I borrowed the title of today’s posting from the name of an incredibly popular lifestyle website – A Beautiful Mess – which is run by two sisters Elsie and Emma. These ladies share tips on everything ranging from cooking to home decor to style and of course, lots of DIY projects. Their mantra is that life is better when it’s a little messy; imperfection breeds character.
I guess I’m here today to politely disagree.
My life has been a mess lately in the most literal sense and I can tell you it’s not pretty; it’s chaotic. For the past two months, I’ve been busy helping my mom with a series of home improvement projects that my parents had begun last year. While there hasn’t been anything MAJOR, there’s been a lot of repainting of rooms, switching around furniture, and minor reconstruction.
After my dad died this spring, my mom fought the impulse to abandon this work, sell the house and move away (flight as opposed to fight) but ultimately she decided that she couldn’t leave the home that she and my dad had built over the last 30 years. However, the space she had shared with my dad and our family for the last three decades suddenly felt different and in an attempt to make her feel more comfortable, we decided to finish the work that she and my dad had undertaken. Besides, my dad was never fond of starting something without finishing it. So it’s been busy and messy to say the least.
If I had only been working with my mom on her projects it might be manageable but because I apparently like to make things 10,000x harder for myself, D and I are undergoing similar projects at our home too, so basically I’ve been migrating between two works-in-progress for the last couple weeks. Even though my mom and I are both type-A, hyper organized people and have tried to maintain some sort of order in the midst of all this work, the simultaneous renovations have created a level of chaos and mess that I am not familiar or comfortable with. I’m completely out of my element and my mind feels frazzled trying to focus in the midst of all this change. Is it the change or the paint fumes, I’m not certain. (It’s definitely the mess.) Part of the difficulty in all of this upheaval is that I don’t feel like I belong in my space anymore. Everything is a mess, there’s no order and no control. I can’t find the things I need and it frustrates me that my home doesn’t quite feel like my home at the moment.
As such, I’ve begun to lament the idea of space and belonging and I’ve had a lot of time to mull over these ideas while I’ve been working away on the various home improvement tasks (word to the wise: you do not want me to paint your house. I am not good). I’ve had a lot of thoughts on what these things mean, in both the macro sense (migration and cultural diaspora; hard not to think about this with the Canadian election coming up October 19th and the US Presidential election next year) and the micro (sense of self, physicality and grounding). I’ve come across some interesting reads, like this one which discusses home and belonging but the issue I have often returned to, because it’s still so fresh in my mind, is palliative care and ensuring a sense of safety, comfort, and belonging during end of life treatment.
If you’ve been following this blog for long enough, you’ll know that palliative and hospice care is an important issue to me. Even though it was very brief, my dad received excellent palliative care when he was sick and it made a big difference for him and the rest of the family that he was able to be at home surrounded by the familiar and comforting. While our hospitals do the best that they can to make patients comfortable, it simply isn’t the same. For us, in times of uncertainty, being able to return to the familiar allowed us to exhibit some agency and control, which is what we needed at the time. In the months since my dad’s passing, I’ve been reading more about palliative care and realize that there are gaps in the system. There are many people who have had poor experiences with the programming available and that’s a problem because these services can help if implemented properly.
If you would like to help, please consider volunteering your time to help support these services. If you’re Canadian remember to check out your political party’s platform on cancer research funding and palliative care and let your voice be heard when we head to the polls next month.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some painting to finish. Sigh.