Tearing Down Walls: Emotionally

December 5, 2019

I truly can't help making everyday occurrences into some kind of existential learning moment. Every time we crack into a new project I'm all like, "Wow this is a deep moment for us," and my husband is like "Babe, I can't see, you're standing in front of the light."

The past two months have been all about reconfiguring the floor plan for the first floor. We knew we were going to tear out some funky walls but we weren't sure what we'd find behind them, within them, or underneath them.

At each step of this process, my darling and resourceful husband kept nearly everything he could for future use. Every piece of trim, screw, and floorboard has been neatly stripped, cleaned, and placed in piles. It was honestly annoying at first, but once I got into the groove of being gentle and forward-thinking, the demolition felt more like gentle un-earthing of house's past, instead of aggressive destruction of everything that was "wrong."

As we continue to disassemble this house, we often have the conversation "Are we crazy for tearing apart something that was move-in ready when we bought it?" Because it absolutely was. It was clean and functional nice.

But we both knew the house had more to share. We could see glimmers of it's past and wanted desperately to let it out. I can't help but feel we as people have this in common. We often look "pretty good" on the outside. We've got it together and most people can't sense anything wrong beneath the surface.

We put in new walls and new flooring and better paint, in hopes that we'll be more loveable, likable, and accepted.

Each layer designed to protect and impress. Each layer hiding our true nature out of reach and far from those who yearn to know us.

We may go years, even 116, without letting anyone see what's below, what's original to the structure, and what is foundational to who we are.

If we're unlucky, we have people who want to smash away at our layers, digging aggressively for what's underneath, only to replace it with a new layer of their making. Manipulation and control ensue. Old layers we needed for support thrown out with little regard, foundational truths disregarded and original beauty ignored.

But if we're lucky, and honestly a bit brave, we can let the right people in. The people who want to get to know us, respect us, and return us to who we were created to be. Because they see the world is missing our beauty and they can't imagine keeping it hidden any longer.

These people pull gently at our layers, asking the questions we have longed—and feared—to answer, "Why this layer, my love? Who helped you with this? It seemed important, but do we need it now?" Gently, gently, laying it aside, with gratitude for how it served you.

I pull up moldy vinyl in my own house, disgusted by the whole premise of bacteria growing beneath the surface, while also recognizing the filthy layers I've peeled back over the years. The times my walls were filled with hazardous patterns, habits, and straight-up gunky mold my husband had to prevent inhaling.

He put on a mask, some tougher gloves, and kept helping me dig in.

The work is hard, slow, tedious, and sometimes feels like it's making things worse. And for a time, it absolutely is. But, my friend reading this, what's underneath it all can be so beautiful.

Original ceiling stencil

Unexpected, but so charming and sweet. The things that made us giggle as children are still there. The ease we felt with our bodies is still there. The love we had for our hobbies and interests is still there.

Maybe the foundation needs reinforced with new beliefs, or maybe the damaged facade could use a new coat of paint.

Either way, it's all still there. Just waiting to share it's history with you, to be heard and enjoyed, and if necessary, removed and graciously thrown away.

With this house, my prayer is always to honor what was and what can be. For my family and those who come and stay with us.

As more and more walls come down, I feel a deeper connection and gratitude to all those who loved and lived in this structure. It's cheesy, sure, but it makes the dusty conditions so much more tolerable.

So demolition is so much more than busting through walls and ripping out "ugly" fixtures.

And self-discovery is the same way. It's not about trash-talking your past habits or tearing out memories. It's about recognizing and honoring all the parts of you, even the gross ones. It's about tossing out old beliefs, but understanding they showed up for a reason. It's about grace and curiosity, patience and adventure.

And you may get a few blisters along the way, so invest in a nice pair of gloves.

Stay tuned for next week, where we start patching and refinishing all the floors on the first level!

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Beth Nichols
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Beth Nichols

I may or may not have teared up reading this. So good. So true. and So healing to read.

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