by Tanya Ruckstuhl LICSW
Last weekend I heard the very unwelcome sound of water dripping inside my house. I followed the noise, panic in my chest. I crossed the kitchen. Rain was leaking through the roof, through the attic, through the sheetrock, and landing with a gentle, dreadful, plink-plink-plink on the floor. I made my own, much louder accompanying stream of swearing and climbed into the attic with a flashlight and a bowl.
Finding the source of the leak was not easy. There were several spots of moisture on the underside of the roof but a giant roll of fluffy insulation masked the landing. I had to wait until the weather cleared up and get on the roof with sealant and spray the heck out of the base areas around the vents, pipes, and skylights.
Each time something goes wrong in my house: rats! leaks! mold! I panic, thinking that there is no way I will ever be able to manage running a business, raising kids, keeping up a busy social schedule and to also tackle the latest problem.
I like my problems small and friendly and preferably well known in advance. Give me a gluten intolerant guest attending a spaghetti dinner. Or a Daphne O’dora that dies because I planted it in the wrong spot and then forgot to water it. Give me a kid who refuses to clean his bedroom floor. Give me a misplaced sports participation permission slip the morning of a wrestling match and which—surprise!—is discovered hidden under a pile of clothes on said messy bedroom floor.
And yet, somehow these crises—big in the moment and little in retrospect—always do pass. I scrub the mold off the walls. I antagonize the rats with traps that fail to catch as much as a whisker into either going away or becoming quieter residents. I seal the roof and start planning for a total replacement.
I think we are all more capable than we give ourselves credit for. Or maybe we are more capable than we want to need to be. Capacity comes with experience and it grows when we tackle new problems. But these new problems, they piss us off. I don’t want to have to deal with the messy and chaotic and unexpected. I don’t want to worry about the roof or rodents or fungus walls.
But I feel good when I succeed in beating back one of the endless homeowner harbingers of decay. A sense of progress is the best antidepressant not on the market! I am happy when my house is clean and dry and warm and beautiful and I can snuggle under a blanket with a good book and glass of sparkling water. But when I can do that after meeting one of the myriad challenges of Old House/Wet Climate I feel ecstatic.
Today I am grateful for whoever invented spray on roof sealant. I am grateful for a sturdy ladder and Mrs. Myers cleaning products and the plaster and paint that will allow me to disguise the water invasion. And I hope that right now, you have some sense of progress in your life too. I hope that whatever today’s struggle is, you turn it into tomorrow’s story of your very own awesome, badass, competent self.