Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reflections on Taking a Break

Our lavender truck, taking a well deserved break under the Fall colors

We have been away from the houses the last few weeks, taking a bit of a break as we struggled to resolve the issues with the City of Berkeley. Despite the fact that it is painful for us financially, it has been a good break.

For me, it was somewhat enforced. I had to have surgery to repair a hernia - a minor enough procedure, but painful enough to take me out of the running for over a week. I had the surgery on the day before Thanksgiving, and though I was back at work on Monday, it took me longer to heal than I had thought.

The time off has given me time to reflect on where Tom and I are in our lives. I remember reading "Breakfast of Champions" as a teenager, and one line has stayed with me: Kurt Vonnegut wrote the book as a 50th birthday present to himself, and he said something along the lines of "Turning 50 is like crossing the peak of a roof - having ascended one sdie" I always knew that, past 50, the slow slide down the shingles begins, quickens, and ends with a trip over the gutters and a final face plant on the pavement below.

In my mind, I thought this change would be lessened for me than it is for most. By beginning losing my vision at age 23, I felt I had already addressed the decline that we all get to experience. Somehow, I had gotten there earlier than everyone else, and the increasing infirmities of davancing age would be easily taken in my stride.

But I find that I'm as vulnerable to this as everyone else. My vision has prepared me only to recognize that our bodies change over time, but this surgery has made me start to really see the view down the slope of the roof. It's an amaazing, awe inspriing and terrifying view, all at once. I feel more keenly than ever that who I am, and who my body is, are two very dstinct beings, and that my body is going to take a path that my mind cannot greatly control.

We all get to take this trip down, and it is in many ways a wonderful thing. Feeling the aging of my own body, and seeing Tom dealing with aches and pains that, at times, slow his step, continues to be fascinating to observe. How much worse would it be to confront mortality after having a life of no pain, no disabilities, no limitation? This slide helps us all prepare for that final free fall - it's frightening and beautiful.

The hernia surgery has also reminded me of another important life lesson: at 52, I should stop lifting radiators.

So now we are getting back into the swing of work. Our bond application is moving forward, and we hope to be back moving the Cheney Cottage very soon. As I type, Tom is on 62nd Street, finishing the laborious process of scraping the paint on the front of the Delaney house. I'll go over in an hour or so and put up all the colors we've chosen, so we can see how the house will look.

Soon we hope to have the two houses on the same lot, and electricity and running water restored. Then the real work can begin - the restoration of the Cheney Cottage, and the building of the new first floor for the Delaney House. This blog should go from being my railing against the City of Berkeley's draconian policies to being what I hadhoped it would be: an interesting tale of restoration of these two beautiful houses.

Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.