a pretty sweet Sunday

July 31, 2016 § Leave a comment

It feels like every muscle in my body aches and every joint is strained. I have worked six days straight in construction. Yes. I am a 60 year old female carpenter. I ran out of money and options while I was writing up my doctoral thesis. Our heritage house needs extensive repair and renovations. I was unable to find secure employment in academia. The contractor that built our first phase renovation was willing to hire me as a carpenter apprentice. I was able to earn more money as an apprentice carpenter than I earned at the university as a research assistant or an assistant professor. To finish my degree and prepare for my own renovations I switched course and became a carpenter.

I do love to build. I have been building tree forts and shelters since I was a kid. All my life I have tried to build a secure, comfortable home from my family. It has taken me this long to get this far. I love the feeling of strapping on my tool belt, measuring, marking and cutting accurately. I love the solid “thunk” as a piece I have cut fits neatly into its spot for fastening. I love standing back and looking at what I have built, knowing it is going to stand 50, no 100 years. I love the feeling of solidity, of the permanence of building.

I also love to write, and I fell in love with the thesis I developed during my graduate career. I find that thesis helpful every day. My thesis explains the relationship between learning and transformation. It explains why learning and transformation are continuous social processes that can become self sustaining through practice and the development of new social and technological skills. What I love about writing is the process that allows new ideas to take shape, that makes a space to identify thoughts and feelings, that makes way for imaginative development.

As I enter this next phase of my life – 6th decade, post graduate, renovating; I am seeking to balance all the facets of my character and personality that need to be expressed in order that my life feels in balance. What I am developing is daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal and annual practices that constitute a sustainable quality of life.

I have lived my life with the added dimension of an invisible disability. Every day I cope with the effects of PTSD as a result of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). These ACE took place at key cognitive and emotional developmental moments and were undiagnosed until I was in my mid-forties. By then I had endured an abusive 18 year marriage, which included horrific abuse of my children by my ex-husband. The PTSD was largely formed in relationship with each of my parents. To this day I am unable to relate to my own father, who, at 89, has continued to be a source of invalidation, dismissal and disrespect toward me. My mother, who is now 85, has suffered from severe mental illness since I was a child. She has mellowed somewhat with age and medication and is now a source of strength in my life, instead of terror.

When I put things in perspective, I can see how far I have come, the great progress I have made to improve the conditions of my life. Yes, my muscles and joints are aching, but I am super strong these days. Yesterday we started dismantling a shed and I worked until I had a blister on my hand from pulling nails to be able to salvage the lumber. I feel good when I look out in the yard and see the partially demolished shed and the neat stacks of lumber ready for re-use.

Writing is an essential part of my daily life. I don’t know exactly what it does, but somehow it clarifies, comforts, and helps me make sense – gain a new perspective on my life.

It is time to walk the dog, clean the house, and take my mother out to a family reunion in the afternoon to hang out with my 90+ Aunti and Uncle. That is a pretty sweet Sunday.

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