On Sunday I woke up at 6 am to paint my front door.  It was glorious to be up so early on a Sunday–alone all alone–not a soul in the neighborhood was stirring.  The air was still cool, the light still soft. A gentle breeze made music in the trees.  I took out my paint brush and turned to the big pine door that I had sealed last month, then primed last weekend.  I opened the can of rich semi-gloss black paint and began to lay down three coats with slow gentle strokes. 

Front Door MidPaint 6:20 am Sunday

Front Door MidPaint 6:20 am Sunday

There is something about being up so early on a brilliant sunny Sunday morning that makes even the most mundane household chore a holy act.  But this particular chore felt for me like a perfect prayer of thanksgiving, a milestone, a turning point.

     Two and a half years ago, when Juan moved, out the house felt claustrophobic, still and heavy.  The sadness and tension of the last year still hung thick in the air.  I could barely breathe.  Once upon a time I had read something about feng shui, an ancient Chinese method of improving the energy in a home.  I was desperate enough for change to give it a try. 

    That is when the universe delivered my now dear friend Pat Lee to my door.   And when she got to my door she practically fell down in horror.  My door was a problem-and it was just the beginning.  The house was a feng shui disaster area–cluttered and chaotic,–elements going in all the wrong directions.   A perfect reflection of my life at the time.

     Pat gave me a long list of things to-do, baby steps I could take to bring harmony to the house.  She came by often and helped me out.  I loved feng shui because unlike my personal situation which left me feeling helpless and paralyzed, feng shui offered simple solutions, things I could do.  I had no idea how to mend my broken heart  but I did know how to change the lightbulbs, to move the furniture, to elimate clutter, to light a candle.  Each night when I woke at 1:30 am unable to sleep, mournful and sad, I got up and turned that energy into creating harmony in the house instead of weeping in a heap on the couch.  Bit by bit the house became cheerier and felt lighter. Max and I motivated by the progress grew a bit lighter too.   But try as I might, there was one task on Pat’s list that I could not quite tackle–that damned front door.

     For practioners of feng shui, the front door is one of the most important elements of a house.  It is an important gateway where the chi enters the heart of the home. And my front door–well it was a feng shui nightmare.   The wood was split, the paint faded and cracked and dirty.  The trim around the door was peeling.  The storm door was broken in three places, creaked and was missing its screen.  Juan still had the key to the door.   Fixing it all just seemed too complicated, too expensive, too overwhelming. It was too difflicult a task for a single mom just trying to get her sea legs.

      But if I am also completely honest I will admit that that the door felt right to me, awful as it was.  My front door looked like I felt.  A mirror, a  metaphor for my broken heart–a little worse for wear. It served as a little warning to all those who visit–“Enter gently. A storm has passed through here”.

       But that was two years ago.  As 2006 turned to 2007, I looked around and felt incredibly blessed.  Our life was populated by wonderful new friends, I was beginning to connect with creative women.  A deep spiritual and creative force inside was beginning to emerge.  I started to trust myself in a way I never had.  I woke up one morning and realized the door no longer matched the home.  It was time to tackle the door.

       Fixing my door, like fixing a heart is indeed not a linear process.  Unlike the simple feng shui fixes of 2005 it couldn’t be completed in one or even two sittings.  There were several aborted trips to various retailers.  Seemingly endless indecision about what kind of door (wood, fiberglass?).   Appointments with installers that were cancelled for snow days, because the right weather stripping hadn’t arrived.   Going back to the beginning all over again.  I was convinced it was my destiny to be stuck with my old front door.  It was 8, maybe 10 full weeks after my decision to fix it when the door itself was replaced.  A lovely perfect simple six paneled pine door.  At last.

       Excited by the progress I ran to the store to buy paint.  I didn’t know anything about protecting wooden doors.  Looking at all the varieties on the shelf I wondered what type of paint do I buy?  I skipped up to the counter and asked the kindest looking man for advice.  He told me to buy Thompson’s Water Seal, seal the door, wait 4 weeks and then buy oil paint which they didn’t sell there. 

      Downhearted and disappointed I slunked away, dutifully carrying the sealer.   The directions on the sealer told me I would be stalled again–I needed 48 hours of warm dry weather to successfully complete the task.  March turned to April.  The weather and my schedule could not coordinate.  Weekends full of cold wet rains cursed me.  Grumpiness settled in.  A few nights I woke up dreaming of my old life with Juan and sat on the couch in a heap weeping.  My door and my heart were stuck in process. 

      My frustrated eye turned to the peeling trim around my door.  It looked even more offensive now that it framed a precious new (though naked) door.  I considered scraping and powerwashing it myself.  I agonized over when to do it.  I made long to do lists that were supposed to get me moving but only made the task feel insurmountable.  It pulled on me each time I brought the groceries through the door.  In a fit of desperation one Sunday in late April, I just picked up the phone and called a reliable handyman.  He was out that afternoon to give me a quote.  The next day my trim was painted and fresh.  Nothing like asking for help…

     Then May offered the gift of a sunny afternoon.  Max was on a playdate–I had nothing to do.  I pulled out a rag and I sealed the door.  It took 20 minutes.  All that waiting for 20 minutes of work. I breathed a sigh of relief and then felt a sudden rush of frustration. One more month of waiting.  

     I went to Ireland.  I came home.  Max finished school.  Before I knew it, more than one month had passed.  Two weekends ago I sauntered to the paint store where they sold the supplies I needed.  Purchased a can of oil primer.  A can of rich black paint, a color Pat and I selected after consulting the compass.  Perfect for an east facing door.  I primed the door a week ago Sunday.  Let it rest for a week and then woke up at 6 am.

     I wish I could express the joy and exhilaration I felt looking at my new smart door, all shiny and black.  Suddenly all the things in my life that seemed so difficut, so impossible seemed not only possible but probable.  I put together my new people-powered push lawn mower and mowed my lawn for the first time in two years.   I began to install a new post for my mailbox.  I spontaneously invited the neighbors over for salmon and threw my first dinner party in over a year.  I dreamed of falling in love again.

      And Sunday evening as each family arrived, carrying ice, brownies, chocolate and the makings of mojitos they passed through a door, not yet perfect but more together than the day before, bright and hopeful offering a promise of better days to come.  Instead of a issuing its warning, my door told the guests that we who lived there were mending, progress was being made.  Sure I still need to remove the awful storm door, and install this guardian I have been coveting since January.    There is still work to do on the entrance and then the rest of my house:  the lawn that looks like the setting for a Stephen King novel, the garage that needs to be emptied.  As my father says of home ownership, “It never ends”.  Thats OK. 

     Its like that with hearts too.

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