456 days and counting; “How’s the house coming along?” is a question met with varying degrees of stress. Before we broke ground in July of 2020, our dream home had been frozen for nearly six years in its conceptual stage. My husband, George, and I spent thousands of hours ruminating over the finest details to get it right. Like chiseling out our farm from raw land, we wanted to design our house from a blank page, drawing carefully and with purpose a home that would one day be a reality. I’ve been surprised to discover how emotional the experience of building can be.
Once the construction began new pressures began to mount, and my underlying insecurities surfaced. “How do I decipher everyone’s expectations of the new house?” “There are too many details.” “I can’t possibly pull this off.” “I have no experience; this is going to be a disaster.” These doubts double every other lie I tell myself, and I feel on the edge of creative burnout. 456 days and still there is no end in sight.
At times when these pressures seem to mount with a weight that promises to crush me, I take a step back and remind myself to enjoy the moment. As masochistic as that may sound, there is so much to gain when the stakes are high. I look with appreciation to the past when at times my life was flipped upside down.
Although I may have been convinced, I would fail, I lived through it; grew from it. When my children were small every day was a battle. I crumbled with self-doubt as I toed the line of perfect wife, perfect mother, and perfect teacher. I was new to all three and scrutinized every detail of my performance in each arena, all the while scrambling to work harder or do better. Striving for perfection day in and day out depleted me; I vanished before my very eyes, and I struggled to find joy in any of it.
Years ago, I was rushing my then toddler and infant through the grocery store on a typical harried afternoon. Exhausted from work and desperate to make an easy go of groceries, I was stressed to a boiling point as both kids were screaming and knocking products off the shelf left and right in utter chaos. An older woman paused her shopping to strike up light conversation. She spoke gently to each of the children gaining smiles and giggles, then turned to me and patted my hand gripped white on the cart. “The days are long, Dear, but the years fly by. Try to hold these times tight in your heart, before you know it, they will be grown and gone.
Stay strong, Mama, you’re doing a good job” she winked at me and went on her way. The wistful sadness in her voice shook me from my stupor. I saw this grocery trip in a new perspective. Seeing Emma and Broc so young, pudgy faced, and expectant; bored out of their minds. I found ways to engage them as we took to our shopping list in at an easier pace. I don’t know who the woman was that took the time to talk to my family, but her kind honesty changed my life—certainly the way I look at it.
I wish I had appreciated more of my awkward adolescence, experiencing a more mindful coming-of-age. Fear, doubt, and depression clouded my perspectives. There were so many years I took for granted: yearning for the end of school, hoping for a better job, looking for healthier relationships, or beginning the rest of my life, whatever that meant for my early twenties. A lot has been lost, like sand through my fingers as I grasped for anything other than what was in front of me.
Always in such a hurry to get something done or start something new, there is a blind restlessness about it. I don’t want to miss any more. I want to be engaged as my kids’ world expands. I want to take every opportunity to hold my husband’s hand. Never let a sunset pass by to finish the dishes and always give pause to whisper small prayers of gratitude whenever my spirit moves.
Three hours into searching lighting fixtures to find the right fit for the bathroom, and I want to tear out my eyeballs. Lights, tile, flooring options, and cabinets—don’t get me started on toe-kicks—there are so many details big and small to hammer out. I am swimming in facts and gallery shots for trim designs and grout colors. Do you think I have ever noticed any of these features before? Now, the decisions to-be-made appear to be looming over head.
My palms get sweaty as my builder looks for an answer and I feel the anxiety set in. When I give my order at a restaurant, most often I change my mind in the twenty minutes it takes to make the dish. The meal is delivered, and I chew regretfully as I fantasize about the other dish. How can I in good conscience be trusted to make decisions for our house; decisions to last a lifetime. Cue the sleepless nights.
Then I remember to cherish the moment. The experience of building a custom house is extraordinary, and perhaps we will never again have this opportunity. “Have fun with it. Don’t let this pass you by without relishing the experience for what it is,” I mutter to myself.
As the foundation was dug and the roofing laid, the walls were painted, and the tile floor sealed I captured the project diligently in photos. I am embracing the journey as it unfolds around me. I dare not dream it will be finished soon. I can’t bear to allow disappointment to shadow this time in our lives. The days are long, but the years are short, and I want to live it all as it comes.