Making Space

My new husband and I have been busy lately, so busy that most of my normal daily activities have fallen by the wayside—including this blog.

We’re combining two households, four home-for-the-summer college kids, a dog, and a cat. To make space we’re finishing the basement of his 1907 home. This means jackhammering the old concrete floor, digging down another eighteen inches, creating new footers, fortifying the foundation, cutting windows and window wells, pouring a new slab, framing, and all of the finishing tasks that turn a cellar into livable space.

At the same time, we’re building a cabin about two hours away in the mountains. We’ve hired a crew to do the actual building, but my husband has been swinging a hammer nearly every step of the way.

You could call us ambitious or crazy, and both would be correct given the untold minutiae that we discuss at the end of every day. “Is the water pressure good enough in the mountains to avoid putting in a pump for the required sprinkler system? Will a 63” bathtub fit in that space? Where will the electrician put the outlets now that there’s a step of concrete running along the perimeter of the new basement?”

Did I mention that while this is happening, I’m readying my house for sale? Um, yes.

I can hardly keep up with grocery shopping, laundry, and pulling a few weeds in both yards. My exercise is sporadic and I don’t see my husband (let alone friends) nearly enough.

We know we’re incredibly fortunate to be able to do these things. These are big dreams we’ve shared for many years. But goodness we’re tired. We’re also disconnected from ourselves and each other lately. Last weekend, I’d had enough.

I wanted to burn our to-do lists and inflate our bicycle tires.

My sweet husband took it one step further and arranged a picnic for us. We took off with our food, huffing up a hill that is not normally so difficult. We arrived at a grassy park and unfolded our blankets under a tree. After a simple dinner, we lay on the blanket under the sky. And it was—every minute, every bit of food, every word of conversation, every color of the sunset—exactly what we needed.

We relaxed into each other’s presence.

For the past year, nearly all of our energy and time has been spent working toward aspirational projects. And while we’re excited about our future, we haven’t listened much to our fatigue or the birds singing beyond the windows.

I wonder if a human life requires equal measure of dreaming and being. Any dream requires an investment of time—graduate school, writing a book, running a marathon, starting a company, building a house.

But how much life can one sacrifice in the process? We live in a culture that seems to prize goals more than picnics. Last weekend my soul knew better. And this time, I listened.

(Artwork by Kelly Henderson.)