For my summer vacation, I spent a week at my recently built home in the rolling hills of Dutchess County in upstate New York. A good two years ago now, my partner, Steve, and I found a beautiful piece of property and set about building our dream house. Thinking we were finally going to be able to kick back and enjoy all of our efforts, we scheduled our first extended stay at the house. Relaxation, here we come!
Being the practical sorts that we are, we also knew it would be wise to tackle as many punch list items as possible during that week. A few strategically scheduled appointments here and there, and we’d be that much closer to our final vision. With our meeting list in hand, smiles on our faces and a touch of industry in our hearts, we boarded the train to our little oasis.
When we pulled into the driveway, we were pleased to see the landscapers busily planting our long-awaited hedges and took it as a good omen for the week. Soon thereafter, we learned that our first appointment with the pool guy needed to be postponed to the following day. No big deal – we thought – we’ll just move tomorrow’s planned exploration of the local antiques shops to another day. With the pool out of commission, why not make a quick jaunt to the local Home Depot to pick up some needed supplies? If we were quick about it, we could make it back in time for our next meeting with the cable company.
When the cable guy failed to show (I bet you didn’t see that coming!), we started to experience little flickers of doubt about our plan for the week. Didn’t he realize that tonight was the season premiere of Mad Men? Despite this cruel twist of fate, we decided to embrace our rustic circumstances and do what our forefathers would have done. We cracked open the vino and prepared a delicious dinner over a roaring fire (okay, it was a gas grill, but work with me). Being serenaded by bullfrogs and crickets in the candlelight, we experienced far better entertainment than anything AMC could have offered.
By day three, we had gotten ourselves into a routine: continual delays, never-ending projects, and no time for ourselves! How could we have let our week get so out of hand? I kept having nightmares that we had wandered into a travel agency and mistakenly booked a trip to a dude ranch. With anxiety mounting over my lost vacation, I started to get sullen and resentful. Curt and sarcastic in my meetings with tradespeople, I certainly wasn’t helping to motivate the troops. Questions of “why, why, why” ricocheted in my head.
On our last day of vacation, after a restless sleep, I awoke at sunrise…and things suddenly seemed different. In the stillness of the morning, I wandered around the house and saw repeated reminders of all that we had accomplished. The mended deer fence gave me peace of mind that our gardens could now flourish, sod carpeted the previously barren mud fields of our back yard, and newly installed furniture began to make our house feel like a home. I began to chide myself for having been so shortsighted and for not being more mindful of my good fortune simply to have this home. Soon enough, I actually began to feel grateful for all of the trials of the prior week. Without these challenges, achieving our dream would simply not have been as sweet.