Days Like This & First World Problems
There are many days living in this old cabin where I question what the hell I’m doing with my life. Am I really capable of living in/sustaining a structure this high maintenance? Do I have what it takes—financially and otherwise?
Days like today, when, in the middle of my second load of laundry, the water stopped working. My finances are stretched to the max, dishes aren’t done, and after a late-long-night all I wanted was a hot shower.
I’ve lived without water before: when my ex-husband was renovating the bathroom himself I alternated between showering in the utility sink if it was available, standing in a rubber made and pouring hot water over myself when it was not, and if it was a nice day, utilizing the forest-facing back porch for my ablutions. My tent-dwelling days acclimated me to catching a wash where I could: lakes, streams, waterfalls, etc.
My current situation feels different. It’s up to me to figure out how to fix this and I feel woefully inadequate. Days spent scratching my head in good moments and near tears in bad leave me wondering why we don’t teach more practical, day-to-day things in schools. The U.S. educational system is woefully inadequate anyway (don’t get me started on modern education and the “teach-to-the-test” system that’s pumping out millions of uneducated students unable to think critically), but why don’t we teach skills people use regularly?:
Finances, basic auto mechanics, cooking, basic electricity, plumbing, carpentry, etc.
These are skills that most everyone needs a rudimentary understanding of at some point in their lives.
I need one now. I flipped the switches on the fuse box, tried to get the water pump going manually, called neighbors, solicited advice but I’ve run out of fixes to try on my own. I have to wait for help, which is grating.
The experience has led me to reflect and empathize with former inhabitants of my home who lived without running water. Children were raised here, families utilizing both river and old-fashioned stone well to obtain this necessary day-to-day resource. Hauling water up from the river makes me appreciate the simplicity of a small silver handle turning and almost-instantaneous clean, hot water at my fingertips.
It’s been the warmest early-November that I can remember. I debate washing-up in the bathtub and opt for a chillier but more adventurous frolic in the river.
Just as the sun’s rays dip below the tree-line I make my way down to the river, naked but for towel and rubber boots.
With a shiver, I drop the towel and wade into the pushing current. Leaves still clinging to reaching tree limbs flicker yellow, filtering evening light into golden shadows.
I’m tired, frustrated, and anxious about how much the water-fix will cost.
Dipping my hands into the cold water is unpleasant at first, but after a few curses, exclamations, and inarticulate noises of exasperation, I begin to enjoy my splashings, pondering how lucky I am: the water pump died on a warm evening; my neighbors can provide me with clean drinking water; I have a community offering advice, support, and fixes; I live on a stunning river that provides for all but my drinking water needs; I have electricity, propane, firewood, and food to eat—not to mention Wi-Fi. By so many people’s standards, this is living in luxury.
I’m also discovering new strength reserves. Several times I wanted to sit my vexed ass down on the wood floor and give myself up to the hot tears threatening to slide down my cheeks. However, I’ve done that before and it only delayed fixing the problem, so I sniff once or twice and square my shoulders.
You chose this life whispers through my mind in my father’s voice. Sell the house and move closer to town. Make things easier on yourself. Blinking away the tears, I reach for the five-gallon bucket and head for the river so I can at least flush the toilet.
Hell, at least I have an indoor toilet that flushes.
The water is ice-cream-headache cold as I dunk my hair into the current, turning fine strands from blond to red, swirling like seaweed.
My whimpers turn to yips of exhilaration. Unable to help myself, I laugh out loud.
If the water hadn’t gone out, I wouldn’t have had this moment in the river. And there it is—the shift in mood—the choice to spin my situation and find joy beneath the hardship.
It won’t always be this easy. The sun slips lower. I step from the river, grateful. So exhilarated from icy water’s tumble I no longer feel cold, just a matching rush of blood in my veins a broken water pump enabled.