Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Other Room

I once told a good friend about a bin I had been storing with pants that had fit me prior to having children. As I am a tall girl with odd proportions, it is not easy to come by pants that fit me properly and when I find a pair that do, I hold on to them and never let them go. I keep them even if I am a whole bunch of sizes bigger. My friend kindly said to me that I should consider getting rid of my bin of pants because if I should ever become that size again, I may want to celebrate by getting myself a new pair of pants. She is so right.

I have a very real dream that has visited me regularly while I sleep since we bought our house and farm 7 years ago. Somewhere hidden in my house I find a door that opens up to another room. Sometimes the room is vast and full of potential uses or already filled with excellent things. Sometimes it is as simple as an extra closet or a hallway that I had not noticed before. In every case, I spend the whole dream wondering why I have lived in this house so long and not found this space. I always appreciate the new addition, yet can’t help but wonder how I missed something so obvious in my very own home.

As my year of unpaid leave from my job draws to a close in a handful of weeks I have to make a decision whether I will return to my job or not. I made a lunch date with my supervisor this week hoping that I would come to some kind of final choice before the meeting. Minutes before I saw her, I still found myself going over options in my mind. I usually make decisions very quickly – taking risks and trying new things is not hard for me – so the fact that 50 long blog posts and an endless amount of mind chatter later, I have still not found a solution boggles my mind. There is no easy way to turn on the staircase that you have worked so hard to make it up and descend back down to start your climb somewhere else.

What my job offered was a place to go to that I was paid to sit and think and read and offer my advice, to discuss projects with other adults, to worry only about feeding myself, and learn what was going on in the world while applying a bit of myself to it. At home, I talk to myself all day long, prepare meals for all manner of living things constantly, run circles around myself to keep things in order and often don’t know what goes on in the world until 3 days after it happened. These are two very different existences. My job also offers a pay cheque that provides not only additional security to my husband’s income, but the ability to spend freely on things like holidays, gadgets and home repairs. Because it is a federal government position, it also offers financial stability for retirement that cannot be matched by any other employer as well as health care and other benefits.

I do know that having the option to quit one’s job and forgo a pay cheque and the associated benefits is a total luxury. I am blessed with this opportunity it is true. This decision comes with responsibility, however, to run the household on less money and make productive use of my time doing things we might otherwise have paid someone to do. I have come to believe that saving money is a full time job. This is especially true with a couple of kids and a farm. I am expected to be resourceful and frugal in place of that pay cheque. If I have learned anything over the past 11 months it is that I do not need more money in my life. What I need is time. And time is what having less money has given me. Put another way, earning money took me away from my children, my home, my life, my husband and eventually my peace of mind. Nothing I buy could possibly be worth giving that up. And not spending money, it turns out, is the exact same difference as earning money.

Giving up my position at work (which is what I did) was like giving up my bin of favourite pants. I had worn those pants well, and although some days they were too tight or got dirty or someone laughed at me for wearing them, I began to feel comfortable in those pants. How can I throw that all away for an uncertain future? What if I never find pants like that again? But I had to admit the only truth that mattered was that the pants just didn’t fit me anymore. And like my friend says, if there ever comes a day where I am ready to jump into pants like that again, perhaps I will reward myself with a new pair. Maybe there are better pants out there when the time is right down the road.

Today I very literally began to make a hole in the wall in a room above our kitchen that we only use as a storage attic. There is a very narrow, dangerous staircase that I can barely make it up holding onto a toddler so I only manage to get up there once a month to find something or throw something up there that I won’t need for a while. The hole is going to be a doorway between our new addition and this attic on the second floor. Right now the only connection to the new addition is through one single doorway on the main level. We had always intended to join the children’s bedroom with the ‘storage’ room above the kitchen, but knew it would be years before we ever had the time or energy to make it a priority. The day has now come. Once the doorway is made, I will remove the staircase from the kitchen and build myself a much-needed pantry in my tiny kitchen.

So I can’t help but notice that the day I opened up access to a new room has come on the heels of leaving my job more permanently. If I could make sense of my dreams perhaps that was what they were telling me all along. Did they want me to look beyond the obvious into a space that was waiting there all along for me to use and enjoy? It does feel very cathartic to clean out the space and throw away a mountain of things to make room for a new beginning. Its not that there is anything wrong with the things I am moving along, it is just that they no longer fit into my life anymore. Do I feel relieved to have made this decision? Yes, but not in the way you would think. Rather than removing a burden, it feels a lot more like opening up a space and the relief is related to an ability to breathe into new possibility. Entering that space feels like coming home.

And yes, I did still keep that bin full of pants that don’t fit me. Some things take a little longer to let go of, I suppose.

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