08/21/2013 03:14 EDT | Updated 10/20/2013 05:12 EDT

Why Home Renovations Bring Out the Best in Me

Last week, I went away on a six-day excursion, some of which was spent without the company of Husband. Which is to say, I took the two youngest and flew the coop. I left with the understanding that Husband might do a few "projects" while I was gone. Which is also to say that he was planning to tear the house apart while I pretended that I was calmly okay with that. So calm, in fact, that I was going to take said mini-vacation.

While I was gone, I asked Husband very few questions about what was being done in my absence. I had a few clues, but my tried and true rule of thumb for these precarious situations is "the less I know, the less I stress." So, I pretended like nothing much was going on in the wake of my departure.

I pretended that it was all no big deal.

What was actually going on was this: My house was being ransacked, er...renovated.

So. If any of you perfectionists out there might have fantasies about leaving your home and returning to a completely new, freshly renovated house -- unaided by your own direction or leading. All the while, your complete trust is in that person doing over said house whom you believe fully has everything under control. Let me just say that I am 'kind' of one of those people. Only because if I stayed to oversee the proceedings, all persons involved would probably have to settle for damages in court.

In this case, it was either save the marriage (and escape court) or flee the city, union intact.

Now, just so you know: I stress when I know my house is a mess. I stress when I come home and my house is a mess. I stress when I am in the middle of cleaning my house and I know it is a mess. I find living in my house stressful. So, the only sane alternative to living STRESSED in a house that is being turned upside down and backwards is leaving said house while it is being turned inside out and backwards.

So that is exactly what I did. And while I was gone, I pretended like my house looked exactly like I left it. Perfectly, immaculately clean. Everything intact. That is the little dream world I lived in for a complete week.

Sometimes you just have to do whatever it takes.

So. You can imagine for someone like myself what it might have felt like to return home knowing that it may or may not be the same color as I left it. The counter-tops may or may not be the wood-look they have been for the past 17 years. And they may or may not be the same surface texture. The bathroom may or may not still be blue. And there may or may not be any more surprises that I am not aware of, including new furniture and fixtures.

You can just imagine for a moment what that might be like.

You can imagine what GREAT RESTRAINT, what GREAT SELF-CONTROL it might take to not act stressed and anxious when you arrive home after a week away to be greeted by the fam-damily, who are all waiting for you to fall all over yourself and scream with delight at this great turn of events (i.e. your house has been flipped). You can just imagine what willpower that would take. When all you really want to do is cry and call the freaking Merry Maids from town to come in and CLEAN YOUR HOUSE and then return your cozy abode to its former semblance of normalcy. Not that it was better, mind you. It was just familiar.

You can just imagine what an ordeal that might be.

Note: It takes a great deal of discipline to not act in ways which are our normal, habitual pattern

Lest you perceive me as an ungrateful wench, I must say this had nothing to do with being particularly snobby about Husband's choices for our home. Au contraire. This had everything to do with me being a perfectionist who has a hard time releasing control. And the fact that I did so is the true achievement of the week. Kudos to me.

I often espouse the motto that there is no better time than RIGHT NOW. That one should live in the present. In the moment. And I often write funny stories that paint my family life in glowing terms. And sometimes I wax eloquent about teaching and motherhood and relationships and faith and my crazy home life, making it seem as if I have all these things in the bag. But I hope you know that I write about these things because they are the hardest things in life for me.

Things like coming home and showing joy about home renovations that I had no part of. LIVING PRESENTLY WHEN FACED WITH HOME RENOS IS HARD. And when I say I am trying to live presently and trying to put perspective in its proper place and live my life to the fullest, I'm writing about it because it is one of the greatest challenges I am faced with. These things are HARD for me. I write about them because they are hard. If they were easy, I wouldn't really care.

Reading a letter someone else writes, or a blog or a diatribe or whatever you want to call this that I am writing here- it can often be misconstrued. If the message is consistently a positive, happy-go-lucky one, we might think sometimes the author of those words is perhaps a wee bit simple. Daft, maybe. A little bit shallow and unable to see life for what it really is. That the author of those words is not living in the real world. If the message is consistently a negative, pessimistic one, we might say that the author of those words is then too cynical. A gloomy Gus. Someone who thinks the worst about everything.

It is hard to understand the meaning for why people write the things they do because you can't stop the person mid-sentence and question them on their motive. Ask them about the reason for their message.

I write for the very reason that life is hard. Motherhood is hard. Relationships are hard. Teaching is hard. Life is hard. Kitchen renovations are hard. When I write and say that life "doesn't get better than right now," it is because I am telling myself, "Lori, as hard as life might be in this given moment, this is life. This is LIFE. And life is beautiful, fragile and precious. It is wild and wonderful. And it might be frustrating and annoying and terrible and trying and HARD, HARD, HARD. But it can still be an amazing life if you choose to make it so."

Some of my writing that people have related with the most has come from a dark place inside of me- a place of deep despair. Sometimes what resonates with people the most is what has been the hardest for me to write. Those days, it is my perspective on what has transpired that pulls me through. It is choosing joy. Not because I am a naturally joyful, exuberant, happy person. But because I am not. Because I have to choose, it makes it that much more of a challenge. To choose humor over anger. To choose forgiveness over bitterness. To choose a soft answer over a sharp one. To choose kindness over spite.

To choose to LOVE green and frost (what color do YOU think frost might be?) walls over yellow and navy ones. To choose to LOVE black counter-tops over wood-look ones. To be grateful. To show delight and pleasure because it brings satisfaction to someone else. Even at my expense. To show gratitude to someone and appreciate the hard work they have done FOR ME. And to perceive this as an act of love...a sacrifice of precious time.

How blessed we are when we choose to see our lives and all that we've been given for the precious treasure they truly are.

Every single day there are hard choices to make. Life is not candy canes and sunshine -- I know mine certainly isn't. My life is usually thunder clouds and torrential rain storms. I am a natural melancholic by personality. So when I make it a deliberate decision to choose joy, I am exercising muscles inside my soul that I wouldn't choose to use by nature.

And it might take every ounce of energy and willpower within me that I can muster. But it is worth it.

It is so totally worth it.