There are more than a few elements of growing older that we don’t celebrate around here. In fact, some of them are cursed outright. Gray hairs–who needs ’em? Slowing metabolism–drat it. Children who are quickly outpacing us both physically and intellectually–make it stop!
Luckily, it’s not all bad. In fact there are a couple components of aging that I’m welcoming with open arms. Greater self-awareness and security–about time! Increased motivation and productivity–sweet! Expanding palate–awesome! (Really, who of you ever imagined I’d eat onions? Mushrooms? Ham? Mayonnaise?!?!)
One of the best benefits I’ve seen as I move farther from my 20s involves an intersection of acceptance, adaptability, and creativity. As in, I can (often) now accept that things are not always as I wish they were, adapt to the reality (however I despise it), and create solutions/work-arounds that make life bearable.
Case in point: This house. Oh, this house. Yes, we live in a house right on a lake. Yes, we live in idyllic Northern Maine. There are some great things about this house. I could fall off my deck and almost land in the lake. The opposite shore is Public Reserve Land, and therefore remains wild. We have a HUGE lot. Dead-end dirt road. Can’t see the road from the house. Big windows. Loons. Bald eagles. Great neighbors. Lady’s slippers. A living room bigger than some apartments I’ve rented.
But I’ve never been happy here. Never. Andrew bought this house (camp, it is called) long before we met. The sellers (the original builders) became treasured friends. In time, our children learned to call them Nan and Pa. It was a perfect lake house, and more than big enough for a couple just starting out. Who was worried about the deer-printed wallpaper border in the living room? The four North-facing SINGLE PANE plate glass 4′ x 6′ windows? The water in the basement? The driveway that went right up to the house? The tiny crank-out windows in the bedrooms and bath? Right. We were honeymooning in our own perfect little wilderness camp. What could be better?
Well, then the big boy came along, just a few weeks past our first anniversary (not the plan). And the dog got sick all over the plush carpets (seriously? carpets on the lake?). And the basement began taking on water in a *big* way. And it was cold and dark in the winter. And the huge deck started to rot. And I grew increasingly miserable.
At first, I rolled with it. After all, we wouldn’t be here long. We had plans. We were moving. To the farm, to more land, to a bigger house. But, as seems to happen, finances didn’t align with dreams. And so, I settled in, resigned, resentful, restive. At first, I ignored the problems. They wouldn’t matter when we were gone.
Then, I searched for solutions. Big, expensive, perfect solutions. Take off the roof! Add another floor! Replace ALL the windows! Hire a designer!
And finally, I just gave up. Why bother? We’d be stuck here forever. Nothing would change. We couldn’t afford anything anyway.
Well, lately I’ve come to some peace (refer to above intersection). No, we won’t be here forever. Yes, we are here now. No, it’s not perfect. No, I can’t afford to make it perfect. Yes, I can make it more than what it is. Yes, I can make it good for now. No, it doesn’t have to break our budget. Yes, I might need to get creative.
And poof! There it was. I’m making a transformation–of thoughts, of surroundings, of energy.
Here we live in Maine’s Swedish Colony, home of all things lovely and Scandinavian and streamlined. One of our close friends owns the amazing Scandinavian Imports store in town. And yet, we’re living in an outdated lakeside camp meets hunting lodge hodge-podge. Well, no longer! Thus began Project Hunting Cabin to Swedish Cottage Transformation.
Repainting dark kitchen cupboards. Updating dated finishings. Installing bigger, more energy efficient windows (where possible). Building (and filling) raised beds between the driveway and the house. Rebuilding the deck (same footprint, fresher design and materials). Creating Happy Corners everywhere. And you know what? It’s true that you reap what you sow. Our lives have become happier, more beautiful, more what we would have chosen, in direct proportion to what I’ve put into it.
We’ve been building, filling, and planting raised flower beds (no more driveway under the bedroom windows). Hanging pretty things (the gorgeous stained glass star that you can barely see in the window came from Piggy & Dirt, and you should absolutely go there and get several–their products and service and packaging are AMAZING!) and planting succulent gardens in those same (now larger) windows. Assembling (finally!) those teacup and saucer stakes for the gardens. Laying wood slice walkways where needed. Stitching and hanging scrappy buntings on the entry porch.
Certainly, there’s more to come: hostas and astilbes on the North side, creeping thyme on the log slice pathways, more log slice pathways, perennials (not just the zinnias we relied on for this summer), mulch, a huge stick wreath on the wall between the 2 bedroom windows, a handstitched decorative flag, painted entryway porch….
And there are things we can’t (now) change: oil fill pipes, vinyl shingles, crappy gutters, single pane North-facing windows. But we’re getting there, through that lovely intersection of acceptance, adaptability, and creativity. And you know what? It’s all OK.