Three men stood in my dining room staring at what had been a colorful yellow wall filled with Japanese art.
“I’ve never seen a live nest of termites,” one of the contractors remarked excitedly, as though he were staring at a Van Gogh. They peered through the walls they had torn through with drills and bare hands, eyeing the nest and what was left of the wood beam next to it to reveal what I had feared– a party of termites had been enjoying lavish dinners at my expense.
I looked at the exposed walls, the dirt, the drywall laying like puzzle pieces on my dusty floor and took a deep breath. Steady, girl.
While I felt as exposed as the yellow tufts of insulation peeking from behind the remaining plaster on the wall, I suddenly thought: this is good. I’m getting rid of the nasty critters. And when I’m done, this house will be stronger.
It’s like when we go a long time ignoring our inner goblins, you know the ones that chew and feed on our fears, gnawing away at our self-esteem until something awakens them and we’re forced to deal with the ruckus. And then do some internal housekeeping.
Clean up on Aisle 4
Still this was the home I had built for myself, rather purchased on my own, nearly 10 years ago after my marriage had ended. And now it was in disrepair.
But as I listened to the drill, the hammers and the shrill work of builders and carpenters rearranging my dining room, I realized they were hard at work tearing down my walls so they could rebuild them into something better. Stronger. They were actually shoring up my walls, my structures—and my resolve. And in the process, they were helping me get rid of what had been hidden behind my walls and seemingly well-appointed artwork–before my house fell in.
Just as our physical homes need work, so must we work on our inner selves and shine the light on our own dark places. Less we end up chewed up from the inside out. When we don’t investigate our own nasty critters, our fears, our unattended emotions, we often end up not only in a state of disrepair, but in a state of disease.
That’s why it’s good to seek out help when needed. Maybe to call on Spirit. Or friends or professionals who can hold up a mirror, shine a light on the dark things that might be hidden behind our interior walls. Or maybe, we can do the work our self—meditate, find books, teachers, exercises that can help with the clean-up.
Because there is always clean up. Just like with our own homes, housework–or in this case, our inner work–is never done. And the termites and chewed up walls were a good reminder for me.
The Winds of Change Blow Hard
I’m not sure if it was divine timing or coincidence that this week of rebuilding coincided with the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. But it was noteworthy for me. For it was the night before Katrina hit that my husband and I officially, amicably, and heartbreakingly agreed to divorce and end our 20-year marriage.
When the winds of Katrina were blowing houses down with all the fury hell could muster in nearby New Orleans, my life, as I knew it, was also being cast into the winds of change. And then a new kind of rebuilding was ushered in when the winds died back, when they landed me in a new life, in a new home.
But I had to do a lot of work—inner work—to get there, to get my house in order. And that included a wheel barrow full of emotional, spiritual and mental work. But that was then.
Today, the termites are gone. The owner of the pest control company personally saw to that. The kind carpenter and his merry band of tool carrying, dusty-shoed, dry walling, painting professionals, have about come and gone.
And I’m still steady, girl. And I’m wondering now, if the heavens thought it was time to test my resolve, to make sure my internal structures were still sturdy, that nothing was hidden in the cracks and crevices behind my own interior walls.
After all, it’s been nearly a decade. If termites and hurricanes do terrible things to homes, imagine what change, crisis, and loss can do to one’s interior if unchecked for years?
But if the heavens are check ’n, know this: I’m still committed to doing the work. I’m good, steady, even. And best of all, termite free!
(If you want to read more about integrity, harmony and grace–particularly at midlife–read my book, Tao Flashes.)