We’ve grown used to the rhythm of life without a kitchen and have made the best of things for eight weeks so far. One morning I am scurrying to leave for the day when there is a knock at the door. An inspector from the city introduces himself:
“I’m here to check on the next phase of your project before work can progress.” Startled, I respond: “What time is my contractor supposed to be here to meet you?” He waits at the door while I call my contractor and discover he hasn’t even left home yet. He will definitely not make it in time to for the inspection.
After apologizing for disrupting my morning, the inspector excuses himself to look at the construction while I finish getting ready to leave. A few minutes later he knocks on the door again and tells me he can’t pass the inspection. As he begins to explain the problem, tears well up in my eyes and a lump grows in my throat. He can see from my expression that he’s hit a nerve and tries to reassure me with a personal story about a remodel to his home. He offers some empathy: “I know how hard this is, but you’ll get through it. It’ll be worth the headache when it’s done.” He’s the first person from the city who has stepped out of his detached,
businesslike demeanor to show some compassion. He’s an older man who is a fatherly type, making it even harder to hold back the tears. After offering apologies and instructions, he wishes me luck and sheepishly hands me a yellow slip with the word “Correction Notice” written across the top.
Before I’ve even closed the front door, I’m dialing the phone to call my husband at work. As I try to tell him what’s happened, I burst into tears and can hardly talk. Confused, he thinks something has gone horribly wrong and tries to get me to explain the situation. Really, it’s just run of the mill stuff that has been happening throughout the project. I cry into the phone telling him I’m sick of it all: washing dishes in the bathtub, preparing food on a card table in our living room, having flies constantly buzzing through our house with open walls and missing windows, having a contractor who keeps his word about 50% of the time… it’s all too much for me today and this failed inspection has just pushed me over the edge. It means taking time to correct mistakes instead of moving forward to complete the project. Everything is taking so much longer than it should.
My husband tries to comfort and reassure me and when I’ve finally calmed down, we say goodbye. I hang up the phone and new flood of tears washes over me. My chest heaving, I cry uncontrollably after holding it all in for months. It feels cathartic to admit how hard it is instead of dismissing it with a sunny proclamation and the resolve to be positive. I haven’t felt like I have a right to lament about a remodel when we chose to do it. How can I complain when it’s a privilege to even own a home? Still, I’ve discounted all of the frustrations, inconveniences and broken promises for so long that it feels good to just cry them out now.
As I’m blowing my nose and wiping my eyes, two workers arrive ready to start the next phase of the project. I hand them the Correction Notice and leave it to them to work out the details. I walk out the door over 30 minutes late for my meeting. My face is tear-stained, my make-up is smeared and my eyes are red and swollen. My emotions roil just below the surface and could erupt again at a
moment’s notice if someone even looks at me the wrong way.
The next day when the inspector returns to meet the contractor, I remove myself and leave my husband to handle the details with them. And that is how it works for most of the remodel. We seem to take turns being at our maximum level of frustration. We alternate roles as “good cop” and “bad cop” with the contractor. We rotate taking the lead to track him down when he goes dark for days at a time. We take turns trying to put the house in order when it is in a state of total
disarray. Mercifully, when one of us is at our wit’s end, the other steps in to take over. I don’t know how we could get through this if we weren’t in it together.
One thing I’ve learned is that it’s healthy to admit when things are hard. Naming our struggles out loud is like releasing a pressure valve. Having someone listen and validate our angst is even better. Sometimes we don’t feel we deserve compassion, but we still need it. When emotions run high, it’s best to allow
ourselves to acknowledge them. The alternative is to have them seep out slowly and cause us to become bitter or to explode suddenly and create a mess for ourselves and those around us.
I’m blessed to have a husband who listens patiently and shares the burden of this project with me. This is one of those moments when the marriage vow “in good times and in bad” becomes a tangible reality. As we walk through these challenging times together, we are learning to care for one another in new ways. Once again I’m reminded that good can come from even the hardest situations.