lux et libertas

In terms of time, there are about five months left. I added it up, though, and thanks to the traveling I'm doing, I will only be in this house for about another 45 days. That knowledge colors my actions.

Months ago, I started a spreadsheet. I didn't know what to title it at the time. It was neither a joyful nor a sad spreadsheet, it was just a listing of things that had to be done. I was struggling to breathe at night with the weight of the world pressing on my chest, and the only thing that made it better was choosing to organize my thoughts. I couldn't in good conscience give it a cheerful name or a pissy one, not for a life change as full of grief as this one is.

I named it for what I wanted. Light. Liberty. Freedom.

There are sheets in the spreadsheet for each of the major sub-sections of thought:

  • Major things I need or want to buy, broken down by room of house.
  • Things in each room of our current house that I want to ensure aren't left behind.
  • Major questions I need to keep in mind as the process continues
  • Things Jacob can get for me at a steep discount from the 3M company store
  • Things better off bought in Portland during my upcoming December trip
  • A rough timeline of things that must happen at different times
  • Jacob's excellent research into neighborhoods in Portland (his Christmas gift to me is research, and time)
  • Recipes Jacob's identified that I both like, and can be frozen in batches (see above about research and time)

There are days that this spreadsheet feels like the only thing holding me together. I don't know how to cope with my current life, I'm deeply frightened of what's coming, and the only thing I know to do is what got me through the past three years: dive into details. 

I'm still finding out how badly the past three years have burned me. As I start my October Project -- going through old boxes in closets -- every layer of life I excavate seems covered in ash. What little didn't go up in flames in late 2010, when the accident happened, seems to have smoldered away in the meantime. I never know what boxes are still hot inside, lying in wait to scorch fingertips.

Tonight I found cards I wrote out for Jeff that he never opened. I found the lining for my beloved trench coat, which has been missing for at least a decade and I had long since given up for lost. Stocking holders for my mantelpiece that my aunt gave me as a wedding present. The cake topper for our wedding.


I put the lining back in my trench coat -- I'll be glad of it in Portland -- and I put the right label on the mantelpiece decorations: STORAGE. FRAGILE.

There are rolls of tape awaiting use. I rifle through every box. I discard what I can, file misplaced items, and then make the decision: will this box be part of my new life? If yes, I grab the tape and mark it with what matters:

  • kitchen
  • bedroom 1 
  • bedroom 2
  • bathroom
  • office
  • living room
  • storage
  • open first
  • fragile

Anything that isn't labeled, stays.

I'm unsure how much 'fragile' tape I need to put on me, but I think I need to save the last bit for my heart.

all tags: 


Focusing on the details is my coping strategy as well for getting big things done.  And, really, it's not a bad idea: each Big Thing is composed of a choice, which is by nature abstract, and then a whole bunch of concrete things that implement the decision you made.  


You've taken time to make your decision carefully.  I dare say you've examined it from every possible angle, even the ones that would make a yoga master cringe.  Now that you've decided, you have a whole spreadsheet full of things that have to be done, contingencies to plan for, research to pursue...  all perfectly normal, save that some of them are a lot more emotionally fraught than we might like.


Wrap your heart up in soft batting before you put that FRAGILE tape on it.  You're not just coping.  You're making forward progress.  Every step counts.