When it rains it pours, baby.
Last week’s blog post came a week late. You once-in-a-while readers wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t mention it, but those of you who tune in regularly might have. In that post I told you all how yet another house emergency had come along to drain all of my time and focus, rendering me unable to meet my deadline. The worst part about this house emergency was that it was one of my own making. Yep, completely my fault.
Accidents happen, and everything is okay in the end. But boy this one was a doozey. Read on to hear about my no good, very bad week, lessons learned, and how taking care of business—handling EVERYTHING—can make you feel both proud and lonely.
Buckle up guys, and welcome to my tragic comedy.
I was doing too much. Too may things, as usual.
I carry the flawed belief, despite evidence to the contrary, that I am capable of multitasking. I was cleaning up the mess from the salad I’d made myself for dinner, I was making a smoothie to bring with me to the airport the next morning, I was reminding myself of the things I still had to do—throw my charger in my bag, decide which purse or tote bag to bring. Did I need to bring a beach bag? I still had to finish my blog post that was due to be published the next day. And I was talking on the phone.
I was doing all of these things when I turned on the bathroom sink. In the sink was a pair of white high cut swimsuit bottoms with black spots. I’d made a joke about looking like a dalmatian the last time I’d worn them to the beach. But I liked them a lot.
I was handwashing these swimsuit bottoms because I wanted to take them with me to Orlando the next morning. My flight was at 8am and I’d forgotten to throw them in the wash with the rest of the laundry.
This was Wednesday, August 10.
For months, my friends and I had been planning a girls’ weekend in Orlando, Thursday- Sunday, August 11-14th. It was part housewarming, a celebration of the new home my bestie Rachel and her husband just finished building. And it was partly a reunion from Rachel’s ridiculously fun Montana bachelorette party a year ago. (If you haven’t read my post about How to Have the Best Bachelorette Party in Glacier National Park, feel free to check it out!)
You know how bachelorette parties can be—mixed company, friends and family from different worlds trying to connect and coalesce around a common goal. They can be awkward. But at this one, we all made fast friends and lasting connections. So much so, that we all wanted a reunion trip. Enter my plans to fly to Orlando.
I was in the midst of a conversation, and of doing the other millions of things I’d stacked up in the “last minute” pile before my trip, when I turned the corner and noticed some weird-looking pattern on my floor.
It took me a moment to realize it was WATER I was seeing. The pattern was swirls of soap suds, spilled over from the sink where the bikini was washing, and now apparently drowning.
I shut off the sink and laid towels on the floor as quickly as I could, drying the floor. It did not look like a ton of water, so once things were dry a few minutes later, I went about my business assuming everything was fine.
But everything was not fine.
My first floor tenant, who lives directly underneath me, sent a text. “Can you come look at this?”
My stomach sank. I knew the problem was worse that I’d thought. And that I had yet another mess on my hands to clean up.
Downstairs, the scene was grim, but not catastrophic. The dome light fixture hanging from the ceiling was full of water. Like you’d half expect to see a goldfish swimming around in it. And the water hadn’t stopped there. The couch that sat beneath the light fixture had soaked front cushions, and the hardwood floor before it was a long strip of wet. I was worried. Perhaps panicked is the right word.
I had the sinking feeling that I’d really f*cked up. That this one wouldn’t be a quick fix. I jumped into taking whatever action I could think of, which included setting up fans and towel-drying the couch cushions, switching off the circuit breaker in the room so no one would be electrocuted, and calling every emergency plumbing service with a 24-hour phone line.
Repairing the Damage
The next day I would find out from one of the dozens of plumbers who called me back, that I did not need plumbing services at all. Since it was human error and not a faulty pipe, there was nothing for a plumber to do. Restoration services were what I needed.
(Shoutout to Enviro Clean who did a great job cleaning up after my flood!)
They came, we concocted a plan, and I found out that my homeowner’s insurance would pay for it. Five days later, Monday August 15, a day after my would-be girls’ trip was supposed to end, the problem was fixed. The water was gone, the floors and ceilings were dry, and I breathed a heaving sigh of relief that it was all over.
But a lot happened before that.
A small portion of the mitigation efforts to dry the house out.
On Pride & Loneliness
This incident sparked a lot of emotion in me. The obvious things—guilt over causing inconvenience to someone else (my tenant), disappointment and shame for being so careless, worry over my property and the financial damage this could cause. But it also brought about emotions I did not expect.
That first night, after I’d cleaned up the water we could see, made a dozen calls to emergency plumbing services, and faced the reality that nothing would be resolved before morning, I went back upstairs, barely able to walk with exhaustion, to get some sleep.
But it did not come easily. Despite the time, after 2am, despite the come-down after an intense adrenaline spike, sleep did not come. The pit in my stomach refused to let me relax enough.
I crept out of bed to the little armchair in the nook of my bedroom to get the shaggy pink blanket draped over it. I brought the blanket to bed with me, but not for its warmth. Rather than spread it over myself, I held it in my hands, curled my body in and around it—arms and knees immersed, face buried in the soft fabric. I whispered to myself that everybody makes mistakes and that it would all be okay in the end. I tried to believe me over the ache and worry.
The next day I moved about like a robot. Phone call after phone call, workers in and out of my house. Homeowner’s insurance and restoration services. Talk of cutting the ceiling out.
“If that’s what you need to do,” I’d said, hopeful they would not have to do it.
It took all day, but I got things sorted. A plan formed, was put into action. My girls’ trip was cancelled of course but that’s the way it goes. We have to handle our business.
In the afternoon, after everyone left, I sat in my apartment in the deafening hum and hot air of commercial fans and dehumidifiers and felt palpably my aloneness. Or rather, I guess, my singleness.
It is funny, and possibly revisionist thinking, this “poor me, all alone” business.
I had friends and family calling and texting to check in with me throughout this very bad day. Genuinely concerned, supportive, helpful. I’m not really alone.
That and the fact that I’ve chosen to be single. Over and over again. It’s the thing I keep coming back to—the need for space and solitude, freedom and autonomy. And yet here I was, lamenting my aloneness. My responsibilities. Callouses forming in my very guts from having to do one hard thing after another. And always on my own.
I laughed at myself for feeling lonely. You love being single, I reminded. And I do. When things are good.
But sometimes when things are bad, when the storms come and the shit hits the fan, I love it less. There are times when it would feel really good to have someone. Even if not to solve the thing. Even just to be there. To stand in the shit with you.
I don’t have a person to face the storms with me, or to rub my back while I face them. I have a pink fuzzy blanket to curl up against for comfort. Words of affirmation that feel less significant because I’m giving them to myself.
It’s fine. But it’s not always great.
I resented every person in my life who has someone to share their burdens with. Every woman who does not have to be strong and independent all the time. People who still have things they “don’t” or “wouldn’t” do because they have the option not to.
It’s not their fault I’ve chosen singlehood and homeownership and that I make mistakes, like everyone does. But it’s hard not to compare. To think about how life could be easier with someone else to share the bliss and the blunders.
Then I think of how it would be with kids, a single parent. Both alone and responsible for others. Not even able to break down in quiet privacy. Or those of us without even a distant support system. No friends to check in, no family to make suggestions.
I know I’m lucky. Sometimes life just feels hard.
The loneliness this event brought up surprised me. I held it in my hand, like a bedazzled Christmas ornament, inspecting my feelings. How interesting it is, what a contradiction. How solid and how fragile all at once.
But as much as being lonely felt like trash and having to take care of everything myself was overwhelming and emotional, I have to admit that at the end of the week, the good feelings came like they always do.
The pride in being competent and capable, in being able to take care of whatever comes my way. In overcoming obstacles and figuring shit out as I go. In knowing I can handle anything. In proving it one more time.
One does not cancel out the other—the pride or the lonely I held in my hands. They’re both there. And though I’m far more comfortable with one than the other, they are both valid.
Some other Funny Things
Some other funny things happened after the flood was taken care of.
My car refused to start when I attempted to run out to Lowe’s for an extension cord. My sweet and helpful tenant gave me a jumpstart and she revved right up. I sat in it for a good long while, making sure it was running fine. But later that evening, when I got in my car to pick up the $60 worth of Indian food from my favorite spot in Providence, (a treat after a long, rough day) my car once again refused to start.
The next day, Friday, while the gentlemen from the restoration company checked the moisture levels in my house, a AAA tow truck driver came to the house and changed my battery right in the driveway. It was quick and easy, my car started as normal. But the check engine light remained on—a different issue, the driver told me.
This resulted in having to bring the car to the dealership this week to have her looked at. It was an $800 fix, but luckily the work was covered under an extended warranty I purchased. The dealership sent me home in an Uber so that I could spend the hours at home instead of sitting in their waiting room. In the few hours I was home, I locked myself out of the house, wearing sandals and a tee shirt, without a car, and my phone battery at 15%. It happened to be the first day in what feels like all Summer that it rained. So, I sat in the shelter of my porch and waited for the dealership to send an Uber to rescue me. There was a spare key in the car, and I (finally) set up a lock box with a spare key outside, as I’ve been planning to do for the last year.
I had three full days of insulation work scheduled, which ended up overlapping with the restoration work from the flood. The day the drying ended and the men took their equipment back, another crew of men set up and began drilling holes and pumping insulation into my walls.
Never a dull moment.
We found, during this process, that I had a nest of wasps living inside a panel of siding on the second floor. When the team lead for the insulation job sprayed the nest—he had to take them out before they could do that section of insulation—a few of the wasps found their way into the house. It was a slow trickle, one walking around on the long white curtain hanging in my front window. Then an hour later, two more, dancing about, seeming to be looking for the exit. I wished they’d find it. An hour later, one more.
I worried an infestation might be buzzing inside my wall, waiting to enter and force me out of my own home. And the next day, when the guys began drilling that section of wall, a few flew out. They had been in there, living rent-free for god knows how long. (I guess I wasn’t as alone as I thought.) The insulation pros were able to complete the job and thankfully I haven’t had another wasp sighting since.
When it rains it pours.
There were some good things that happened throughout this whole ordeal.
We did not have to cut the ceiling out.
Every professional that came to the house said the same thing: “It could be a lot worse.” And they were right. It could have been sewage, instead of soapy, clean tap water that leaked through the floor and ceiling. It could have been a burst pipe, requiring major repair. There could have been fiberglass insulation in the space between the first floor ceiling and the second floor. In that case it never would have dried and removing the ceiling would have been unavoidable.
Instead, we were able to “dry in place”, using just commercial grade fans, dehumidifiers, and mats that vacuum-sucked moisture from the floor boards. No demolition, no construction. As easy as it could be. And it worked, successfully.
My trip was un-cancelled.
I said earlier that my trip to Orlando to visit with a group of friends was cancelled. And it was…for a time.
I was supposed to leave Thursday morning on the first flight to MCO. But Wednesday night I flooded my house, then swaddled myself in my fuzzy blanket. Thursday morning, robotically, I did the tasks of finding a company to hire to fix my mistake, coordinating with my homeowner’s insurance, and figuring out what to do for my tenant. There was no way to be both out of the state and still home to let the restoration company inside. I would have to stay put for five days—loud, hot, swirling fans and all—until the house was dried out.
When the pros came back Friday to check the moisture levels, things were looking great. We’d achieved about a 50% reduction in wetness. Our plan was working! Before he left, the guy in charge said “When we come back Monday hopefully it will be all dried out and we can remove the equipment.”
I realized they would not be coming back Saturday or Sunday. A thought popped into my mind.
“Are these machines safe to run on their own,” I asked.
He said they were. They’re brand new. They have breakers built in so that in the unlikely event of an electrical issue they simply shut themselves off. He said at the rate my place was drying, even if they shut off for a full day it would likely still be dry by Monday.
I took care of the rest of my phone calls and errands and a rent abatement for the inconvenience to my tenant, and then I showered, threw my still fully-packed suitcase in my car, and drove to the airport. I arrived to my bestie’s house in Orlando at 1am, unannounced, a surprise coordinated with one of the friends attending. Good surprises are the best. And I got her good.
It was a quick trip, to be sure, from 1am Saturday until 8am Sunday morning. But in the abridged weekend I got to spend time with my friends who I don’t see often. I got to decide that my problems at home were not, in fact, the end of the world. And I got to be the kind of friend who shows up—even late, even under less than ideal circumstances.
I won’t lie, I worried about my house a lot while I was away. But I chose to trust the professionals, to ease up on my grip just a little bit. And it worked. When I stepped into my house Sunday afternoon, everything was as it had been. Hot, and dry as the desert. And when the guys came back Monday morning to check the levels, we got to finish up the whole ordeal and call it a success.
Enjoying the time with friends, despite stress & chaos.
Learning the hard way.
Overflowing my bathroom sink is a mistake I am confident I will never make again. Sometimes I think I’m wired to only learn things the absolute hardest way. But now that it’s over, the insurance checks have been sent, the house is good and dry, and life has returned to normal in my 100-year-old Rhode Island home, I can’t hold on to too much regret. Now that it’s over, it is just something that happened one time. A drop in the bucket of a trillion moments that happen in the course of a life.
Maybe I’ll always have to learn things the hard way. But at the end of the day, I learned. Now I know how to handle a homeowner’s insurance claim. That restoration services—and not a plumber—is who you call after this type of flood. How to properly, and ethically, handle an issue affecting a tenant. That life will throw more than one thing at a time your way. That it’s not bad luck or the end of the world. It is just a part of the human experience. (Okay, maybe it is a touch of bad luck, but don’t get caught up on this.)
I’ve learned that despite the gut-punching anxiety, shame, and “What-the-fuck-am-I-going-to-do” that arises, you will, in fact, figure it out. I’ve done it before, and every single shitstorm I find myself in proves to me once more that I can get through anything.
It’s not a lesson I love learning. But resiliency is a muscle. And each time I’m forced to work it I come out stronger on the other side. I know this strength will take me far. I’m absolutely sure of it.
That’s the end of my tragic comedy, folks. It was a whirlwind of a week, full of emotions and surprises. And though I’m glad to have the lessons I’ve learned under my belt, I am also looking forward to some time off from life’s little shenanigans. A month or two without emergency or chaos sounds pretty darn nice.
It’s just over two weeks until I begin my journey to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago. (If you missed last week’s post, you can read about the Camino here.) In the meantime, I’ll be packing and preparing for my trip, and getting my ducks in a row at home. I’m thrilled this stuff happened before I left and not after. And I’m so ready to immerse myself in this big bucketlist adventure.
Thanks for stopping by to read about my follies and my travels. If you want to follow my Camino in real time, find me on Instagram. And if you’d like to come back for more travel tips, flight attendant content, and personal anecdotes, please consider subscribing. You can get the latest sent directly to your inbox. If it’s your first time visiting, welcome! Stay a while, have a look around.
I hope to see you all back here soon—and that the subject matter is more fun and less hard lessons.