Post-Holiday Wrap UpAll right, so I wound up going to visit the family after all.
It wasn't so bad.
In fact, it was far less eventful than I'd anticipated. The visit, that is. Getting there? A tad more eventful. No, everything is OK. But I was supposed to leave Sunday. I wasn't done wrapping. My car's windshield wipers went wonky again like they did on the trip to Omaha. The low tire light came on. We had severe high wind warnings. I postponed the trip until Monday.
Around 4 AM, I noticed an odd smell in the house. It was coming from the ceiling vents. Imagine opening up a brand-new vinyl shower curtain then heating it up. That's what it smelled like. It was enough to cause a mini-migraine.
I didn't get much sleep waiting for morning to arrive. The HVAC guy came quickly. After inspecting the furnace and crawling around in the attic, he vacuumed the unit and suggested I replace the filters (he was out of my size). He also took the optional air cleaner units away to be soaked (they were installed to help my mother's asthma).
Apparently furnace filters need to be replaced more often than once every three years or so.
I went to the hardware store on Christmas Eve day to buy furnace filters. Oh, joy.
Despite assurance that it was nothing more than that, I was somewhat uneasy about leaving, fearing I'd return to a smoldering pile of rubble where my house once stood. I decided that as long as my answering machine picked up, it meant the house was OK.
Around Columbus, I stopped for a burger and called my house.
Ring ring ring ring ring.
Panic? Who me?
The friend caring for the cats had just gotten home from work. I called her. She drove right over there. House was OK.
Remember the answering machine malfunction from about two months ago?
Yup. It did it AGAIN. I swear. That thing is only a year old. (Today it was replaced with an all-in-one corded phone with answering device. From another company.)
My friend, whose nose is much more acute than mine, took a good whiff and said it smelled like old burning dust, not the scent of a potential electrical fire (which she'd had experience with in her lifetime). I relaxed and went on my way.
The house is fine. The smell is gone. All five felines are quite well, thanks. Just so you know.
The actual visit was fine, too. I'd neglected to factor in the Small Children Under Three aspect. Here I was basing my fears and trepidations on past experiences when it was just the adults with plenty of time to sit around drinking and grilling each other. Now there are toddlers. They take up the entire spotlight. Nobody focuses on anyone else's problems anymore because they are too busy trying to keep little hands off of dangerous things, and all the other stuff that goes along with that. What blessed relief!
It was also a startling relief to be at my sister's new house, because there were absolutely no associations to my parents this Christmas and therefore no overwhelming moments of sadness (no triggers). My parents never saw that house, never went to the niece's for the festivities—it was completely new except for the people involved.
I wasn't exactly brimming with Christmas Spirit, but I wasn't bah humbug either. I was, however, very glad to drive up and find my house exactly as I'd left it.
The trip made me realize a lot of things.
First of all, I'm not prepared to be responsible for a house like this. Dad took care of things so well that I never learned about things like where the main water shut off is, why furnaces smell like that, and so on. (You know how they teach Singles Survival in high school—how to read a lease, write checks, cook dinner? They should teach basic home maintenance and emergency preparedness, car care, and financial advice, too.) I have no idea what needs to be done to winterize the house, or spring maintenance, or how long a water heater lasts, or if I have to go down into the crawl space for any reason *shudder* and if so, what to look for and if not, who to call to do that. (And I'm a Kollidge Gradooit.)
Secondly, if I were away and an emergency arose at home, I am lost. I know my friend would whisk the cats to safety if she suspected danger, but... the cat carriers aren't accessible at night, she doesn't know where they are. I couldn't tell her where to find this or that paper (I know where it is, but it's not "filed"). There are certain things that can be duplicated while in existence but not replaced—right now, if the house... well, it would all be gone. My life. In a heartbeat.
I realized that I am paying for a storage unit. In that unit are things that I will "deal with later". The irony is that all of that stuff would be safe. The important stuff would be gone. Somehow that doesn't seem logical to me.
I realized that I need to prioritize differently. I need to prioritize getting this house in order, making sure the irreplaceable things are duplicated and the second set in a secure spot (at another location). I need to learn about seasonal and regular maintenance. I need to make some sort of loose plan. I need to put important things in writing (such as, in the event of the worst case scenario, here are my wishes for my cats, and so on).
I need to stop living my life on hold and in a holding pattern.
This was especially emphasized upon arrival at my sister's. I thought I'd be entering a nice new calm environment.
It was box central. It was JUST like the environment I'd just left a few hours ago. OK, I cut her some slack, she just moved in, but... I also know her. She's worse than me when it comes to procrastination. I predict, and really hope I'm wrong, that when I go for Xmas 2013, it will look pretty much the same. Cluttered, half-empty boxes stacked precariously everywhere, no place to sit... chaos. (At least I have entire rooms that are chaos-free.)
I also got a good look at personality traits I want to change. Am changing. Have changed, in some respects. The prevalent traits exhibited through their conversations are skepticism, victimization, and inferiority complexes. Skepticism: "Yeah, right, like that's ever gonna happen". Victimization: "We have no control over what happens—we can try to change it but it's mostly luck". Inferiority: "Forget it, because you don't have the right _______ (amount of money, talent, skill, age, weight, height, or other limitation) to make it happen".
There was one incident that underscored this. The day after, I was shopping at a deep discount store (it's a tradition) with the girls (the nieces who are close to my age) and one of their husbands before we all departed. One of my nieces is a very big girl—she's a 3X—and has been unsuccessful at losing any weight. The other was practically anorexic on her wedding day but has since been in a terrible car accident some years ago (that left her with nerve damage and back problems), produced a child, had a hysterectomy and has gained some weight over the past year. I'm heavier than I'd like to be, but I know I can change it.
I'd been in another department and found the girls exploring last summer's swimsuits. Big niece was looking through the one-pieces hoping to find one for her trip to Florida. Smaller niece was being helpful, pulling suits for Big Niece. I spied some two-pieces. As I reached for one, Smaller Niece looked up and said condescendingly, "Oh, Jeanne—*chuckle*—I think our days of bikinis are over, don't you? I doubt you can even get into a bikini anymore."
It didn't even bother me. I replied "Maybe for now, but I fully intend to be back in a bikini again." (Law of Attraction! At the same time, my brain said won't she be surprised next year when she sees how skinny I am then?)
She snorted and said "Good luck with that."
I said sincerely, "Thank you!" and smiled. And thought, how sad for them that they think that way.
Dead silence from the crew.
They had no idea how to respond to my unexpected reaction. They were expecting me to get defensive, or blast them, or some other reaction like I might've in the past.
I noticed how uncomfortable they were becoming. I let them stew for a bit, then diffused the situation with a joke (though I didn't mean it because I didn't believe it). I said "I can fit into a bikini... but I never said it would look good, ha ha".
I could get angry and say "what a bitch!" But I won't. Instead, I feel sad for her. Obviously she's very self-conscious about gaining weight, and is worried that she'll be as "powerless" to stop it as her sister (the Bigger Niece) has been. I'm sad because I know that BOTH of them have all the power within them to change anything about their lives that they dislike—but they don't know it—and even more sad, they are unwilling to see it or believe that it's possible. Their counter intentions are so firmly locked in.
Maybe when I've been blatantly and visibly successful at altering my own life, it'll serve as evidence to them of the possibilities in life, and maybe then they'll discover for themselves what I'm learning now. I know I could tell them, but it would fall on deaf ears. They need to SEE proof, not just hear about it. When I have visible results, I'll have the credibility they need, then they'll believe it.
Then, perhaps, they'll be inspired to try it for themselves.