unpacking a life


“Energy flows where attention goes.”

For the better part of two years now, my husband and I have been consumed by building our house.  First, eager to find land, then happily researching various house styles, designing the house and coming to a mutual agreement on (almost) everything.  Next, phase two began – finding an architect, then onto interviewing local builders, and visiting numerous job sites in order to inspect the quality of each builder’s homes.  Initially it consumed us in the most beautiful way. It was fun, inspiring and lovely: like watching an artist’s rendering come to life before our eyes.  Then all of a sudden, as if it had risen from the ugly depths of the mud pit surrounding our house site – inconsistencies and uncertainties arose from every direction.  We’d no sooner plucked one out and five more would appear; like dandelions on untreated grass.  Before we knew it, life had become a bed of unwieldy weeds.

Lately our attention has gone solely to fixing problems that shouldn’t have been problems.  And our energy has gone to expecting even more problems.  As a result, our brains have been in full out combat, crisis mode for longer than I care to remember.

This house building project of ours has been a heart-breaking and soul-building adventure.

It’s felt much like climbing an invisible mountain with no vantage point, horizon or ending: as obstacles have been thrown in our path one after another nonstop, leaving us emotionally and physically exhausted.

Just recently I was venting to a dear friend about the atrocities of our building ordeal.  Her kind ears listened with the skill of a good friend’s heart as I gave one minute detail after another, not believing it either.  My frustrated words flowed until I heard myself say, I feel as if I haven’t unpacked my life here yet.  Obviously, I wouldn’t make for a good contestant on Survivor!

During my rant I realized that I hadn’t, yet, left my imprint on this place we now called home.  It had gotten lost on the road to nowhere marked with detours and dead ends.

Our current surroundings (and by current I mean two years), full of cardboard boxes and half unpacked this and thats weren’t just aesthetic.  They’d become literal in every sense, as our so called delivery date was pushed back over and over again.  Like a false labor gone mad.

Giving silly things such as mismatched furniture, no decorations, scattered samples and cardboard boxes, an importance they didn’t deserve.  Silently taunting me as if they were in cahoots with all that was wrong.  They’d become symbolic of the uneasiness we were experiencing.  Leaving this slightly (completely) OCD girl feeling out of sync with the universe and myself.

I knew instinctively that in order to figure things out, we needed to stop and take a breath.  To be still and pause.  Unfortunately our house nightmare left us in crisis mode “24-7.”  All systems on lockdown, in preparedness mode for what was lurking around the corner.  My heart has been racing in my chest for so long now: (telling me I’m on high alert), that I’ve forgotten what normal feels like.  And while I’ve never been a fan of normal (spelled backwards it secretly reads-boring), I would settle for just a wee bit of it right now.  I hadn’t been able to read or write for almost a month.  I found myself feeling that dreaded familiar uneasiness: the one I felt many times when our son was ill.  Always anticipating another something bad.

Isn’t that the very worst feeling – when we begin to expect another bad thing? YES. It is.  It’s heart wrenching to be disappointed in human kind. To almost lose hope.

Often the most difficult journey, the journey inward, to our place of truth and centeredness: is scattered with odds and ends so mismatched we see no way of making our truth fit into our life.  So it remains vague and mysterious, like that of mist rising off water, until we allow the light to filter through.Image

These are the lessons hidden in the mist.  The ones you learn to wait for.  Until the light reveals a truth.

I once wrote that the truest love lies in the messy parts.  Coerced and configured by life’s demands…this house has had a lot of messy parts attached to it.  Our bizarre experiences since we’ve been here have involved too many messy parts. Way too many.  Still, our love remains true.  Our vision intact.

One truth I know for sure: love and hope can only be found in the places you see with your whole heart, messy parts and all.  Our hope was diminished briefly, but ultimately love is our reality and our absolute truth.  Our constant.  Greed, lies and deceit are fleeting in their so called victories.

Love is stronger.  Always.

Truth will not remain in the darkness, it unveils itself in time.

Hindsight has wisely pointed out the countless warning signs that arose along the way.  The ones we failed to heed…hoping for the best.  Thinking we could make it better.  Hindsight – that wonderful sage.  If only we could pickle it, put it in a jar and pull it out when we need it most.  But how then would we develop the brilliant, complex layers know as character.

For each and every destiny there is a broken road that leads us to where we are meant to be.  This broken road we’ve been on for the past two years has bent and twisted us to the point of (almost) snapping.  ALMOST!

Not so fast universe!  Stay with us as we continue to bend our thoughts toward the sunlight once again.

It seems somewhat foreboding that one of my recent posts was titled – A House is just a House.  We almost stepped away from the house, deciding to put it on the market: deeming it just a house, wanting nothing more than to be released from all the negativity that seemed to encircle it.  But dammit, we’ve literally and figuratively put our blood, sweat and tears into this HOUSE OF OURS!  So for now, WE will occupy it (when it’s completed?!?!), WE will take a respite from all crisis scenarios that have been representative of life as we know it for the past two years, and WE will finally begin to experience a phenomenon know as FUN, again:

As for what happened…some things are better left unsaid.

One last truth I know for sure: coming home, whether it be a rental or a home you own, whether your order is truly orderly or whether your order is chaotic. It is yours.  For two years – not having unpacked a life, has felt like a song without a melody plodding clumsily along with no direction or cadence.

To have a home, unpacked and open to receive…is the peaceful easy feeling at the beginning and ending of every day that’s been missing in our world.

There is a door that beckons us to cross over to the threshold of our dreams.  Behind it lies a feeling essential to the human soul…a sense of home.

When we recover from our PTSD, brought on by witnessing atrocious acts of the building kind, we’ll decide (eventually), when and if we’ll move and whether or not we will build our dream home again.

But for now (and by for now I mean an undetermined amount of time after we move in), we’re going to give our road-weary bodies and minds a break…

I’m thinking sandy beaches and rum punch for starters! Who’s with me?!


“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Martin Luther King


24 thoughts on “unpacking a life

  1. Two years is a long time to live unsettled, I can’t imagine. You definitely are in need of some rum punch and sandy beaches, Karen!

  2. Yes it is, Jill!!! And being a ridiculously organized person who loves to decorate almost as much as I love to write doesn’t help! Oh waiter…I’ll have another. 🙂

  3. I SO needed to read this post today. Spot on! “True love lies in the messy parts” -I love it! Make your rum punch a double 🙂 Cheers!

    1. I’m so happy that this resonated with you, Kristen. Thank you! I try my best to write from a place of rawness and reality, and hopefully the beauty will be found in that. And now I must make my rum punch recipe…Cheers to you, my friend! 🙂

  4. Karen, this says so much. I feel your pain and angst about wanting your life settled. I hope you don’t mind I re-blogged 🙂 (and I shall join you in the rum punch) 😉

    1. My most sincere thanks, Jen. I am so honored that you found this worthy of re-blogging. This was both difficult and cathartic to write. Feeling grateful this morning. Blessings, my friend. ❤ ~Karen~

      1. You are most welcome, this touched me and was a beautiful write. I felt your words and wanted others to read. Have a beautiful day Karen xx

  5. Reblogged this on Ramblings From A Mum and commented:
    From Nestinspirations – if you don’t already follow Karen, please take a look. This tale of hers is wonderful.

  6. I’ve found my way here by way of Jen at ramblingsfromamum. I come with ready supply of rum punch because you so deserve to kick back. Two years! I don’t know how you’ve held on to your sanity. I had my kitchen remodeled a couple of years ago, which took a m.o.n..t.h. Only one month and wanted to skip town. Here’s to you. Hang in there.

    I’ll by back to cheer you on. 😀

    1. Thanks and welcome! I like the way you travel (rum punch!) Well, trust me somedays my sanity was hard to come by. I LOVE the name of your blog and I look forward to spending time reading it. Be well. ~Karen~

      1. You are WELcome, Karen. Your adventure has me intrigued. I shall be back to read yours as well.

  7. this is such a wonderful allegory for life and all it’s travails and happy moments and everything in between. being in limbo is the hardest place to be, i think. i wish you both the best with however it all turns out, along with many moments of peaceful rest and a feeling of being settled at last. )

  8. Thanks for your kind words and wishes, Beth! You are absolutely right – being in limbo is the hardest place of all. No action plan can spring from it’s void. but – We. Will. Make. It. Work. 🙂

  9. I know this is silly but I feel your pain in a few ways… I had to leave a house we built from the ground up, my ex lost his job and simply sat, thinking unemployment would be his contribution. We were married 13 years, he gave up his car to repossession and started to not pay my car payments. I was working as a teacher, trying to beat the 2008 deadline of ‘having a master’s degree in your area of teaching,’ taking classes and working four nights at a restaurant to pay the course work costs. I ran out of time, the last 3 classes were being held during the day, I could not afford to quit my job or take a hiatus. After all the trying to ‘tread water,’ the home that I had hand painted violets on a cream ribbon of paint where the bathroom had been combed with dark violet over lilac paint, sunflowers in my laundry, a cliff painted in our office, tin signs and a finished basement with a fireplace and beautiful everything: Lost! The couple who bought it one week before repossession said they would keep all the paintings and loved the way I had painted denim squares in a checkerboard in the kitchen border. They told me I could ‘visit’ my artwork and sit in the garden where I had made a sanctuary for birds and wooded area. I had to ‘retire’ and now work at a manual labor job at a warehouse. My Dad is sometimes whispering in my ear, “Your work does not define you, Robin!” One bedroom apt. and divorce from ex, have made me content with what I have… Thanks for listening, edit if this is too long, just commiserating about your unpacked life! Smiles, Robin

  10. This is not silly at all, Robin! I commend you and celebrate you for having the courage to survive. It’s sad when we encounter people who don’t seem to realize what treasures they have. Sorry you had to lose all the beautiful work you’d put into your home. Do you ever go back? I’d imagine that would be harder still.
    My father used to say, “Don’t be defined by your circumstances, but rather how you choose to define them.” Growing up, we got tired of hearing it – little did I know what an important role it would play in my life. It sounds cliche’ but it really is all about attitude isn’t it? It doesn’t mean we never get angry or sad it just means we don’t “live” there.
    I admire your strength and your spirit, Robin! And your Dad was right – your beautiful spirit defines your life!!!! And your true life story is never too long, my friend.
    Thank you for sharing your story – it means a lot to me.
    I’m traveling in Maryland (home) for two weeks and have missed writing and reading blogposts (my other home) so I’m attempting to catch up between visits with family and friends.
    Be well, my dear! ~Karen~

    1. Enjoy your respite and I am glad you got to escape your place with unpacked boxes, Karen! It would be very trying on my patience, waiting for the new home (for TWO years!) I know you will be so glad when it is finished! I have several dear friends who have lovely homes, which I am always so grateful to be included in parties. Along with two of my three children being adults, have homes and children. I enjoy that they have made some of my little traditions for holidays and favorite dishes, part of their own family’s lives.
      Thank you for such encouragement and kind words about someone (me) you have just become acquainted with. At the same time this was all going on, I have to include why I am never really complaining about this. I had a teacher in the next room, who was my role model and ‘mentor,’ although ten years younger. She died of cancer at age 41. Made my whole ‘disaster’ seem so minor in comparison. Jean was a wonderful woman who I was so glad to have shared being ‘teaching neighbors.’

    1. I thank you kindly, Roy! And welcome. 🙂 ~Karen~

  11. Karen, I hope you are able to move in soon. I have a girlfriend who was in boxes for around two years or more and she really suffered as a result. I think it is in all women’s nature to have a nest and when you have a life of boxes your nesting instincts can’t be fulfilled. At least you have love. Imagine doing it without love.Love your Martin Luther King quote and a rum punch sounds just the ticket. Cheer Irene

    1. You are so right, Irene – it is our nature to nest! There’s not a thing I can do to make cardboard boxes pretty! I can’t imagine doing this without love either. I need to get over to your blog. (Had to go home for a funeral last week.) And I think it’s time for a batch of rum punch! Be well. ~Karen~

      1. I’m sorry to hear that Karen. Just drop by when you can always a coffee in the pot. I’ll make sure I drop by you at rum punch time. Take care Cheers Irene

  12. How beautifully written! And I love the similes. Yes, we all need to nest, wherever it is. Perhaps our most important ‘nest’ is already there, always, in our hearts.

    1. Thank you so very much, Pam – your commentary is greatly valued, my friend! And you are right, our most important nest IS already there…but it can only tolerate so much! We have, still, at least six weeks until move-in date. Ugh. I see that light – I really do! lol All the best. ❤ ~Karen~

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