an unfinished house

There is a lot about my house that is unfinished. The dining room floor needs to be sanded and stained and part of the living room needs to be re-stained. A significant number of transition strips between floors need to be purchased or created and installed. There are two rooms that need flooring and three that need trim and four that the Lord truly… well anyway. 

It will be a long time before there are no more boxes in the house and maybe longer before I feel settled. At this rate it could be forever before this place is home. But that’s a pessimistic and unfortunate view of everything packed or unpacked, and I don’t choose it. I choose to just keep swimming (hello Dory, I see you there.) 

Keeping on doesn’t look big, which is a bummer. Sometimes it feels bigger than it looks, which is helpful. Today I moved eight paint cans out of the corner of a room and laid down a small braided rug and arranged a delicate heap of six pillows. I found two old quilts of mine, one that I made and one that my aunt made for me. My toddler and I counted the star pattern squares in the quilt I’d made (there are nine, if you were wondering) and then we folded the quilts next to the corner and now one more part of the house is closer to finished, ready, unpacked, home. I did it, the keeping on, this morning. It didn’t look big, especially since I had to move a large TV screen from one unfinished room into another just to try to finish that corner. It felt like rearranging work without making any progress. But the pillows were progress. I pulled them out of a large black garbage bag and dug the blankets out of a trunk in my bedroom and now one corner of the house has been transformed. What used to be temporary storage for a rotating fan and some paint is now a reading nook under a window, and even if hanging the curtains has to wait another day or month or two, we’ve made progress. 

Part of the reason that keeping on looks so little and feels so big is that a lot of it is outlet and light switch covers that I need to put back on in rooms that we painted. You’d think there’s nothing easier and you’d be mostly right, except that apparently the motivation required to move eight paint cans, one rotating fan and a large-screen TV is less than what’s required to take the outlet cover from the mantel and fasten it to the outlet two feet to the right. I may not be the brightest and best with math but there’s something unbalanced about that equation. 

But now it’s afternoon and afternoons are for baby naps and then long walks with the toddler, and I don’t have the energy on top of planning dinner to reattach outlet covers. This is why there is a choice; it’s not a choice so much of what happens, because four out of four people in this house need to eat before bed tonight. It’s an attitude choice. I get to look around at the unsanded dining room floor and the outlet covers that are beginning to get mismatched and moved around, and I just get to choose one small thing to do, and then choose joy. 

Joy is shy. She’s always coming to the door but Dissatisfaction knocks louder. Use the peep-hole, or the doorbell camera if you’ve got one. Dissatisfaction will pelt you with the outlet covers until you have square-shaped bruises, but Joy will wink at them and ask if you’re serving ice cream or chocolate cake for dessert, because that pile of brightly colored pillows needs to be celebrated. Joy will pull up the window shades and ignore the dirty dishes and let the kids play outside barefoot in January because they’re having fun and really, it’s just mud. Joy will painstakingly count the nine patchwork stars on that old lap-quilt you made a dozen and a half years ago even though it’s already past naptime, because the three-year-old loves his new star-blanket and Joy wants to witness it. 

Lean in. Choose joy. Keep on keeping on one paint can, one throw pillow, one patchwork star at a time. It’s worth it, because a home isn’t made by choosing the perfect trim and deciding yesterday which floor to lay in the bathroom. Home lives in the outlet covers that float around on the mantel while you create a reading corner for your babes, in the mud you brush off their shoes after they’ve played outside in the warm afternoon. It’s in the cup of coffee you enjoy while they nap and the friends who eat around the table even while the floor under them is rough around the edges. Home is not the finished house that’s kept you awake at night working, but the unfinished house you’ve really lived in. Live in it, darling, and watch the house become a home around you.

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