Painting over my past

I’m slowly moving out of the apartment I’ve lived in for the past 13 years. With every wall and ceiling and cabinet and door trim, I watch my tattered years of “high functioning” drinking get covered with gleaming fresh paint. Probably any time a person lives alone in one place for many years, some degree of clutter and, oh, scuz (flaking paint, general grim in the corners of closets) accumulates, but the presence of daily drinking, and the cloudiness and vague stuckness of that lifestyle, makes it worse.

Likely no one else would even notice. And it’s not like there were holes in the walls. But I am acutely aware of the dysfunctional stasis of the subtle parts of my life and functioning that pervaded life here. The unfinished projects (partially painted walls, as part of me attempted in fits and starts to change the walls to something more me, sometimes a new color (half green living room), sometimes collections of colors (a gaudy section of the living room wall that was, until Tuesday, a patchwork of orange, red, blue, etc. squares), and sometimes just white-ish, where I started repainting the hallway one day years ago). Though it’s not the main thing I remember, I was probably some level of tipsy while doing all of that. Covering it mostly with cream-colored paint is beautiful.

This move-out project is huger than I initially realized — I thought I was “fixing it up to rent out” when in reality I’m also moving out (duh). I’ve been sorting stuff and giving stuff away and throwing stuff out for several months, but … there’s still a lot here, and I’m not immediately moving somewhere else, so it has to go somewhere.

After, after, and before.

So, it’s a lot. And, for the most part, I’m not overwhelmed. If you’re in belle’s orbit (, you hear “avoid overwhelm,” constantly. She’s right, and it’s a real inner culture change, for me and I suspect lots of my cohort. I have a LOT of freelance work right now, am fixing up this apartment, and meeting with contractors and lining them up to add a bathroom and egress window and new electrical panel to my basement to make a small little apartment for myself down there (am only in town a small fraction of every month, as I live in home #2 most of the time). Mixed in with this is the occasional thought of “aren’t I supposed to be frantic and overwhelmed”?

But I’m not (most of the time), and it’s partly because I have a long time line for this. Apartment needs to be done by January 1 and, frankly, the basement thing doesn’t have a deadline. I will have to crash somewhere else before it’s done, which will probably be an airbnb, which will cost money and be slightly inconvenient, but you know what? That’s okay. I’m avoiding overwhelm. It’s slowly starting to seep into my operations. I’ve found myself booting some to-do items onto next spring’s calendar. Putting in a wired motion detector light by the garage door (to replace the battery-powered one)? Next year. Moving the garage door opener button to be by the new actual door (that the human walks through) rather than where we used to enter the garage? It’s been okay this long, it’ll be okay till spring.

I did bust my butt to build the last segment of a privacy fence along the sidewalk side of the house last month (we’re on a corner and have never had a real “back yard”) — picking my battles, I suppose.

But overall what I witness happening in my life is an unseen force toward keeping the moving parts of my life manageable, and a force that I think of as a momentum or flow in the direction of coherence. I have no doubt that these are the direct result of my having removed alcohol from my life. The “avoid overwhelm” (or, if you prefer, “cultivate underwhelm”) is something I’ve had to deliberately instigate, but the flow of coherence is automatic. It just happens. I feel like a conduit or a transformative tool that sorts, sifts, cleans, finishes, walks in the glorious autumn air, paints, fixes, and pushes the clutter out of the house and into garbage bins and thrift stores, onto the curb (“free to a good home”), friends’ hands.

I think we’re always a conduit. What am I but a bundle of sensors, an inner consciousness aware of it all, and a moving body? But being a sober, rested, clear-eyed conduit is so much NOT the drinking, avoiding, fleeing-to-alcohol-obsessively-at-the-slightest-opportunity conduit.

Still very much watching out for my continued abstinence from the horrific toxin. And so it goes.

Day 322.

Have a good one!


4 thoughts on “Painting over my past

  1. Oh, I love that!
    Avoid overwhelm!
    I sure need that!
    Our first house was a very small rental, and we painted each room a bright color! Wasn’t ripest at the time, lol, but I loved all the colors!

    Painting fresh!
    Painting your future!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Avoiding overwhelm, the never-ending quest 🙂

      I love the image of you and Mr. UT painting every room of your tiny first house all those colors! One of the cans of paint in my basement that’s going to the Restore is a brick red. I painted the sunroom that color in my previous apartment. (Or, more likely, painted it partly that color.) As sobriety proceeds there will be more and more color popping up in more productive, complete (but still experimental) places in my life….

      How’s your mom?

      Liked by 1 person

      • She’s not doing well.
        Definitely slowly declining.
        She can’t walk except around her small apartment, hope we can keep her in assisted living for as long as we can, and not have to move to a nursing home.
        Some family members from Wisconsin are coming for a short visits.


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