Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Broken House

I'm leaving for Haiti Monday morning. I cannot begin to explain how excited my soul is to get there. I need Haiti. I crave the Haitian air, the sun that's brighter than any sun I've ever seen in Wisconsin and the jostling of traffic and bodies criss-crossing in Port au Prince as we try to leave the city. I need the cadence of the Creole language, the slow rhythm of feet on gravel in rural villages, straight spines and soulful eyes overflowing with a wisdom of experience that reminds me I am just a small drop in this incredibly huge world.

I had my bags packed by Friday afternoon. Everything ready except the clock on the wall.

So I spent the rest of yesterday and all of today passing the time. I Read for hours under the shade of an oak tree. Mowed the lawn. Went to church and sang extra loud. I did laundry, swept floors and vacuumed carpets. Then I did more laundry. I emptied garbage cans and washed counters. And I started to look, really look at the walls that surrounded me.

I have lived in this house for 8 years. I walked in giddy with anticipation of my new adventure. At the time I could see past the flaws and straight into what was sure to be. The old windows without screens, rendering them useless in the spring and summer months, would be replaced. The uneven concrete stoop (which was really nothing more than a poorly poured concrete slab, too small for a person to actually stand on while they attempted to open the door) would be poured new and bigger, allowing for a rocking chair and potted plant. The exterior lights that seem to drain a light bulb in a week's time would be properly repaired and replaced with a cottage style fixture. The peel-and-stick linoleum squares in the kitchen, chipped in the corners and stained beyond repair would be replaced with a beautiful flooring that would show off the soon-to-be freshly painted cabinets.

Except it's been 8 years. And there are more missing screens than we started with and two of the windows don't even close all the way. Weeds as tall as me sprout up through the concrete stoop. And the cracks in the sidewalk. At both the front entrance and the side. The exterior is still always dark. And the floor in the kitchen has gotten worse.

Add to that the years the dog was here: eating the trim around the sliding patio door; clawing, scratching and destroying the garage door. And the bathroom door. And the door in the bedroom from that one time someone shut the door and forgot the dog was in there.

We haven't had running water in the bathroom sinks for two years. For two years I've walked out of the bathroom, down the hall and into the kitchen to wash my hands. I've washed my face, brushed my teeth, put in and taken out my contacts in the kitchen longer than I ever thought would happen.

Half the time the furnace doesn't work. The refrigerator is an old garage cast off that has been on its last legs for seven years. The sun room is anything but sunny, what with the lights not working and the paneling removed and the tile chipped and ruined. It was a tired room 8 years ago. Now it's simply decrepit and depressing, not to mention slightly dangerous.

The truth is, no one ever made this house a priority. It has never been invested in. Never been slowly improved upon. Simply used and ignored. Taken for granted. The ceiling light over the dining room table stopped working years ago. It's never been a priority to invest in fixing it. There's never been a priority to fix anything once it was obvious that it was broken.

If there was a choice between a $50 restaurant dinner or putting $50 aside to fix the light, we chose eating every time. We always chose the fun over the necessary. We always chose to ignore the broken and instead focus on what made us happy.

And that's all fine and dandy until you open your eyes 8 years later and wonder how the house you live in became so crappy. So dysfunctional. So absolutely broken beyond repair.

And while I suppose it could be fixed - it's so... well... much to fix it.

The quick and easy maintenance won't suffice anymore. We ignored it all until it moved into the 'demolition and replace with new' stage. Not interested in investing when we should have - when we could have - fixed it, we're now left wondering if it's even worth trying to fix at all.

The process is too costly. Too inconvenient. Too long. Too stressful.

Now, there are things about this house that are nice. I'm sure there are, although it's getting more and more difficult for me to see them these days. But when you have a house as broken as ours, in order to fix it properly you have to rip everything out, take it down to the studs, get rid of the stuff that's cracked and broken... and with that goes the good and nice things, too.

In order to get to the great, you have to allow the good to be destroyed with the bad.

Toss it all out into the dumpster and trust that what is put slowly back up will be better than what was there before.

Often times when people get to this stage of a house they share opposing views. One begs and pleads and cries and tries to convince the other over and over and over that the house is worth it. Flaws and all, our house is worth investing in! They can see how taking this wall down here and putting in new flooring and pairing it with a soft yellow with white wainscotting over there would open up the room and give it a less depressing, cavernous look....

.... but the other person can't see the worth of going through all that trouble. Instead, all they see is the hard work and money that will go into fixing it. They focus on the sacrifice. Less dinners out, they think. We'll be a slave to these walls, they say. And so, to them, it's simply not worth the trouble. The sacrifice, the investing, the dust from the drywall and the weekends spent doing manual labor trying to keep costs down. No, it's simply just not worth it.

Because while one person sees the hard work paying off in the end with something they can say they did together, the other doesn't want to bother with trying to fix it. They just want to move into someplace new and start over.

Relationships are a lot like houses.

If you don't put the investment in right away to try to fix the small problems, don't be surprised when they become huge problems and the only choices are put in the hard work to demolish and start building over from scratch, or move on.


I need Haiti. I need to be surrounded by hope and laughter and music. I need children laughing and playing and asking hard questions. I need to be hugged and remembered and smiled at. I need to feel appreciated and wanted. And then I need to learn. Because every single time I go to Haiti I learn more from them than they do from me. Every single time.

Monday. I go Monday...