Sometimes You Have To Break It To Fix It


Barb's bulldozed front yard

I just recorded a podcast episode that was inspired by a bulldozer decimating my yard. 

They say that life imitates art, or perhaps art imitates life, (and I am not sure who “they” might be) and while a bulldozed yard is far from artistic, it is, on some level, beautiful.

In 2007 or so I had a backup of sewage in my basement. A block in the main sewer pipe that runs from my house to the street because everything we sent down the drain to flow into our basement. Our washer filled up, there was a puddle on the floor. The shower downstairs began to smell.

Eight hours later all was well, but the city plumber who cleared the blockage (roots growing through the clay pipe just over the property line), warned that if I did not replace the pipe this would happen again.

Fast forward seventeen years (that’s right, you heard me) and in the midst of revamping the plumbing in my basement “John the Plumber” askes if we have ever had that underground sewar pipe checked. (Cue sinking stomach). He found evidence of sewage back up making its way into the pipes. 

Time to revisit that sewer pipe. 

Along with a complete kitchen remodel we are doing a yard overhaul as well. A new stone wall, a driveway relocation, an all the time above ground pool. We are going all out. At the advice of my plumber and carpenter we decided to replace that pipe as part of the yard overhaul. 

What a day!

From my perch at the window of my bedroom the swath of destruction was clear. The old clay pipe, not seen to daylight since its installation roughly one hundred years ago winding its way to the street. The damage and divots, dips here and there, a testament to all of the toilet flushes, laundry loads and showers that have passed through it. 

A lovely blue PVC pipe now lives beneath my yard.

As one who struggles with change sometimes, these past eight months have been challenging. So much dust and damage. All that is familiar and therefore comforting, dismantled before my eyes. The knot in my stomach has paid off its mortgage. It is there to stay. From my bedroom perch I could hear the table saw of the carpenter rebuilding my kitchen and see the bulldozer digging up my lawn. IN this uneasy moment it dawned on me that the “sometimes you have to break it to fix it” saying was true right then.

At that moment the chaos and noise, the piles of dirt and all of the dust became… beautiful.

Not the neat and orderly beautiful that we all seem to strive for, rather the Kintsugi beautiful that we have to learn. Once broken, nothing can ever be as it was. It will always be different. It will forever look broken if viewed from eyes identifying it by what it once was. It can be beautiful if viewed with open eyes, flexible eyes, forgiving eyes, hopeful eyes. 

The marriage of my old kitchen with my new kitchen is beautiful. I can stand in that room and feel just like I felt ten years ago standing in my old kitchen. I can “see” it. I also feel a rush of optimism and excitement. This different can actually feel good. 

The piles of mud and rocks I currently call “my yard” will soon give way to a new reality for us. The curved driveway will be a memory. The tree is gone. It will all feel foreign, yet also familiar. The enchanted forest will remain. The granite wall, my homemade path to our neighbor’s yard will be a part of it as well. The new fence will mimic the old. 

It will all be ok.

I would love for this blog to flow into how this all applies to life without Molly. While I can certainly see beauty in this cracked beyond repair life of mine, there is no version of life that is prettier or more beautiful with Molly missing from it. Common narrative will state “you have to move on” or it will ask “how can you wish to go back in time, there would be no Jack!” 

Molly and Jack, and their being in my life, are not mutually exclusive. I can absolutely wish for time to go back so Molly could be saved. At the same time, I cannot imagine life without Jack in it. Those feelings live simultaneously in my heart and soul. All that Moulton Kintsugi Gold does not beautify my life, not even close. It does, however, add tremendous beauty to it. It seeks out and creates beauty with in the ugly.

Many of my closest attachments currently are to people and places that have only known me since after Molly’s death. There is no expectation here to be my former self. I am simply me. Sad Barb who often appears quite cheerful and happy. And in many of those moments, I am. I am also almost always a bit sad.

Watching my kitchen and yard take a rather massive physical beating and then return to beauty has taken a great deal of weight off my shoulders. It is not my fault that my life became ugly any more than it is the kitchen’s fault it was gutted. My yard did not misbehave. It simply needed some upgrades. 

While I will likely spend many hours and days of my life blaming myself for Molly’s death, the reality is that her death was not my fault. I did not behave in such a way, or make decisions that directly killed her. I did not deserve her death or anything of the disasters that have happened in its wake. And while I have come a long way….
I think I could use a few upgrades😊

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