On Brokenness and Rewriting the New Year | Heather Bender

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Becky asked me well before the holidays if I’d like to do a guest post about how I intend to move bravely into the new year. So, naturally, here it is, nearing January’s end, and here I am, desperately bravely poking at my keyboard, attempting to quickly throw some words up on the screen.

Why am I so late?
Because I’m lazy. Duh.

Just kidding. I mean, I am pretty lazy, but we’ve also been preoccupied with an unforeseen crisis.

Three days after Christmas, we were preparing to say goodbye to my visiting in-laws and enjoy a few days of post-holiday downtime.

Let me be clear: I covet those slow, quiet days between Christmas and New Year’s Day like no other days on the calendar. They are my reward for surviving a holiday season that is often overwhelming and too demanding of both my time and good cheer. After having family in and out of the house for nearly two weeks, I was fresh out of good cheer, and in desperate need of unscheduled time spent shuffling between the couch and kitchen, scarfing down leftovers, and wearing yoga pants that I may or may not have slept in.

Except that was the day our oil tank ruptured during a routine fill, flooding our crawlspace with 200 gallons of heating oil.

Two hundred gallons.

Of heating oil.

In our crawlspace.

This is what happens when you taunt fate by choosing “order” as your defining word for 2017.

I would love to show you what a 200-gallon oil spill looks like, but we were too busy panicking and arranging emergency hotel rooms and hustling toddlers into car seats (and maybe sneaking in a quick beer because OMG WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING) to take a photo of our broken tank spurting most of a $545 oil delivery all over the dirt floor of our crawlspace. I can assure you, it’s even worse than it sounds.

Obviously, I haven’t had much time to write with all this going on. We’re busy working on a first-name basis with the environmental investigator assigned to us by the State of Delaware. We’re limping along with space heaters and cursing our wide-eyed naïveté at ever considering a fixer-upper house. We briefly considered solving this whole problem with a lit match.

I did, however, take a few minutes to compose an email to our neighbors, assuaging their fears about the state environmental response truck in front of our house. So it wasn’t like I didn’t get to write at all over holiday break.

So, here’s the part where I tell you what this experience has taught me about bravery: I am a super-brave badass and I’ve been handling every second of this experience with seemingly limitless courage and pluck. Yeah. Not really. On the inside, I’ve been a mess. Every time a contractor comes to deliver an estimate, my stomach silently implodes and I have visions of Matt and I wearing barrels and eating cat food for the rest of our lives. At least we’ll have heat.

It’s bad. Really bad, you guys. Our Christmas decorations are still up while we re-organize our basement into something that doesn’t resemble Hoarders. We are forced to spend a lot of money on repairs, on top of the holiday spending that always creeps out of bounds and a looming due date for spring semester tuition.

But it’s slowly getting better every day.

The remediation work is finally done.

Our house smells a little less like a refinery every day.

Our contractors have been fantastic, and soon we’ll even have a new furnace.

And for the most part, I’ve been calm in the face of disaster. I haven’t once in the past three weeks escaped to my office or bedroom to avoid this awful experience altogether. And, as someone with a lifelong history of anxiety and depression, that’s kind of a big deal. Instead, my husband and I have worked together on each next little step. We’ve talked with contractors and sorted through multiple estimates and replacement furnace specs and made the tough budgeting decisions to get our family through this rough patch. Together.

And we always try to remember that, even as we try to get our hands around this oil-slicked mess, we are still ridiculously fortunate. We have family and health and a home and the financial means to fix this mess, even if we’re facing some belt-tightening for awhile. The big, important things are still in place. All we have to do is the next right thing. Even if that next right thing is sharing a pot of coffee and taking a minute to absorb how much homeownership sucks at times.

We work so hard to convince ourselves that we have control over our lives. We dutifully write down and cross off tasks in our bullet journals. We mark our calendars. We get comfortable with the illusion that the goals and priorities we set for ourselves are set in stone, needing only our hard work and perseverance to succeed.

We’re in the midst of a hard priority reset for sure. All I can do is bravely re-write the to-do list and keep moving.

Heather Bender over-commits to life from her messy fixer-upper home in the tiny state of Delaware, which she shares with her husband and four children (the home, not the entire state). Between epic household mishaps and episodes of writer’s block, Heather shares about family, mental health, and other random disasters over at The Heather Bender Blog. You can find Heather on her blog HeatherBender.com, on Facebook at The Heather Bender Blog, on Instagram @heatherdbender, and on Twitter @hdbender_blog

Ready to live more bravely? Find out how brave you are by taking the How Brave Are You? Quiz and joining the Choose Brave: 5 Day Video Guide to Practicing Courage.

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1 Comment

  1. Beth on January 26, 2017 at 10:52 am

    I still think you’re a badass… XOXO

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