Precision: Slice of Life 22/31 #SOL20

Days before we all became aware of COVID19 and started practicing social distancing, we moved back into our house after nine months of renovations. While the world has changed so much so rapidly that I could almost swear we moved home months ago, we’ve actually been home for less than two weeks. And our builders only finished up two days ago – or maybe three? I honestly cannot remember.

The last thing the builders finished was the basement, and the renovations meant that we lost some of our attic storage space. Taken together, this means that we have not been able to unpack nearly as much as we would have liked to because we really needed the basement space for a) things that used to live in the basement and b) everything else. Mostly, we’ve been moving boxes to new temporary homes, cursing a lot, and swearing that we are just going to donate everything that’s still in a box so that we don’t have to make another decision. Things are so bad that I might have even taken that last step if only any of the charities were open.

Our house is still complete chaos.

While I am very, very far from a neatnik and can tolerate a fair amount of mess, I have realized over the last few years (ok, truth: after having children) that there is a level of clutter beyond which I get pretty stressed out. We have been there for weeks. No matter what I clean or move, when I turn around, more awaits me. Boxes are everywhere, taunting me, daring me to open them, their unknown contents laughing evilly, waiting for me to despair. My senses are tuned too highly: every noise bothers me, every touch sets my skin to alert (yes, I’m rashy); my tastebuds, oddly, dull & I sneeze often. Many days, I hide in our bedroom to avoid the onslaught. Sometimes I have trouble breathing.

Andre, however, is largely unphased. He spends hours in the basement moving things from the front to the back, from the floor to the shelves with dogged determination. He is calm, careful and confident, knowing that all of this will eventually be sorted out. He finds a happy medium between motion and perfection. He just keeps working, even when I try to pick a fight. He is measured where I am not.

This afternoon, trying to calm my senses, I steal a quiet moment in the sundrenched space of the new kitchen. I sip my tea, concentrate on reading, on writing, on breathing. At the other end of the room, hidden behind the kitchen island, Andre and our younger son begin a project. Andre tells him about the proverb “measure twice cut once.” They practice cutting; they roll something out. Oh! They are making a peel & stick chalkboard calendar for our family schedule. I overhear them measuring and measuring again. “Ok,” says Andre, “We need to cut at 24 and 7/8 inches.”

I am incredulous. 24 and 7/8″? Seriously? At this very moment in our house I cannot reliably find my bathrobe. Our kitchen things appear to have multiplied while in storage. Our younger son’s room is literally knee-deep in stuffed animals; the 18-year-old exchange student is on hour four of a “socially distanced” walk with his girlfriend (so let’s just acknowledge that there is no distance left there, thus undoing all of our work); I think my older child may have been playing video games for 48 hours straight; there are boxes in every single room of our home and, oh, yes we are in the middle of a global pandemic and my husband – a man I married on purpose – is cutting something with a 9-year-old so that it measures exactly 24 and 7/8 inches?

I start to chuckle deep in my belly. I feel a smile threatening to become a full laugh and press my lips together, hard, to stop it. My eyes crinkle as the smile fills my cheeks. Of course he is. In a world filled with chaos, Andre figures you might as well get the measurements right. When they get that calendar on the wall, it will fit perfectly, and it will stay there for years, I bet.

Suddenly, I can breathe a little more easily. Might as well finish up this post and then, I think I can tackle some of those boxes again. I’ll leave Andre to finish up in here. He’s got this under control.

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9 thoughts on “Precision: Slice of Life 22/31 #SOL20

  1. The contrast between your state of mind and Andre’s is compelling throughout. The way that you use breath as a sort of gauge for your level of coping gives this slice a deeper coherence even as you describe chaos in and through boxes. You will get there. 24 and 7/8″ at a time, but let’s guess more. 😉

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  2. Amanda, I needed to read your slice this afternoon. After another crazy day of trying to get rid of “junk” and so many other tasks that are driving me crazy, I am sitting here saying why is my husband flipping out. I guess everyone has the straw that broke the camel’s back point. Emotions are running high all over. We are on what our governor calls Shelter and Place which really means stay inside and that is unnerving. I am going to walk out the door and smell the trees to calm my nerves. We will all get through this and hopefully laugh and feel gratitude when COVID-19 is no longer a household word.

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  3. Well, hoping that this extra time socially distancing allows you to tackle those boxes at a pace that you and your hubby both feel comfortable with. I’m glad you are able to chuckle…laughter really is the best medicine!

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  4. You married him on purpose. We can see why. I can feel your anxiety from the chaos that comes with moving. I also laughed at the exchange student and his walk. You’ve got it all here.

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  5. Andre is your Mari Kondo, tidying up with precision. The personification of boxes is fun: “Boxes are everywhere, taunting me, daring me to open them, their unknown contents laughing evilly, waiting for me to despair.” Maybe you could film some box opening events and post them to YouTube and have a virtual party. Also wonderful climax in the tension leading up to Andre sitting with a 9-year-old getting the measurements exactly right.

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  6. So much to enjoy in this slice. Gosh…I could relate to how clutter can really get on your nerves and also to how your husband is able to turn it all off and just do his thing. Loved the part about your exchange students…gave me a chuckle. Sounds like you have your hands full. Hang in there!

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  7. Well, you two are perfectly matched, it seems! I love the sense of calm he’s providing, in the midst of the chaos. My dog is providing a little of that, in all of her ignorance about the state of our world. She requires little of me and is hugely predictable, in the midst of all of the unknowns. Cuddle time, being her favorite pastime. I loved the alliteration here: “He is calm, careful and confident…” and I learned a new proverb from André! I must take heed of that one more often. I loved the picture of chaos you painted in these words: “No matter what I clean or move, when I turn around, more awaits me. Boxes are everywhere, taunting me, daring me to open them, their unknown contents laughing evilly, waiting for me to despair. My senses are tuned too highly: every noise bothers me, every touch sets my skin to alert (yes, I’m rashy); my tastebuds, oddly, dull & I sneeze often. Many days, I hide in our bedroom to avoid the onslaught. Sometimes I have trouble breathing.” I had trouble breathing after reading!! I’ve also found myself worrying about you, thinking about how hard it must be to control the goings-on of an 18-year old in love. I’m writing a book of poems called, “Love in the Time of Corona”, but I’m quite sure that I’m not the first to think of the title. 😉

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  8. Measure twice, cut one. Learned that from a contractor acquaintance and sounds like those are words that Andre lives by. I smiled myself at your well-crafted escalation in the second paragraph after the intervening photo montage, the contrast between you and Andre.

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  9. I love, love this line: “In a world filled with chaos, Andre figures you might as well get the measurements right.” It’s a nice thought for right now. I love how vividly you’ve described the chaos. Hope it gets better soon!

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