Renovating can be a trying thing.
It’s only been the second day and already my nerves are frazzled and my equilibrium shot. That my mental balance can be so tenuous is a discovery both surprising and unsettling.
The source of my discomfort, this time, is the revelation that the work whose conclusion was promised in three days will now require three more. That the contractor should tell me this so blithely and casually reveals the true state of affairs: my home is hostage, and he and I know it.
That I am at my contractor’s mercy is not what dismays me. Rather, it is the notion of spending three more days as a refugee—of being a migrant, nomad and vagrant in my own house.
Home is home precisely because it permits us to take things for granted, to concede to the involuntary—to rely, in short, on programmed patterns of action. We enter our homes and traverse a space where we can turn a knob, flick a switch, sidestep a stool, draw a shade, climb a step and bypass a vase without the necessity of conscious thought. Renovating is disruptive because it upsets these spatial reflexes, turns our sanctuaries into jungles and puts our senses on high alert. Now we have to remember things, make mental notes, stick little bits of paper on the door of the dislocated fridge. We wake up to the strange and the unfamiliar and what makes the sensation more distressing is the knowledge that this is home.
The anxiety of disorientation would be easily assuaged if not for the fact that renovations end. The very knowledge that an end will come—that the work will be completed—inhibits our natural ability to respond and adapt. Why form new habits of thought and new routines for action when the transience of their necessity is clearly guaranteed?
But inhibited or not, I will have to adapt. The end may be certain—it may not necessarily be near.