Monday, November 16, 2009

The hard parts

I write about the delights of co-housing and those are mostly what I experience. But of course nothing is all easy and this story isn't going to feel real if we don't get the hard parts into it. For me there are really just two hard aspects so far. The first I expected. I worry about co-housing with one daughter overshadowing my closeness with the other daughter and her family. I fear getting to know Liam so much better than Andrea just because of proximity and access. In fact, this problem was so in my consciousness that I asked Joanna her feelings about Ruth and Chris moving in even before I talked to Bob about it. So far so good with this. I've helped Joanna with her move the last three Mondays and spent some other times with her - went out to a fun dinner with her and Ruth without babies. It was great. There is a tension in me to create balance in all family relationships and the co-housing provides an imbalance, and I think it takes maturity on all our parts to manage that.

The other tough area snuck up on me entirely. I knew Ruth made a beautiful home, really is a skilled aesthetic decorator, and that she has definite tastes and that the way the house looks and the space is used REALLY matters to her. We talked about this early and talked about the need to declutter and I told her I wanted her to take the lead in decorating decisions. In the beginning that was great as she cleared up cluttered areas and got the kitchen cabinets closing properly for the first time ever. She has been very inclusive in color decisions and I love her results. I expected to get rid of lots of stuff, and welcomed that. But I didn't realize how deep her desire for change would go. There are bookshelves I designed and had built into the house that she rightly believes don't fit our needs now, and I find myself defensive, not wanting something I'm proud of to be changed, removed. I have trouble accepting that anything isn't forever. Also, some of the antiques I love (would I love them if I didn't know their stories and hadn't been conditioned to like furniture with history?) don't really fit Ruth's aesthetic and I wince every time I see her not love pieces I adore. Last week I felt edgey and defensive about the decorating and about needing to part with more furniture. That feeling has passed for now, but I know it will crop up again.


  1. I do appreciate reading about the periodic challenges as well as the joys. I think, at some point, as you all look back on your experiences it will be important to remember the kinds of things you shared here.

    On another note, each time I come to this blog I always come first to your very first entry and have to search into "November" befor I find the most current entry. I do wonder why that is..

  2. I can definitely understand those tough times concerning fear that one daughter and her family might feel like they are on the back burner compared to the other... but I know you and Bob, and I know that would not be so.

    It is hard to give up a piece of furniture or another material thing that you are attached to. I could fight for KEEP IT or GET RID OF IT equally. It's hard to imagine that there could be a compromise. Recently my ex told me that he and his wife were going to get rid of some lamps in our Hawaiian condo that I just love, because his wife felt they were deteriorating. Mary and I were just there. We did not notice this. He asked me what I would like them to do with these lamps, and knowing there was not a lot of extra space I said "Dump them in the garbage. No, wait. Maybe someone wants them. Oh! Cathy, our cleaning lady! She loves them! Please ask Cathy if she wants them." He did, she was excited to get them, and I am happy that someone is going to enjoy them, even if it is no longer me.

    No message in this story, Victoria. Just sympathy, and the knowledge that material things don't count compared to love and family.