t remember what event or series of events occurred, which finally triggered a revelation for me, but eventually I did figure out what was happening.
Home is our refuge. Home is where we retreat from the eyes and ears of the world. Home is where we generally feel the safest and most protected. Home is where we can shed everything from our clothes to our pretenses in absolute safety if that’s what we choose to do. Home is our nest and that is what it’s all about.
It made not a whit of difference to my customers that they had asked for it, paid for it, invited us to disrupt their lives, because they didn’t foresee the emotions and feelings that would be generated by the process of some total stranger coming into their home and, to all intents and purposes, trashing it. Having a total stranger, which in the case of tradesmen can mean a rather scruffy looking character, regardless of how nice they are, or how respectful they are, in your home and in some cases in the very inner sanctum of the master bath, will tend to drive even the most understanding and perceptive of us, crazy; just plain crazy.
What I eventually learned to do was, upon the signing of the contract I
would tell them that quite possibly they would begin to feel nervous and
distraught about what was about to happen. I would tell them that in all likelihood
they would feel violated and upset. I would then tell them that when that
happened they should call me, I would hold the phone at arm’s length, they
could shout and scream for a bit and then we would get on with improving their
home. Often I would get a call from the homeowner telling me that they were
indeed nervous and thanks for the warning. Never once did I have to hold the
phone at arm’s length after that.
The understanding that I eventually acquired by a process resembling osmosis was, however, pretty much academic until one morning in the late summer of 1996 when our own nest was suddenly disrupted by a faulty valve on a water softener. We awakened that morning to a truly “sunken” living room. I quickly learned what it was to have total strangers all over our home, at what seemed to be all hours of the day and night. I felt violated. I felt vulnerable and unsafe. Now at last, I was truly empathetic to the emotions experienced by my customers, especially those whose homes and lives were disrupted by the unexpected such as a flood, or worse fire. In those cases, more than the inconvenience of disruption, the loss of precious possessions is tragic.
So, even though I’ve been there, done that before, it’s been an unnerving six weeks and counting. I find that to bring perspective to my life it’s necessary for me to consider what the people in the path of Hurricane Sandy have been forced to endure; damage far worse than I’ve suffered. And the horror of what the victims of the terror in Boston last Monday leaves me with a sense of shame that I should have uttered even the slightest complaint for the events of my life. Their “homes” have been damaged far worse than anything I can imagine, and will never be the same again; not ever. There is no way to give advance notice of such horror, and tragedy, such I was able to give to my customers. Given the alternative; thank you Abba for the blessing of a mere leak in my bathroom.