above all, a good roof

Both my home and my psyche are in fixer-upper condition.

I may have mentioned this before, but my ex was not particularly handy around the home. While he stayed home with our young children, familiarity with his surroundings seemed to engender blindness. Case in point:  when the roof over his head began to leak, I had to point it out to him. And even though he knew roofers, he never managed to make the appropriate arrangements (which explains all the banging going on up there each day and the $10,000 gap in my finances).

If there was something I wanted done, no matter how simple, I started calling contractors or handymen for bids. When the tree guy came to look at the white ash, his quote was deemed “ridiculous” and my ex began trimming. So I managed to accomplish small improvements in this way. Any cost or investment, no matter how low, was “ridiculous” to my wasband, whose grasp on fiscal and other realities seemed to have eroded over his time at home.

Our kitchen remodel made it to 85% complete…and, six years later, there’s still a list of to-do’s including new back doors, trim, a back splash and a few other details. And the bathroom needs a major remodel and … well, you get the idea.

My psyche is much the same way just now:  there are some areas that need anything from a little redecorating or brightening up with fresh flowers to major renovation.

Inside my house, there are improvements on my wish list that I notice every day. Yet I’m repairing the roof first. I can’t see it, except from outside. It won’t affect my daily comfort (aside from during a hard rain). Yet, it’s as my roofer said, “Above all, a good roof.” The roof is the necessary shelter, the fundamental protection that will allow me to take the next necessary steps:  a new ceiling, doors and trim. Eventually a bathroom.

Addressing the internal wounds is somewhat different, but it begins the same way. The first order of business is to secure shelter, a protected space or environment in which to process the emotions. Or, as Dr. Phil has explained (on one or more of the small handful of shows I’ve seen), “a safe place to land.” Divorce (and its associated betrayals), regardless of who or how or why it’s initiated, has a way of decimating the self-esteem, self-worth, ability to trust and more. One needs time and space to restore them.

And then there are matters of forgiveness. As if forgiving the ex were not practically unthinkable in and of itself, one must move beyond this to the even more monumental effort of forgiving one’s self:  for failing to make it work, for actual harm caused, for giving up to soon or for staying too long and, especially, for the poor relationship example demonstrated to the children. And so much more.

While all that work is being addressed, there are the realizations and discoveries of habits, beliefs and paradigms adopted and lived out in the course of a failing relationship that must be examined and, likely, let go for something new and more wonderful to bloom. Certain triggers cause responses that are entirely too reactionary. As an example, say the words “stay at home father” and watch as I break out in a rash… Though my ex was much better equipped to be a full-time caregiver than I was when our children were babies, the experience ultimately took a turn for the resentful. I have to take a few deep breaths and remind myself that said domestic arrangement can and does actually work for a growing number of other families.

I’d say the roof is half-way finished. It would be impossible to say where my psyche is at along the path or how far I’ve come in healing. While I’d like to think that I am facing my challenges and healing consciously, there is no real way to determine whether or when there will be an end to the work. I can’t simply look at the construction schedule (and then add another few months). The past three months of down time to mull and process has been a true gift, and I’d like to believe I’ve made significant progress in healing my heart.

Yet I have a feeling the true test will be, as it is now, the patience, love and understanding I demonstrate to my children, my presence and openness, and the woman I am in relation to others.

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