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So. Lately I haven’t been feeling very creative – in fact, most of the time I’ve been just trying to cope with the disruption that comes with any renovation – let alone one as unplanned and uncertain as this one has been. Any journal pages I’ve done recently are just too private to share (and would probably be boring for you to read, anyway!)
I adore watching “Grand Designs” – and always said to myself that if ever I had the chance to build a house, I’d have everything specified before the first sod was turned* – these people who are all wishy washy with their plans and want to change the placement of entire rooms (but the plumbing’s already done! Arrrgh!) have me shaking my fist and the tv and my head in wonder. How could they let themselves go so far off their original plan, and so far over budget?
Finding something that needed fixing on site – earth that was mooshier/crumblier than expected, a site that needed extra conditions for planning approval – I could understand how that blows a budget. And I’d feel sorry for those Grand Design people, where things were genuinely out of their control.
And I feel a bit like our house has been out of control. The renovation keeps popping up unexpected expenses. As I’ve mentioned before, we are EXTREMELY lucky and grateful that we can afford to fix things that need fixing – I just wish that we didn’t keep finding even more stuff that needs doing!
Case in point:
The laundry, loo, pantry and patio are all additions to the house – but built in the same style as the rest of the place: that is, by an amateur with materials that were probably stolen from one of the nearby timberyards. And because things weren’t done properly, and because the poor little house has been owned by poor people (including us!) with no budget for maintenance, things have Gone Wrong. And now they Need Fixing. Note the batten that doesn’t reach all the way across in the laundry roof picture…
Still, we’re getting there. I’ve been very anxious and when I get anxious, I can easily spiral into panic, and then I have ideas that I can’t breathe (exacerbated by a snuffley nose from allergies and general dust) and – I struggle.
One of the most useful things my psychologist has been working with me on is self compassion. And last visit, she told me about the Struggle Switch. Such a simple idea – pretend that on the back of your neck there’s a switch, and a dial. So you can reach around and turn off the struggle switch, and turn up the willingness dial.
The other tool that’s been really helpful is a short journal list that I’ve printed out onto pretty scrapbook paper and bound with two rings – I first saw it on Jule Fei-Fan Balzer’s site, but I know she got it from someone else (but I can’t remember where!)
It’s a quick way to take stock of what’s happening right now – a useful mindfulness tool. I don’t write in it every night, but when I do, it’s very calming. The words down the side are: weathering, listening, reading, drinking, wearing, feeling, wanting, needing, thinking, enjoying, wondering.
It sounds almost too simple to work, but slowing down and writing answers to those 11 questions is often enough to stop the panic from spiralling.
And here’s another two important parts of my life that keep me going:
*And when I did build a house, way back in – hmmm – 1988? I had everything done in ONE visit to the spec builder’s office. And we only needed one change once the build was in progress – and that was hinging a pantry door on the opposite side so it made more sense.