Firewalls add protection not only in computers and software but also in homes.  Quite simply, the purpose of a firewall is to provide some kind of protection from getting in.  It provides a kind of blockade.

Today while they were working, Tim and his dad kept running into firewalls in the house, which meant that re-wiring didn’t go as smoothly as they’d planned.  Sometimes the old pine even broke drill bits.  Tough and resilient, it resisted change and updating.  All day, they fought the 1946 construction in the original part of the house.  What should have taken a matter of hours, perhaps the morning, took all day instead.  Tomorrow they’ll finish the back part of the house, the addition, and its wiring.

How that resonates with me today, on a lot of levels, personal and otherwise.  We put up firewalls to protect ourselves all the time, and that’s fine.  Until we realize that we forgot to take them down — or find that we can’t.  Protection from feelings, usually from deep pain or anger, keeps us going.  Yet at some point, those feelings come back up and blow the firewall away if possible.  We can be deluged by feelings we’ve barricaded ourselves from for far too long.

I know that I often deal with a difficult situation by compartmentalizing it somehow so that I can manage to deal with the immediate, the necessary.  When that’s over, when there’s time, I’ll collapse.  Physically, I just run out of steam.  Emotionally, I am drained and empty for a while.  Often all I feel is depressed or negative for a while.  If I’m fortunate, soon that will pass and I can face the emotions I had to put aside for awhile.  Sort of like those firewalls.

Lately, though, it’s almost the exact opposite: instead of emotions being blocked behind those firewalls, they seem to be right at the surface, ready to be agitated into action.  At times, it’s as though I’m an emotion waiting to be set off.  Today I simply had to walk off, take deep breaths, and drive around for a while — before I could go back and be polite.  Exhaustion doesn’t help me keep the temper under control, even though I want to.

The other thing those firewalls reminded me of today is writer’s block.  The frustration of needing to write, of wanting to create, but running up against block after block after block.  Nothing comes to fruition.  Nothing on paper is right.  Sometimes all I end up with is blank paper.

For a while now, almost a year, I’ve wanted to write.  Manuscripts wait to be revised, but when I pull them up, I am dry and empty.  At best, I can manage to work on a page or two.

Yet two weeks ago my firewall burst apart, and this blog came as a result.  Lots of emotions about retiring, about “losing my life,” about being a caregiver full-time — some recognized and others not so much.  Finally I found the words flowing with the very topic that had been my firewall:  my life here in Egan, my new life post-retirement.

Today, I didn’t do much while Tim and his dad worked.  Not much physical, that is.  I’ve packed a few boxes of books.  I’ve answered some email and read a lot, online and otherwise.  I’ve visited with friends, one I grew up with who lives in Lake Charles now, who stopped by on her way back from Lafayette.  The other is my friend who lives across the street; he ran an errand for me while he was in Crowley and I was just sitting here.  Having the time — taking the time — to spend with them is a real treat.  When I was still working, it was difficult to take the time for visiting with friends.  Now I have a lot of time for friends. So while Tim and his dad worked, I visited.

Mostly, I just tried to stay out of the way.  As the day passed and the firewalls frustrated them hour after hour, I thought a lot about why those firewalls had been put in, and why they were where they were.  I couldn’t tell you why the original design called for them, or why the builders put them where they did.  I just know that they’re there, and that they’ve both served one purpose and nearly halted another.

And in addition to the firewalls:  the wiring itself.  The original wiring, in the attic, is from 1946.  I have a piece of it to show my dad, the retired electrician, who will shudder when he sees it:  frayed, broken, and often bare, it was a fire hazard waiting for an event that (luckily) never happened. Sometimes we’re lucky and the broken places don’t lead to fires.

But the surprising problem wasn’t just that wiring but the more recent wiring, too.  Lines of it started, connected properly to the box, but led nowhere, and simply ended in walls without being connected to anything.  Some of the wiring, I think, came when my brother Phil did some work in the 1980s and early 1990s.  It’s good wiring, but not all of it was being used.  Maybe he was preparing for future projects, but those never came to be.  What did he have in mind?  I wondered; I asked Dad, but he didn’t know.  There were no notes telling us, just the mysteries of the unused wires.

Most houses have a central box (a breaker box, as they used to be known).  Ours has four.  Nothing was labeled, either, so Tim and his dad have puzzled out what led where, and what controlled what.

Extra wires to nowhere; four breaker boxes with unlabeled circuits and lines.

So it came down to this:  identify what to keep, what could be used, and what to eliminate and cut away.

Once the front part of the house, the original part of the house, was done and the receptacles covered, Tim and his dad called it a day.  They’ll finish the rest tomorrow.

I can’t wait to show Dad the wiring exhibit and tell him about those wires to nowhere.

I don’t need for fires to break out from the bared emotions but I’m glad my firewalls have been broken through for now, too.

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