All Roads Lead To Resurrection
I spend a fair amount of my time inside this house right here in this room. There are reasons, although those have become misty now, other lives.
I used to have a home office, down in the basement, because I had a business. I needed a space that was quiet and away from the tiny feet and big voices of a couple of little kids, room enough for that big dot-matrix printer and gigantic box of a computer (and monitor). There was really too much room, in fact, but that was the space I had.
Now I live upstairs, in my son’s former bedroom (he’s still here, but in his sister’s former bedroom. His sister is long gone). It’s a smaller room, maybe 100 square feet or so, just a kid’s bedroom. I have a glass L-shaped desk in one corner, with two big monitors, speakers, and lots of little pieces of paper. There’s a long futon that sometimes I take a nap on, although after I got my projector I moved an old recliner in here for movies. It’s crowded and doesn’t work, and the desk is the problem, but I haven’t had the energy to figure out anything better.
I also can’t change the name, although I try. It functions as a study, really, just a little space that I can keep toasty warm and have some privacy, to sit here and type. Sometimes read, listen, or watch, too. It’s my place, my space, my room, but the others continue to call it my office.
My son grew up, from infant to toddler to child to teenager, understanding that Dad worked in The Office. It was downstairs in the basement, next to the laundry room, far away from the rest of the family. I needed the quiet, and the ability to isolate myself in order to keep the distractions at bay during working hours. Distractions don’t pay the bills.
But you can see the problem, I think. One works alone, one begins to do everything alone. Including drink. Including sometimes in the morning.
I’ve told the story too many times, so I won’t. It was a toxic place, though, eventually, and I never returned. I rejoined my family, and I worked in corners, at the kitchen table, in my bedroom, until eventually I moved in here. Small. Next to everything and everybody. I can close the door to keep it quiet (and warm), but there are no locks and no secrets.
Eventually I cleaned up that basement office, hauled out the bottles and cans, the debris and detritus of a life gone off the rails. I had to; I think we were refinancing, so some inspector would be snooping around. I remember being on my hands and knees, picking pieces of glass out of a totally gross carpet, a long history of bottles breaking a big part of my story. It was hard to do, sticking my nose in the worst parts of my past.
And finally I cleaned it completely, emptied it out and remade it, creating a guest room of sorts. It wasn’t fancy, but I painted and cleaned and cleared, and recarpeted and put in new light fixtures and a bed and end table. I don’t need to draw you a picture.
My daughter stayed there once or twice. Otherwise, it just sat down in the basement, an open room, and so when my friend ran into trouble, stuck with a fixed income and soaring rental prices in downtown Seattle, I had an easy option. Temporary, probably, but an option.
Yesterday I began to clean it. He needs things as time goes by, and time has—it was two weeks ago today that I took him to urgent care. He wanted his razor, his checkbook, some charging cords, etc. I wore gloves, given that he’d been sick for a few days before he left. It was a mess, lots of wrappers and other trash on the floor, the life of someone who has always lived alone. Sometimes you can tolerate a lot when you live alone.
It was nothing new for me. I’ve tackled both of my kids’ rooms that were in similar states. It’s not like I’m a neat freak myself, although I do enjoy mindless cleaning when I can whistle and listen to podcasts. I cleared out a lot of little trash and I washed his bedding, which seemed wise. I just wanted his room to be in decent shape for whenever he comes back.
And as I went through the process, it became a lot clearer that it wasn’t his room. It was my room. It was my office. It’s been over a dozen years, and still. You can’t paint over that shit. This is a room filled with time.
My wife and son still refer to my office. “Are you in your office?” they text, and so on. It’s a home office, really. It makes perfect sense.
But I shudder, a little, at just the word, and every time I turned the doorknob yesterday and entered that room, I shuddered a little more.
At least my Lenten project is a little clearer. From here on through Easter, and certainly beyond, I’m going to be dealing with a sick friend who needs my help. It’s too easy. It’s like ordering Lent from Amazon; I’ve been given a service project. I need to help another human being who needs my assistance, easy-peasy. My period of spiritual reflection will focus on the needs of another, how nice.
Yeah. Don’t think so. I may be treating this season as an intellectual exercise, as a theoretical experiment in growth, but this kind of growth strikes me as muscular. Break it down, rest a little. It gets stronger. Break some more.
It just could be that Lent, for me, is going to involve a little personal archeology. The kind when you get down on your hands and knees, and you pick shards out of filthy carpet, and you remember how you got there, and how you got better.
The original transformation, from storage/gym area in 2010, four years after I moved out, to guest quarters. Click on the photo to see the slideshow.