Sleepless Nights: I've written a fair bit before about the ever present to do list, which is a constant source of pressure and stress for both of us. And I really don't want to bang this particular drum too long or too loudly. But I suppose this is one of the main things you can't predict or prepare for with a project like this, as the unpredictability of it is a big part of the contributing stress factor. We both work in incredibly full-on environments in our day jobs, and are used to enormous constant pressure through work, and frankly both actually thrive and relish in that setting. However this is so different. I can't speak entirely for Darren (who appears entirely solid and utterly capable at all times), but for me, the stress and pressure manifests physically. It's a constant weight on my shoulders and across my chest. It feels actually tight around my lungs, and sometimes I feel quite breathless, like I need to gasp for air, or like I've done low level exercise. It's like I've had far too many coffees, all the time - buzzy and wired. There isn't that level of caffeine flying around from actual coffees by the way - so it must be just the constant adrenaline. For the first time in my life, pretty much, all food tastes like cardboard, and I have to really concentrate to swallow it down or even chew properly. My attention span is all over the place - as there are so many things to think about and juggle so I have to give myself a talking to every so often to just concentrate on the priorities first, and work methodically through it all and not feel quite so scatty and fractured. There's also a constant not-quite-headache, a squeezing pressure inside my head. There are also the ongoing stomach butterflies. Which could be excitement (reframe, reframe as excitement!), but mainly is just a constant sick nervous feeling. We both aren't sleeping all that much - which we've actually got pretty used to now, so at least we aren't that exhausted during the day. And, at the moment, there have only been a couple of teary episodes. So at least, emotionally, we're sort of intact.
Honesty: But it's such a peculiar thing - when people ask, How are you? How's it going? At the moment I feel utterly paralysed and almost unable to answer temporarily, as the answer is either too massive, and probably too personal (how are we? Well...neither of us has had a minute off from this or work for nearly 9 months now, the building (ha! I can still pun) pressure is pretty unbearable, and we haven't slept properly in weeks. Food tastes weird, and I can't really breathe. And, how are you?), or the answer is too bland and insufficient (oh, we're fine. This has been a total breeze. We're so good at this renovation lark that it's just been a little extra work in our daily lives, but really not a problem).
Sometimes: ...it really is all just too much. When we get our next piece of bad or difficult news there is always a moment when we have to stop and ask - how much harder will it get? How much more can we do/ take on? When does the breaking point happen? When will the cards come tumbling down? When will the juggled balls all fall? I've been talking to myself (!) a bit, as a sort of coping strategy piece. I've been telling myself the 'this too shall pass' thing a fair bit. Because, really, it's very true - this all will pass! Course it will. And one day we will be sitting in our lounge, looking at the snowy view through that enormous window, unable to speak through sheer exhaustion and relief, and seeing off a large magnum of champagne. I've also been telling myself the 'just keep swimming' thing, even though it's a bit Disney. Actually also it's totally spot on - there isn't anything else you can do except to just keep going. And keep catching those new balls and flinging them up in the air.
Will We Do It?: Well - I'm actually 100% sure that we will do it. Of course we will - there is absolutely no question that we won't. The fireplace went in this week for crying out loud - that's huge! And the WiFi got connected - also huge! It's only taken 9 months to make that happen... And when we do, it'll be due to Sheer Force of Will. Determination and Bloody Mindedness. There is no way that this won't happen. There's no way this property won't be absolutely perfect. We have around 10 days to go. But will it happen with our sanity and our marriage intact? I certainly hope so. Will we still have friends at the end of this, given we haven't really seen or spoken to anyone for 9 months. I have no idea...I really really hope so! When this is done...in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger... (clue: it's not the 'I use my muscles as a conversation tool' quote).
A Moment of Reflection: I can honestly say, that this has been the most stressful thing we have ever, ever done. And that includes some of the enormous events I've put on through work, and the various amorphous campaigns I've run, and that also includes Darren setting up and running his own business (twice if you count the first business he set up when we first met). It has felt a bit like a pregnancy - it's taken 9 months for this to come into being. So I suppose 'The Final Push' title is even more resonant. Having said all of this - it's also the most exhilarating and satisfying thing we've ever done. We are incredibly proud of it. It's the biggest life achievement for both of us so far. And we *may* well do it again. Actually, we'll definitely do it again. Otherwise, what on earth would we talk about?