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Personal Reinvention – A Much-Needed Respite

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Blocking the Sun’s Reflected Heat and Glare

All loss is wrenching, part sorrow, part anger, twisting one’s gut, leaving those going through trauma basket cases. Almost everyone I know who’s been through the trials and tribulations of dealing with an alcoholic spouse, one who’s given to unreasonable fits of rage, is prone to panic attacks. A panic attack is defined as “a sudden overwhelming feeling of acute and disabling anxiety”. Now, my purpose here is not to talk about spousal abuse or alcoholism or panic attacks. It is to reiterate an overwhelming fact – life is good if you know how to live it. Living life can be many things to many people. Of course, but ultimately, the human spirit prevails, and life is good. And I’m not quoting platitudinous mumbo jumbo, I speak from a position of someone who’s taken charge of her life the hard way.

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Jacob was a hard working advertising professional who swept me off my feet while we were still hick town neighbors. Ambitious, he left his small town existence for he drive and drama of a big city, Ivy League School, heading for success after success in advertising. We were married 12 years, with an 8-year-old daughter when the final split came about. We are all ‘social’ drinkers, a euphemism for seeking parties with booze flowing. Nobody pays much attention till the bills aren’t paid, and one flies off the handle at innocent questions, and one has no recollection of the livid, scathing row from last night that has left you with a tooth missing, your little girl throwing tantrums for no reason, and an enjoyable walk in the park becomes an abysmal ordeal, because you don’t know when your heart will suddenly start racing, causing you to vomit, leaving you a trembling wreck!

But enough was enough! Though I had never worked, having got married right after college, I had done some interesting courses in cookery and computer programming, which came to my aid when I got into a tight spot. I’d managed to eke out some savings through the years, from the money John deposited into our home account and a small family inheritance. So when there was no more money coming in, and John was at the point of no return, I enlisted his brother’s help to get him into a long-term rehab program that was not exactly cheap, and as our house was gone, I managed to get my daughter and me a tiny apartment. And last of all, grabbed the bull by the horns and filed for divorce. The singular most gut-wrenching experience in my life. But I couldn’t deal with John anymore, not with an impressionable growing child, and at the risk of my becoming a goner.




My little girl and I threw ourselves into making our small apartment a home – once we were back home, we’d get a quick snack, and it was stripping, painting and polishing time! Ela was extremely cooperative, seemingly blossoming with the little responsibilities I gave her every day, and slowly let go of her bad temper to become the smiling child she was. But it has taken us from last fall to get to where we are today, and it was mainly the ‘apartment therapy’ along with our twice-weekly counselling sessions at AAA that got us to where we are. Hopefully, John too was doing as well. There will come the time when we will have to make our peace with each other, but not just yet. Anyway, he’s still got months of rehab ahead of him.



Baby steps, for all three of us.

I work at a restaurant not far from home and close to Ela’s school. Our place was rather sad when we got hold of it though it did seem to have prospects, primarily because it was small. But ridiculously small, after what I was used to. The saving grace was that it was a gated community, nothing exclusive, but I needed to be part of a bigger setup, even though our living space was small. Good for Ela, lots of kids her age around – there was a lovely play area, a cycling track, swimming pool, a self-contained supermarket – all the amenities required.
Once we settled into our 400-sqft studio apartment (we’d come in with nothing more than our clothes and necessities, a box bed, a stove and a refrigerator. As we walk into the apartment, we have a tiny alcove to the right, a little bathroom to the left and a big open space we could do whatever we wanted with. The one saving grace to the place was the large French doors that opened out to a balcony.




An Illusion of Space

The walls were a terrible shade of gray that had to go. The wooden floor was a nice enough brown, but I wanted it stripped and painted white. During the weekends, I would work on the floor, getting myself some much-needed exercise in the bargain. Of course, my little Cinderella was always at hand to pick and carry for me, even making me coffee now and then. Macaroni cheese wasn’t beyond her, and that was what we would have for dinner sometimes! I painted the walls the lightest shade of mauve I could find and scouring the net got me a large mirror I had mounted on the far open-kitchen wall. The place looked spacious and bright.
It was time to mark out spaces. I’d decided on an island for our kitchen – both the kitchen sink and hob fitted neatly into it while giving us enough space to incorporate a fold-down table top opposite the mirror. I had Ikea cabinets installed all around the mirror, so we could use them for our clothes as well. The drawers on the island would have to suffice for all the tableware, cook and bake ware. My Island and cabinetry were made of pine, the knots on them giving the space a little drama.
Next, I bought a plush upholstered sofa in a purple and white stripe, with fluffy cushions, and three compact wooden chairs I could have floating around. This posed the question of what I would do with the box bed we’d been using. I decided to get my brother-in-law, who ran a carpentry workshop, to build me a framework that would support the bed over the sofa area. As luck would have it the walls were 12 feet high, so I had enough room to play about with. So that was done, and we chugged along for another couple of months till I decided that Ela needed some space of her own – it was all hunky dory, both mother and daughter cramped at the island table of an evening, doing our respective homework!




Shading for My French Doors

But Ela’s corner had to wait a while longer as the light from the west-facing French Doors was sharp in the evenings, and being summer, the little girl wasn’t getting to bed early enough. We were both sleep deprived. And some the light got reflected right back to us by the large mirror. I needed to shade my doors urgently, and I didn’t want some make shift arrangement. Pouring through the variety of options on the net, I saw a very exciting option called the roller solar shades that even came with blackout fabrics sporting intricate designs! But I finally decided on the Sun-Up-Sun-Down or called as Day-Night Cellular shades in a Coconut Cream Valetta fabric that has a vibrant self-design on it. The sun-up sun-down shades have midrails on them that allow the combination of light filtering and room darkening panels on one shade. Cellular shades also offer exceptional thermal and acoustic insulation, so when neighbors get boisterous, the noise won’t be so discomfiting! And come winter, not too far off now, we’ll be snug as bugs in a rug! The 3/8” cells would insulate our little space so that interior temperature remained constant, no matter the season. And it picks out the color of the floor! When the l’il one needed to hit the sack I could deploy the room darkening shade over the top half of the doors, so the summer sun doesn’t disturb her slumber. And I can still have the light filtering panels down over the bottom half, or not! Great technology. And shopping online yielded fabulous discounts, and no installation charges as it’s all DIY, all necessities provided – I just need my power drill to put the screws into the door frame, no trouble at all, and just snapped the head rail into the slots and it was done. I opted for the standard cord control with a safety lock and cord cleats. The shades provided the much-wanted finishing touch. Neat and sassy!
We’re both healing as we take our time in completing our home, learning to take pleasure in the small but significant things in life. We’re not ready to ‘entertain’ yet, but when we do, it will be alcohol-free for sure. Baby steps!




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