I love the song “I am Woman.” During most of my adult life, it did not necessarily describe me. It provided goals to aim for and made me feel fabulous when I sang along with Helen Reddy.
Being a widow for 20 years. I’ve learned that I am strong. I am not necessarily invincible as the song lyrics say, but I am resilient. For the past decade, I have been living a life I never dreamed I could. Fifteen years ago, I had no clue that I could write books that would sell. That I could give PowerPoint presentations all over western Oregon and become known as The Bridge Lady of the Oregon Coast. That I could co-found a book fair that is considered one of the best in Oregon. Who knew!
I’ve been a single person homeowner for these past 20 years. I have learned that I can handle small and large crises. What first comes to mind are a few leaking water pipes within the house over a 10-year period that caused problems that could be solved by spending hundreds of dollars each time. Then there was the major water leak that caused a whole ceiling to collapse. Then I had to bite the bullet and re-pipe the whole house as well as pipes leading to the road and having to come up with how to pay for it. This time, it was many thousands of dollars. I used up savings, borrowed from life insurance, cashed in a money market fund and and came up with several more thousands to turn the downstairs into an apartment. I didn’t have to mortgage the house or borrow from family or friends. But I had shot my wad and had only what came in each month, which was almost enough to live on.
Without creating the apartment/money source, I would have had to put the house on the market and find a less expensive place to live. The house is paid for but there are ongoing maintenance expenses as well as the annual homeowners’ insurance and property tax. Just this past year, I replaced the 25-year roof in its 24th year, replaced some vinyl floors that needed it, and had an unexpected collapsing septic tank that had to be replaced. There is always something when you own a home.
I have learned that I can handle a lot at one time, like handling declining health and a dire diagnosis of a life-threatening illness while in the final weeks of preparing everything needed for a major event. I didn’t give in to it and end up in the ER until the day of the event. At that point, I knew the book fair would be fine without me and I had lined up volunteers to cover my table. The weeks of diagnosis and testing gave way to five months of treatment, all of which were scary. But I learned that I could handle it. Without a support system of friends and family, though, I could not have stayed in my home alone during the five months of treatment. For that, I am forever grateful.
So mentally, I can say that I am strong. But I can’t say that about me physically any more, which is no surprise, since I will be turning 80 later this year. Some chores, I simply don’t do these days. I don’t scooch along the edge of the roof cleaning out the drains anymore, and I don’t climb all over the various roof levels to clean clerestory windows and skylights anymore. I still wash all the other windows, though.
In the yard, I don’t do as much either. I have had the same yard man for 30+ years and he is doing more and more for me. By making accommodations, I can still do a lot. For example, I bought four large bags of bark mulch a week ago. It was raining, so I left them in the trunk of the car. The next day, there was a forecast of rain in the afternoon, but it was simply cloudy in the morning. So, I really got with it. I used my hand truck (like a shorter wider version of a dolly) and unloaded two bags onto it and pulled it up my driveway, along the road 100 feet or so and then along the lot next to me and into my back yard to the top of the steps leading down to the greenhouse. Two trips got all the bark into place, where I could handle it.
It took all my energy to make those two trips. I came in the house and laid down. And I didn’t get up for 45 minutes. Then back to work. I slid a bag down the steps and drug it to the third tier of my terraced area. This first bag was the most difficult part of the whole project, lifting it over and around all the ferns. With the second bag, I didn’t have to go quite so far. Then the third and fourth bags I slid all the way down to the level of the greenhouse. I was able to mulch the third and fourth tiers of the terraces and the planting areas around the greenhouse. I had no idea, four bags would go so far. I thought I was just going to do the third tier. I was really, really pleased when I got done but also really, really tired. Once again, I came in and laid down. This time I got up after only 30 minutes. Then I had lunch.
Later, I did something I had often watched others do, but had never done myself. I re-caulked the corners of my shower. Only a couple inches on one side and about 15 inches total on the other side. Not a big enough job to hire someone, so I read about what I needed to do, got what I needed, and did it. I had already picked out the bad stuff and prepped it. And it looks great! So, I’m very proud of myself. . . . I do have a shoebox lid that has one end on the inside totally caulked. I had to use something for practice, because I had never done it before. I discovered that it is a lot harder to do than it looks.
Looking back over the past 20 years, I can say that I am woman, I am strong, I am resilient . . . but not totally invincible!