Some Things You Just Can't Fix

The day my husband of 18 years moved out of our house for good, the mirror that had been hanging quietly over our bathroom sink slipped from its nail and crashed onto the floor below.

I had been out of the house while he packed the last of his ties and running shoes, and hadn’t been home long after he left when I heard a thud overhead and the sound of breaking glass.

I ran to investigate and found my dog Rudy standing at the top of the stairs, looking down at me as if to say, “You are not going to fucking believe this.”

The mirror must have bounced off the vanity before scattering pieces of glass across the counter – its shards filling the small sink – coming to rest in a heap on the floor, the wooden frame twisted up around itself as if it had risen off the floor in an attempt to gasp its last breath.

And if that is not a metaphor for a broken marriage, I really don’t know what else is. Like, I couldn’t have made that shit up.

But other than serving as some amazing gift from the literary gods as a device for me to use for my writing in the future, the busted mirror also seemed to be a trigger for everything else in our house to stop working at once.

So, not only did I have a broken marriage that we tried briefly to reconcile and four children who had been shattered by the sad turn of events, it seemed as if anything in the house with moving parts chose that moment to up and quit.

I had doors that wouldn’t open, dryers that stopped drying and toilets that wouldn’t flush.

Of course as homeowners and grownups, we all have one thing or another that needs tending to, broken items that fill our to-do lists.

But it seemed to happen all at once, inflating the pile of things vying for my attention, and adding to the overwhelming situation. It was like the universe was saying, “Oh, you think that’s bad? Try this.”

Since then I’ve had plenty of other issues at home that have needed to be addressed – like the smoking electrical outlet in my daughter’s bedroom or the smoke detector that dangled for some time from the ceiling in my foyer after I ripped it off in a middle-of-the-night rage to stop its endless chirping. Fucker.

But recently, the items requiring attention seem to be piling up again, just when I got done fixing the last batch.

In November, I had successfully conquered three major issues: my car steering wheel that had pretty much stopped working at the beginning of the summer (try parallel parking your SUV on the Upper West Side without power steering); the flood caused by my basement shower that slowly leaked water through my son’s closet; and the mold that had been quietly growing up the walls in my den.

In a burst of productivity this fall, I actually started doing something about these fairly major issues, instead of talking about them endlessly and Googling various solutions.

I do that. I get so tripped up by the best way to do something and trying to figure out just where to start that I don’t just start. I am a world-class procrastinator.

The upside to all the hand wringing was that once the problems were fixed, it was a thing of wonder to be able to just glide into a parking spot and enjoy my den without fearing toxic ramifications.

But of course, the feeling that I was master of my universe lasted about two days until my daughter ran over something very sharp that was hidden in a pile of leaves raked to the side of the road, requiring not just a patch job but a whole new tire. And then my dishwasher stopped working.

It was the night before Thanksgiving and I had loaded – and I mean loaded to the gills – the dishwasher up with steel pots and rubber spatulas and assorted whisks and bowls I used to make a bunch of dishes to bring to my sister’s the next day. We went to turn the dishwasher on and nothing happened. Eventually, my daughters and I had to resort to hand-washing every last plate and cup before we went to bed.

And for one reason or another, we did not have a working dishwasher until after the start of the New Year.

I know.

Since then, the fancy crystal knob on the French door that leads to our backyard no longer works and a giant spring attached to one of the garage doors popped off, preventing the door from lowering all the way to the ground.

So when I watched last week, as if in slow motion, my 11-year-old yank one of the big drawers under our cooktop open to get out a pan to make pancakes, I had the urge to yell at him not to pull it all the way out.

But I didn’t want to be such a nag so early in the morning when he was so happy about the prospect of chocolate chip pancakes. Who wants to be that mom?

But then I watched as the giant drawer – loaded with about 100 pounds of All-clad roasting pans, my well-seasoned cast iron skillet, a heavy wooden rolling pin and assorted metal mixing bowls, muffin pans and cooling racks – was jerked to the end of its tracks and then drooped slightly towards the floor, I knew that it was too late.

I couldn’t get it to close. It was stuck, jutting out into an already tight path in the kitchen, and triggering a level of anxiety I didn’t know I could muster. Like, this was PTSD at its finest.

I started to freak the fuck out.

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I walked in circles in front of the sink while my son looked on, clearly nervous about my mental health, and then I stormed into the mudroom to mutter and shake my fists at the universe.

Once the tantrum subsided, I took action. Instead of posting something clever on Facebook or blogging about my woe-is-me situation, I texted the guy who had helped me with the problem in the past, and he said he would be over the next day.

Ah, so this is what it’s like to take control of a situation and handle things immediately.

It felt good.

I then texted the handy man who had fixed the basement and mold issues to tell him I had more broken stuff, and he said he’d come over and check things out.

Again, progress.

And it made me wonder if all of these broken things could be filed under “Gifts from the Universe.” That the broken drawer and shattered marriage had been sent my way to teach me to address problems, rather than just wishing them away or trying to sweep them under the rug.

That instead of trying to go around obstacles, I needed to meet them head on and take control.

Or maybe, just maybe, I had really shitty luck.

Amy blogs at A My Name Is Amy

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