Part Four and Dénouement: Dusting our lives
I have been finding happiness and renewed strength in the strangest things lately: dusting my house; and a refreshing uncertainty as to where we will be living in the next six months or year — and in fact, uncertainty even as to where we want to be living in the next six months or year. And so much of this happiness and strength is the result of committing to uncertainties in areas of life as elemental as employment, where we want to live, and the inevitable corollary, money.
We arrived at our sister church in Lewiston, Idaho last weekend, appreciative as always of our warm reception, but tense. I saluted friends with a strange greeting, “We come to you not in triumph, but in tatters.” We had had a tough week.
My husband and I have talked about employment and venue changes for about three years, and decided a couple of weeks ago it was time to hold hands and jump. Looking around, it appears as if we could be earthbound and on trajectory for landing on our feet.
Our first leap stopped a bit short of the target. Two weeks ago, my husband notified me in a late afternoon call from the office that it was his last day there.
That morning, he had intended to proffer his resignation for two or three months into the future, but the future suddenly converged with the present. I realized that the extra two or three months’ income would have been helpful, but that we would have spent it anyway. So really, the instantaneous immersion into our new life wasn’t something that made a big difference, except that it necessitated our picking up our own insurance premiums sooner. The only reason, over the past eight years of the long and life-attenuating commute, that I did not flatten my husband’s tires in the morning, was my sense that his work was fulfilling, the one factor that made the hour and a half of inching through Puget Sound corridor each morning and afternoon seem worthwhile.
The first casualty down the line was my helper of more than four years. I referred to her as “the woman who makes it possible for us to live in our house.” She faithfully dusted, vacuumed, and mopped our home: things I would have gratefully done myself if I had the physical strength and flexibility. But with plans for a private practice either in our present location or another, we could not justify the cost of her help coming from our reserves. She took it very well, having a total understanding of how one boulder affects many pebbles down the stream. And she understood that I had hoped to give her two or three months’ notice, and as things were, it was simply only coming sooner.
The following week, on Thursday, the day my faithful helper normally came, I dusted my house all by myself. My husband was upstairs working, and came down and asked, a little nervously, whether I was doing hard work. I reassured him: “I’m having lots of fun in here!” And I meant it from the heart. I didn’t need to move my arms very much or reach over my head; I used a long-handled woolly duster and enjoyed with immense satisfaction the removing of cobweb fragments and dust from the ceiling edges and coving, and the shelves and books and objects and all those enjoyable things and their surfaces that require dusting. That evening, my husband vacuumed and mopped all the floors.
Surveying such a simple thing as our own house clean by our own hands, I realized that we had removed a layer of dust from our lives, too. We were returning to simpler, more consolidated living, and happiness and strength were beaming through, like afternoon sun through morning fog. And what a long and foggy morning it had been.
In all the time my husband was with his former law firm, I knew exactly one other attorney there and no one else in his Seattle existence. In his new solo practice, I am a named attorney of counsel. He now does most of his work at home and the law library, and has a virtual office arrangement for a conference room and meeting with clients, and providing a necessary physical address. We went together to meet the people who run the virtual office, and I am welcome there, on my own or with him. How different from our previous life of completely distinct spheres.
This new working arrangement polishes our freshly dusted life to a shine. It optimizes our flexibility, minimizes overhead, and integrates work and life instead of opposing them. I expect work to be good very soon, and life is very good already.