“I am coming tomorrow to paint,” my friend, Joe said to me when he called me last Sunday to let me know. I had called him about a month ago and told him that whenever he was available to just let me know and he could paint the living room dining room area. Frankly, I didn’t think he would be calling me until September so when I got the call, I was unprepared (meaning I didn’t even have the paint colors picked out).
For many of my female friends, this last minute call to paint an entire living space would just not do. My girlfriend, Karen (you know BROCOLLI CASSEROLE Karen) spent months thinking about paint colors really taking her time to consider all options, where things will be going, what needs to be replaced for furniture. I admire this trait in her. I am the total opposite; throw me into chaotic situations and I am at my best. I love a good shake up easily welcoming disorder so that I can rearrange, purge and rethink everything with the pressure of no time. This may explain why when I had a flood at my business five years ago that took out 50% of it, I didn’t even shed a tear. Bring it on, that’s my motto. You know that phrase, “God doesn’t give you what you can’t handle?” The only time I actually enjoy hearing that phrase is from my neighbor Dottie, because she is my calm pragmatic eighty four year young neighbor. When anyone else says this, I usually find it irritating; I mean how does anyone (besides Dottie) know this. When she says her one liners, they help me feel peaceful and safe, like a mom is supposed to make you feel during times of distress. Like my grandparents helped me feel and my aunt Kiley always makes me feel. Disorder forces order. It is like the light after the darkness and I know the end result is going to be a big satisfactory sigh. Getting there is the climb and sometimes the timing is off. If there is in fact a God, God must really have high standards when thinking about the people to pile ‘life coming at you’ on. I mean in the scope of Life coming at me, most, with the exception of cancer, is not life threatening stuff. Inconvenient, sure, but it’s not like I am having to escape pogroms like my great grandparents. This of course is part of the problem I have in minimizing my life coming at me, the comparisons to ‘shit could be worse’ problems. There is always something for sure, but for the most part, nothing I can’t handle and half the time I am creating my own chaos party.
For example, I have been changing my company’s direction this past year releasing some tired services and bringing in new ones that have required me to step back into a full time front end role. “Where do you spend most of your time?” I get asked so often. My answer in the past is that I spend most of my time working outside and on the business (oh yeah and that pesky double breast cancer three surgeries in two years that has taken me away) rather than directly in the business. I haven’t spent four straight days behind the desk, answering phones, taking care of clients one on one for many years. Today makes it the start of the third full week. This has taken me some scope readjustment especially with the organization of time so the last thing I was planning was a simultaneous home makeover. Be careful what you wish for; this all started when I decided to move forward with phase one of J’s Junk. By the way I am embarrassed to say that J’s Junk phase one didn’t even make a dent in my living space. As time has progressed since phase one, I realized that I needed to move ahead with phase two which was to continue the process and really sift through my living space. J’s junk just got rid of the junk. My living space has the things that I love and the things that I used to love and this, like making hard business decisions, is where the tough decisions come in. So when Joe called me in the midst of my new schedule, I knew it was the best timing. Bring it on is when my entire living space is forced into mayhem. Not only does the change of paint color have to be decided in a nanosecond, but every single piece of art and furniture must be moved so Joe can actually find a wall to paint.
Thank you Pinterest. Sunday night was spent combing through colors and photos that in the past would have required me to buy about fifty magazines. I narrowed it down to some key colors and woke up on Monday with a clear plan for Joe. Moved all of my pictures and my furniture on my adrenaline rush and within twenty four hours my house was turned upside down. Because I live upstairs from my business, I couldn’t really put it back together while we are open because of the noise factor so there the chaos sat until each five am wake up where I could get in a few hours of organization. This type of living arrangement makes most of my chick friends likely have heart palpitations at the notion, but I actually enjoy the freedom of just leaving crap everywhere knowing there is nothing I can do about it. Releasing control, not easy for us Superchicks. When it is forced upon us, though, this is usually when the answers come.
What to do with sentimental items I no longer desired, but didn’t want to discard or sell at a consignment store? Also how the hell do I still have so much stuff ? Why do I have shelves filled with books I already read? The Jewish Encyclopedia of Religion? Jewish Home Beautiful given to me by my Great Grandmother Mimi as a wedding gift? Considering I was marrying a chourico eating, beer drinking Portuguese Catholic it was highly doubtful I would be following the guidelines for a “young Jewish bride” as the book assumed. I have dishes from my great grandparents on all sides, furniture, art. The list goes on. If I died tomorrow, most of this stuff would likely end up in the trash as my son would have no idea what to do with it and why leave him with this absurd energy draining burden anyway. So the lightbulb moment for me came on. I would take all of my empty Rubbermaid buckets I have from the J’s Junk takedown and create a bucket for each person I want to have some of these things. I will lovingly wrap and write a story for each about their contents and secure and label the buckets to give to them when I see them. I can’t think of a better way to make sure the items I feel are important to pass down while I am alive and well get there. What am I saving these items for? I have used them for my family gatherings and have shared their energy in a continuity that my old relatives would have been proud of. When my grandmother Isabelle was alive she used to love visiting me and walking around my house noticing all of the things she passed to me. She would always comment on how happy she was that they were being used and cared for. I love that she didn’t wait until she died to do this because knowing why she was giving it to me and what the story was behind it made it so much more special. Watching her joy also added to their special place in my home.
The strange twisted blessing of cancer is the awesome sense of urgency you take from the experience of having the privilege in facing your own mortality without the actual mortality. I mean we are all going to die. No one gets out alive, sometimes we have a closer taste of what this means by these unique experiences and this is what has propelled me into this organized chaos. My body has been turned upside down, my mind and my thoughts have been too. It is no accident that all of this need to reduce and shake things up is due to this life experience I continue to go through.
I am lucky I get to have this choice because this cancer was caught so early. There is the added weight of a BRCA2 layer that rears its ugly head just when I think I can give myself permission to forget that this part of my life is on its way out now. Knowing my son is going to be tested this week adds to the urgency of reordering my stuff too. Maybe this is the distraction that painting my upstairs space provided for me this week in the anticipation of this upcoming appointment. I don’t think I give myself enough credence for the stressful situations weaving in and out of my life. Having too much on my plate is likely just what, if there is a God, God would have probably prescribed for me knowing full well that this is exactly what I could handle. Once again, Dottie is right.