95: My Stand

95: My Stand

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

My Stand

Invent your world. Surround yourself with people, color, sounds, and work that nourish you.

~Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy

I expected to be many things by the time I was fifty, but alone wasn’t one of them. Yet there I stood in a family-sized house that I’d shared with my now-grown children and their father not long ago. My high school sweetheart. My helpmate. My husband of thirty years, who shocked us when he revealed he no longer wanted to be married.

Every room held excruciating reminders of our life together and his hasty departure from it. The master bathroom, for some reason, was the hardest for me to walk into, the place where I still most expected to see him.

One morning, as I made my necessary but almost unbearable way to the bathroom, a divine voice whispered, “Change the shower curtain.” And so I did. Funny how such a small step began my journey to healing.

Just days later, when the forecast called for heavy snow, I was reminded how much I’d depended on men my entire life to take care of most home-maintenance responsibilities. Where, I wondered, do I buy bagged salt, and how do I apply it to our long driveway? I quickly learned from this and similar small challenges in those first weeks that much can be accomplished by simply reading directions, asking others for guidance, and having faith that God will give me the ability to handle whatever lies ahead.

Bolstered by faith and small victories, I began looking for other home-maintenance projects to tackle. Once again, I found myself in the master bathroom. Armed with a wrench and a YouTube video to guide me, I prepared to replace the long-neglected dripping faucet. My daughter stopped by while I was removing the old fixture, and was so impressed with her wrench-wielding mom that she insisted we take and post selfies. My brother was equally impressed when he learned I’d replaced both the faucet and drain with no leaking. Later, he told me I hadn’t actually needed to replace the drain. I just laughed. Oh, well, I told myself, extra plumbing practice!

I was re-energized and ready to prepare the house to sell. Soon, I was caulking cracks, whacking weeds, trimming bushes and mowing the very large property. Any trepidation about buying and caring for a new home on my own faded, and I found myself excited about the fresh start that new home ownership would bring.

There was a bit of a gap between my budget and the darling dream house I was envisioning. With my patient, freshly licensed real estate agent at my side — who happened to also be my uncle — I looked at nearly fifty houses, lost bids on a few, and eventually wondered if maybe I wasn’t supposed to buy a house.

And then I looked at a property that didn’t come close to checking all the boxes on my list. But as we drove up the driveway — the very steep driveway (so much for a flat lot) — I looked up and whispered to myself, “This is my house.”

Since moving in, I’ve learned to mow that steep lot, stain a deck, secure a fence, commandeer a drill, change a furnace filter, and so much more. When I look at my personal “honey-do” list, I just smile. I know I will be able to check off every task. Sometimes on my own. Sometimes with a little help from a friend or professional. But I can take care of my home. I can take care of me.

While dining recently with a dear friend, she told me I have changed. That I carry myself differently. That I seem more relaxed. At peace. “When life handed you lemons, Dawn, you didn’t just make lemonade,” she said. “You made the whole stand.”

Well, maybe not literally. But, you know, I can if I want to.

~Dawn Belt

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