Navigating the In Between


Wow, what an unexpectedly dreary summer so far.  And I have to say, I didn’t see it coming.  This was supposed to be our big break from COVID, right?  We knew the break might be fleeting, but we had earned the freedoms that this summer was going to bring us and our hopes were high.  So, who knew the weather was going to land so thick and heavy and bloated and WET on our shoulders?  This weather has been just about as welcome (as my father would have said) as a fart in church.  Does anyone else feel it?  My indoor basement is growing mushrooms, but my outdoor perennials have root rot.  I haven’t tasted a crisp cracker in weeks.  And my terra cotta planters are taking on this yellow growth that could be oddly attractive (yellow is very in right now) if it weren’t just so creepy.

I’ve got this other feeling about this summer too.  

This feeling like lots of our normal, routines are still being subjected to the rules of the wild west.  Last winter was like this of course, but I thought that by now it was all going to be smoothed over.  Has anyone else besides me had a little, or big, health issue and needed to navigate that arena?  Because it’s crazy town in there!  Everybody is swamped and overworked and cranky and not answering their phones or returning calls or even showing up!  I went to the emergency room with acute appendicitis on Wednesday night and they scheduled my surgery 20 hours later on Thursday night.  I was bleary with pain meds (thank God) but kept sort of clinging to the shirts of passing orderlies and asking them what the window of survival was for a burst appendix that wasn’t promptly attended to.  They didn’t know.  And I’m fine now - modern medicine took good care of me in the end.  But yeesh… the whole thing is not for the faint of heart!

The building industry?  Same thing.  Has anyone been actually following the price of lumber?  I mean we’ve all heard it’s been going up—but did you know lumber went up 300 percent?  And in the past few days it’s dropped like 40 percent?  It’s so erratic that financial traders are starting to call it the new Bitcoin.  Building estimates can change before the ink dries, and the availability of supplies can change just as easily.  It’s a crappy time to renovate, right?  I mean, this whole industry is absolutely bananas.  But truth be told, most of my jobs are going pretty smoothly.  Oddly enough, they just seem to bob around in this angry sea, finding their safe ports along the way—and defying all odds, they are making steady progress.

So, it’s not an impossible time to renovate at all.  Sure, you have to buckle up and expect a little bit of the unexpected.  But no need to be clinging to the shirts of passing contractors and demanding that everything magically get back to normal.  Affable flexibility is the key here (and kind of anywhere in a way.)  Don’t get too attached to a schedule, or too attached to one certain way to get something done.  Choose your team wisely (and in my case that means my clients too.)  Make sensible choices.  Work with reputable contractors. And once you have them, enjoy them and buy each other coffee now and then.  Because, this team of yours?  Our team?  All of us will be dodging and pivoting, and tucking and rolling to find the safe havens—and some of that, needs to be done with a leap of faith, so you need to trust the people you are leaping with.  But with all of us working together there is a really good chance that your project will also bob.  It’s way cheerfully along to completion.

I have a friend who told me that she wants a fresh start in her home, because everything there now reminds her of COVID.  For instance, last winter she had shifted her guest room into an office and so she now wants to shift it back.  She also wants new towels and duvet covers and is thinking about rearranging some furniture.  And, gosh, I am all for that if your budget and energy allow.  But it got me to thinking about the different ways we are all coping with this really odd in-between stage.  I use the term post-COVID a lot to describe the time we are in today, but is it really?  I mean, I’m post-surgery, but it will be weeks until I get back to my Yoga class—and I feel the impact of that lost appendix in all sorts of funny little ways.  And good heavens, my surgery was entirely routine!  The same cannot be said about COVID.  So, I guess it makes sense that this “post-COVID” summer has been as murky and uncertain as the weather we’ve been having.

Uncertainty is a difficult place to be for me.  I run into it professionally all the time.  I recommend a floor stain, we do some tests and choose our formula, I compare it to my past experiences for reassurance … but we don’t really know what that floor will look like until it’s finished.  And getting a divorce?  Uncertainty was the most difficult part of the process.  What would it look like?  Where would I live?  How would my kids adjust?  And that was coupled with, what did I really have with that marriage in the first place?  My feet don’t like to be on such a wobbly foundation, but sometimes that’s just where we land. 

So should I keep calling this wobbly in between space “post-COVID?”  I don’t know, because COVID is feeling lot like that inappropriate uncle that you have to share your family time with because “we don’t pick our relatives.”  That uncle doesn’t ruin your good time, but he’s there to contend with for sure.  COVID, as it turns out, is more of an era than an event, and it is still there to be contended with as well.  So, I’m going to keep buckling up and keep trying to approach this uncertain footing with affable flexibility, with the hope that I just might bob myself along until I end up exactly where I need to be.

Jen Coles is a professional home designer and mother of four who lives in Manchester.

jen coles, professional home designer, home design, interior design