I woke up on January 1st, 2018 renewed. Ready for that superficial fresh start that is the New Year.
I made my way downstairs to make coffee, trying to imagine what I might do with my day -the way one mentally indulges themselves over a menu in a fancy restaurant that someone let you in to because you wore a vintage jacket that looked like it might be expensive. Caviar and oysters, $20 glass of wine and prime rib. Maybe I’d sit on the couch huddled beneath piles of quilts reading Jack London’s “To Build A Fire” for the second time this cold winter. Or I could take a steaming hot bath with lots of herbs and oils and a fresh bar of soap. Should I just snuggle in bed all afternoon watching films? But then the waiter comes and you order a salad and a water. They get a good look at your jacket and realize it’s torn down the backside. They give you the eye. You don’t belong here in the place of indulgences.
When I turned on the kitchen faucet for coffee -nothing. The pipes had frozen overnight. We laughed. 2018 was testing us. 2017 had whispered to 2018 on its way out: “Don’t go too easy on these guys, they won’t know what to do.”
I cranked the stove up to 400 and opened the door. We placed a work-light directly on the pipes. This wasn’t our first rodeo. Usually our frozen pipes cleared up within an hour. I wasn’t done daydreaming about the New Year. I put U2’s War on the record player -our standard New Year’s Day album. I cranked the stereo up as high as the stove. Bono filled my ears with angry optimism like only the Irish can.
I filled the water for coffee from the bathroom sink…which we then remembered was clogged. Eric clomped out to the frozen shed to get the snake. We would fix it after the kitchen sink warmed up. We got the kitchen up to 70, the warmest that room had been since the summer when we left the screen door open until midnight and watched fireflies blink through the screen. The pipes were warm now, down to the subfloor. But still no water.
I started getting anxious. Restless. I should have been thinking more about “To Build A Fire” and what happens when you act in haste in the cold. Instead, I suggested we get a saw and try to cut away some of the cabinet so we could reach the cold pipes. (When we garner the courage and the time and the weather is warmer we’ll be gutting this kitchen too. Added on to the house in the late 1800s it was built right on a slab, with no source of heat. Which makes for a great root cellar, but -hence the frozen pipes. I love demo). But then in our cold frustration -as it had been half the day now and it was getting close to the time when the temperature was beginning to drop again below zero and the pipes still weren’t unfrozen… we nicked a copper pipe with the saw. (Same saw mind you that I nearly cut my arm off with in the fall. Do we never learn?) Now the pipes were leaking. And at some point the drain pipe got damaged too. Happy New Year!
In our haste we shut off the water -which is the best thing to do when you do when you have a leak. But apparently the worst thing to do when your pipes are frozen. Now we were really at risk of bursting our pipes, which were inaccessible in the ground, beneath a stone and dirt foundation. We called my dad, a master of fixing our mistakes. He interrupted his New Year’s Day and brought all of his plumbing supplies over (we had only called for advice, but he reminded us that he could run his own hardware store with all the materials he has on hand), plus my Mom’s hair dryer. They jury rigged a fix while I blasted the pipes with the hair dryer. Testing whether or not we still had a leak risked us bursting a pipe. So Eric turned on the water main slowly. All the sinks and showers in the house were on full blast to relieve the pressure from the possibly frozen pipes. No leaking. He turned the water up higher. Still no leaking, and now there was water coming out of the kitchen sink. Our pipes were no longer frozen, the risk of bursting was low now. Full pressure.
Suddenly Eric is swearing. Screaming in the basement “F@#K! F@#K! THE F@#&ING BATHROOM SINK!!!! THE F@#&ING BATHROOM SINK!!!!” Now I am swearing and running to the bathroom -the clogged sink we had meant to fix, was now overflowing with water. Gushing across the floor like that scene in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Delicatessen, giant pools sliding across the rug, filling the room. I swam through the bathroom to turn it off. Lefty loosey. Righty tighty. I still did it wrong. My feet were soaked. My jeans. Rain poured down on Eric in the basement. We used up all of our towels.
It wasn’t until that moment that I started laughing.
2017 brought us a lot of good. We went on an incredible three week tour across the country. Just the two of us and our instruments and a couple of changes of clothes. I finished the book I’d been writing in semi-secret for 8 years (what I will do with it yet, I’m still not sure). We finished restoration projects to this farmhouse that our family has been wanting to do for 25 years.
But 2017 was really hard on us too. We had three friends die in motorcycle accidents. I had a third miscarriage. Etsy restructured its business, hired a new CEO and completely changed course. 22% of its staff was laid off and thousands of sellers (including myself) are feeling the severity of the fall-out. I am being forced to reorganize my own business structure. Which perhaps is for the best, but feels pretty bad at first when suddenly your secure source of income becomes unstable, unsteady, and uncertain.
Each year feels like a pile-on from the year before. Since 2012 my life and the lives of my loved ones have been filled with death, and illness, loss, pain, violent assault, suffering, and trauma. This life will try to beat us down no matter what date is on the calendar. But one thing is for certain: We are more resilient than we think, and -we could always use a little more healing.
So I am taking this as another cue from the Universe. This is my focus for 2018. More healing. More healing for myself. More healing for my loved ones. More healing for strangers. Because we need it. Life is about finding wholeness, not happiness. The pursuit of happiness just leaves us all feeling empty and dissatisfied. When you can embrace everything in life -the good, the bad, the sad, the happy, the pain, the pleasure, and really feel it, then life is whole. Like stepping outside in below zero temperatures. It reminds you you are alive. It reminds you life is cold and then warm and then cold again. It reminds you what it feels to be whole.