On countertops and friendship

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Huge difference after just one coat!

After 4 months of living in the dust and plastic of the remodel, last week was a big step forward. Over the weekend, we started painting.The sudden appearance of huge swaths of color – Whisper, Isle, Origami, and Dancing in the Rain – signaled an end to most of the dust-creating activities and a leap into how our future nest will look and feel.  Tuesday saw new countertops, and Wednesday through Friday marked the beginning of the much-anticipated refinishing of the floors and stairs.

About those countertops…  With the countertops installed and our kitchen sink operational again, it didn’t take long for dishes and tools to pile up. This morning, as I settled in to work upstairs (now with the breakfast nook painted, I can at least sit at a window instead of in the dark basement dungeon), my anxiety about the new counters finally took over. Every little spot of water or dust was wiped clean. I put a towel under the dish rack and under the compost bin. And wait, is that a bottle of cooking oil on the counter?! Maybe that should get a coaster.

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The precious “coastal grey” quartz.

For now, in their state of perfect newness, the counters will be treated like a precious heirloom – the absurdity of which got me thinking.  It’s been a tense several months here at Corvidopolis. The remodel and job transitions have stressed the relationship between me and Ken, have diminished our abilities to participate in social activities and to support our chosen family, and have caused me to rely heavily on my nearest and dearest as sounding (ranting?) boards throughout.  I lean on them precisely because our relationships aren’t new. They’re tried and tested, stable through exciting beginnings and devastating and/or liberating endings – of relationships, lives, jobs.  And yeah, we all need friends who can give us support when we need it, and sometimes we need it for a damned long time.

But there has to be a balance to it, too. Thinking about these shiny new, carefully babied and protected counters, I have to ask myself – are the friends in my life are getting the same treatment? Am I spending enough time nurturing and valuing the long-term relationships, the ones that have been scuffed and cracked but that remain strong and dependable? Am I spending too much energy worrying about impacts to the new blemish-free relationships – the ones that, sure, may someday turn into weathered and trusty ones – but for now might be getting more than their fair share of energy?  Are the people who love me the most getting the least of my positive energy and time precisely because I know they’ll still love me? The answer is, yep. And that’s some bullshit.

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Mini-vacation with the ladies.

Yesterday I had pleasure of spending some quality time with a couple of those old friends. One benefit of the house remodel is that I don’t pack my calendar as tightly, in case there’s a need for some project work at home. As a result, I was able to spend unhurried time with the ladies – time that wasn’t spent (entirely) talking about work or troubles or trying to be “productive.” Time spent strolling along the riverside, shopping for both silly and practical things, and soaking our feet over some magazines. Those few hours were rejuvenating – so much more so than the heap of time that I’ve spent lamenting/complaining/seeking advice from close friends lately. A gentle reminder to invest the energy and care that these fabulous women deserve.

Later that evening, after a couple hours of painting, I had the choice to join Ken for some socializing or crawl back into the dungeon to read alone.  When we first started dating, that wouldn’t have been a choice at all, but lately, the pull of the dungeon has been strong. The daily stress has made it harder and harder for me to decide in the moment that yes, I should pull together the right layers for Portland winter/spring, hop on the bike, and go be with the very people who re-energize me. And everyone will understand if I don’t, right? I’m in the middle of the second job transition in a few months and live in a dusty, nail-strewn hovel!  Of course they will understand. And the fact that they’re the very people: who won’t judge me, who will still invite me next time, who will even listen to my whining about why I don’t want to go – that’s why I need to get back into the habit of saying “yes” to them.

In the last few years, some warm, brilliant, funny folks have appeared in my life. So I’m not aiming to shut out opportunities to build new friendships – just needing to find a new balance. The counters are going to be my tangible reminder of that for a while – at least until they become not-new. But I hope that, by then, my better balance will be well established. Is this an issue for you? How do you keep your heart and calendar open to new folks while making sure you don’t take for granted your nearest and dearest?

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