INSCRUTABLE, LIKE LIFE

Life is inscrutable and messy. 


in·scru·ta·ble  (inˈskro͞odəb(ə)l)

Adjective: Impossible to understand or interpret.
Synonyms: Enigmatic, mysterious, unreadable, inexplicable, unexplainable, incomprehensible, impenetrable, unfathomable, unknowable.


Life is a puzzle. Inscrutable barely covers it. I used to think that at some point, it got easier. Simpler. Cleaner. Neater.

Instead, it has gone in quite the other direction. As we get older and more fragile, like has gotten profoundly complicated with no obvious answers which is to say — inscrutable. It would seem age does not limit the complexities of life. If anything, they get more complicated and difficult to address. Now you aren’t just trying to “get stuff done,” but you are trying to get it done with little or no money when you are no longer physically able to do it yourself (assuming you ever were). Since you no longer work, there’s no “waiting” for the next “extra money” to come in. It isn’t coming.

Our vehicle, the Jeep in a blizzard Photo: Garry Armstrong

Inconvenient though it is, the rotting window still awaits as does the broken faucet, the tired old toilets and sinks (remember when they were shiny and new?), the washing machine that’s on its last legs … and a door that urgently needs painting and finishing. And the car’s rear brakes.

We’ve got the parts. What we don’t have is anyone who has the time and willingness to take care of the work. We were never handy anyway, but there was a time when we at least could hire someone to take care of business. To be fair, a fair number of them were schleppers too. Good help has always been hard to find.

Life is like a Chinese puzzle. All the piece have to go in “just so” or it the pile collapses. Meanwhile, just to liven things up, there’s a special breed of  local criminals who prey on people like us. They look like normal people, but are crooks.

Are their lives so dreadful they can live with the damage they do? I know everyone needs to make a living, but I’m pretty sure my conscience would kill me for causing so much hurt to people who can ill afford it. Meanwhile, I keep getting whacked because I keep thinking these are regular people — and they’re not. Why do they want to hurt us? Because they are not very good criminals and we’re the easiest of all victims?

Photo: Garry Armstrong – In the blizzard

My son helps, but he has a life and he works and there’s only so much time …. and many of the problems just need someone handy and available to fix them. This is the stuff that neighbors used to do but we don’t have that kind of neighbor. Not the kind of people who help clear the snow … or offer to help with errands. Or even say “Hi.”

So this won’t improve. However inscrutable life is now, it’s bound to get worse. The money that disappeared into the water heater and the door and the parts to repair the brakes and the rotting downstairs window that I can’t replace and needs boarding up? On permanent hold.

I can’t even enlist anyone to help me paint the inside of the door or finish the outside of it. I can’t get the new faucet I bought installed in the bathroom. No one is ever going to properly clean the house. I do my best, but my best isn’t very good. It isn’t that I don’t want to. I DO want to but I can’t and I doubt I’ll ever be able to do it again.

When you live in a house and you see it start to disintegrate, at first it seems like no big deal. A little bit of this, a pinch of that. Little things. It’s only when it starts to accumulate that you realize you are in actual trouble.

So what’s left? Will we outlive the decline of our house? Maybe not. If we can time our certain demise to conclusion of this house’s usefulness, that would be a mitzvah. Of sorts.

Garry, photographer – Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Did I mention the washing machine is on its way out? While they kids lived here, they beat the hell out of it, so I’m not surprised. The new ones aren’t built as well as the old ones and I’ve already been warned that we can expect a maximum  of eight or nine years. By which time our car will be pretty old too.

It’s nice to have something to look forward to.

All of this is keeping me up at night. Just little stuff but little stuff with the potential of becoming bigger stuff. The longer it goes undone, the more potential crisis lies in wait. The world may be entering an exponential stage of scientific growth and development, but here at home, I can’t afford new door knobs or a washing machine and I live in terror of needing a new car. Ever.

At home with the good toys.

There’s a gigantic split between the brilliant future that is waiting for humanity — and the gradual collapse of the lives we live. The great things we dreamed of will happen, but they won’t have anything to do with us.

The brilliant future will be for the young, wealthy, and healthy. We are none of those.

42 thoughts on “INSCRUTABLE, LIKE LIFE

  1. angloswiss January 27, 2018 / 1:30 pm

    I am with you most of the way. Becaue we live in our own appartment, with neighbours also living in their own appartments (most of them) we can not even make our own decisions, it is all put to the vote. Money is always a problem, although I must say we do have a well organised social system in Switzerland, but it is not a charity. It is up to us to put money on one side if something happens, and it usually does. We have good maintenance workers here, but they have their price and home stuff is not built forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn Armstrong January 27, 2018 / 1:41 pm

      I always think once I fix something, that’s it. But now, we’ve lived here long enough so we are in round two or three for a lot of repairs. This is our third hot water heater. We replaced ALL the toilets and sinks right after we moved in … and they all need replacement again. Floors are wearing out. Windows need replacing — just one, but there will be more. And when you are on a fixed income, there’s not a lot of money to ‘put away’ for anything. It’s frustrating to just watch things fall apart and know you can’t do much about them. But on the plus side, I’ve got a repair guy coming over to try and fix the washer, so maybe that will be one positive thing for the week!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Garry Armstrong January 28, 2018 / 1:36 pm

        “Life is like a chinese puzzle”. Excellent piece, Mi Amor. Like eating Chinese food. Will be revisiting in two hours for more. Too Jewish?

        There’s so much “stuff” in life. In our life. Our “golden age” retired lives. I’m really not oblivious to the house and all that needs doing. It seems impossible and I hit the mental “off” button.

        The washing machine is the latest piece of “stuff”. You pulled another rabbit out of the hat in finding an answer.

        You’re the best!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Covert Novelist January 27, 2018 / 2:23 pm

    There’s a surprise around every corner???? sorry me being me! lol Really enjoyed this article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn Armstrong January 27, 2018 / 2:46 pm

      I haven’t found surprises around every corner, unless you are substituting confusion for a surprise. I can get LOST around every corner, so I suppose you could call that a surprise, though not in a good way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Covert Novelist January 27, 2018 / 2:50 pm

        lol, Marilyn. I know what you mean. I’m often confused about the comings and goings these days. We had a 9 foot section of roof blow off at 5 pm yesterday. Over my son’s bedroom. We’ve been wondering at the draft and where it was coming from. Now we know. The question at hand, it seems is how to replace the roof on my house since the entire thing must be replaced. Apparantly slope has something to do with it, so it seems a metal roof would be easiest and cheapest in the long run. Hopefully we won’t lose the skylight which is the main source of light in my wee house.

        Liked by 1 person

          • Covert Novelist January 27, 2018 / 5:14 pm

            Cheaper in the long run apparantly as we wont have to rip off the roof and tar and paper it and rebuild as it apparantly doesn’t have the right angle for a roof, there isn’t much of a choice. In the long run, rather than residing, rebuilding the roof etc, it will be cheaper. Either way it’s big money sooo ….ugh. Just thank god the builders next door spotted it, or it could have created more damage. As is we got lucky. There’s 100cm of rain predicted and high winds followed by snow…we’ll see. The roofer hasn’t shown up yet…in the meantime someone stole my grand daughter’s new phone. We offered a reward and they tried to turn it on…fingerprint only but it pinged so we found it. She said it didn’t have the protective box, bullshit and no sim card, again bull shit because we offered a reward on the Nanaimo Rave and Rant and voila it instantly appeared. It couldn’t be used because my son being the tech he is protected it up theyin yang it was either toss it or call as it couldn’t be opened no matter what. They’ve just left to retrieve it…we’ll see.

            Like

            • Marilyn Armstrong January 27, 2018 / 5:17 pm

              We’ve got a sagging window that is probably the result of a sagging frame and for all I know, a rotting wall underneath. How we will fix it, I have NO idea.

              Like

              • Covert Novelist January 27, 2018 / 5:24 pm

                Yeah, both my son and daughter are looking at getting another job on top of the full-time job she has as well as her partner who works full time. It’s getting impossible to keep up.

                Liked by 2 people

        • Garry Armstrong February 1, 2018 / 3:12 pm

          Covert, sounds AWFUL. Hope you are coping.

          Like

      • Garry Armstrong January 28, 2018 / 1:38 pm

        We get lost and you get us found. You’re amazing!

        Like

          • Garry Armstrong February 1, 2018 / 3:13 pm

            GPS: “You have reached your destination”.

            The cemetery.

            Like

  3. Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread January 27, 2018 / 2:33 pm

    When I was a kid spending summers on my grandparents’ farm in the White Mtns of NH, neighbors stopped in the road to see how everyone was doing. When you needed something done, a neighbor usually was able to help you and then vice versa. Today, there is no community. Neighbors wouldn’t even consider waving let alone getting to know you. Why do they need neighbors when they have people they don’t know living all over the work at the beck and call on social media. We needed a faucet replaced, and my husband stopped at the plumbing company that had originally replaced it. We had to wait six weeks because they only have on repair plumber now instead of the three they use to have. Two fully equipped trucks sit waiting for qualified employees. The labor to replace the faucet was $95, and I was thrilled to pay it because that was my only option if I wanted a working kitchen faucet. Sad state of affairs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn Armstrong January 27, 2018 / 2:45 pm

      Well, I THINK I’ve found someone to fix the washing machine. I’m sure it’s the switch. And I wasn’t impressed by the new models. They have all the same problem as the one we’ve got, but instead of developing those problems, they start OFF with those problem.

      I think our neighbors from down home Georgia don’t like brown people, though to be fair, I am not sure they really like anyone.

      Also, let’s be honest: A lot of New England isn’t a very friendly place. Everyone TALKS a good game, but they don’t mean it, not if it means going an inch out of their way. They do NOT help and they do NOT care about anyone else. Is social media making it worse? Probably, but I’m not sure this area wasn’t always this way. It’s not that there aren’t nice people around. There are. But they definitely aren’t OUR neighbors.

      Liked by 1 person

      • swo8 January 27, 2018 / 4:18 pm

        We had something go on our clothes washer a couple of years ago. I knew it was a simple fix if we got the right person it to do it. The old washers are better constructed than the newer ones. I got someone from Whirlpool and it was the switch on the lid. Simple fix and it didn’t cost that much either. Right now I’m busy laying tile in the basement (after they tore up the basement floor to fix the waste water pipes). Let me tell that glue is something else. Nothing is static everything is in a constant decline, including me. When they find me glued to the floor – you’ll know what happened.
        Leslie

        Like

        • Marilyn Armstrong January 27, 2018 / 5:28 pm

          I live in terror of the next thing to go wrong. We put a fortune into updating the place when we moved in … but 18 years later, almost everything is ready for a redo. I try not to think about how MUCH of it needs work. It’s terrifying. Do NOT get glued to your floor! Please! But if you do, have someone take pictures.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Garry Armstrong January 28, 2018 / 1:50 pm

      Judy, you mentioned your grandparents. Nice story. Very nice. I remember my maternal Gramps very well. He was fill-in Dad during World War 2 while my Dad was overseas in the Army. I still vividly recall Gramps’ stories about “the old days” — WW 1, FDR, The Depression years and how difficult it was earning money for the family. Our family days were like “The Waltons” or the dinner scenes on “Bluebloods”. Large gatherings with generations of kin. Lots of the chat focused on cost of home repairs. It boggled my young mind. I figured I’d never be old and would never have to worry about such matters.

      Today, I look back with appreciation at those years when repair costs were under 10 dollars and the work was well done. People took pride in what they did. They were part of an extended community family where honor was assumed.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Rebel Girl January 27, 2018 / 4:09 pm

    I hear you. There is always something that needs fixing here. I have the same fears of there being a day when we will not be able to afford to keep up with them. There are so many crooked contractors out there. We know honest ones but they are few and far between.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn Armstrong January 27, 2018 / 5:30 pm

      Oh yeah. We’ve been nailed twice — once for a lot and once for little enough that i could sigh and move on. But we are OUT of money, so I need to get my act together and make sure that whoever does whatever needs doing is good and honest … and take credit so if they screw us, we can screw them back.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rebel Girl January 28, 2018 / 10:54 am

        We visited an aunt in the nick of time, she had been told she needed her whole attic blown in with insulation. I only had to stand in her kitchen to see that one area had an issue and told her it had probably just got moved around by a critter or something. My husband went up, took a peak, placed some insulation in that area. The rest was fine. I wonder how these people sleep at night.
        A furnace guy told us that they are allowed to lie and say your furnace needs replacing if it is older than 15 years, even if nothing is wrong. The government wanted new energy efficient ones in all homes. So they just tell people it has a leak. Nice!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Marilyn Armstrong January 28, 2018 / 3:43 pm

          No one ever tries that with us. We are old and poor. They can say whatever they want and WE say, fix it please. We can’t afford to replace it.

          Liked by 2 people

  5. Donnalee January 27, 2018 / 4:54 pm

    Same here that things wear out including house and body and sanity, whereas that was not the plan at all. I genuinely thought it would be the ‘perfectability of humanity’ thing, and we would get smart and good and everything, and help each oter and all that cheese. Hmm. Some do, some don’t. Best wishes to all of us.

    Like

    • Marilyn Armstrong January 27, 2018 / 5:15 pm

      I do think there’s a good chance we will eventually do great things. Humanity, that is. But I don’t think it’s going to have any effect on MY life. Or yours. We aren’t working anymore, so whatever happens in the job market will pass us by. We live in an older house in the country and it’s not wired for all those electronic widgets and gadgets — and I don’t know that I would want them anyway.

      We aren’t going to get richer, healthier or younger. We aren’t going to travel to the outer planets. We are will be dealing with the same old stuff . Whatever the great new stuff is, it will be for the wealthy, the healthy, and MOST important, the young and working.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Donnalee January 27, 2018 / 5:19 pm

        I think that a lot has passed older people by, and I think I am one of those.

        Like

        • Marilyn Armstrong January 27, 2018 / 5:23 pm

          It hasn’t so much passed me by as left me totally disinterested. I don’t get why “Alexa” or “Siri” is a big deal or why people think they need to talk on the phone all the time. I’ve been trying to NOT talk on the phone for decades. I actually have Alexa on two of my Kindles, but I disabled it. I can’t figure out why it would be easier than pushing the button. Some of this fancy electronic enabling is at best, silly and at worst, worthless.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Donnalee January 27, 2018 / 5:33 pm

            I have to say I don’t even have a ‘smartphone’. Some of the technology seems really a form of make-work for developers or others who get paid to make something new. It doesn’t have to be good, just new–

            Like

  6. Bette A. Stevens January 27, 2018 / 8:28 pm

    Life is a puzzle indeed, Marilyn. Seems like our minds have both been in a quandary about it lately–I have been working on a poem about it. Oh, the puzzle of life. 🙂 xo

    Like

    • Marilyn Armstrong January 27, 2018 / 8:33 pm

      There’s no answers, either. I know it’s ridiculous, but it never occurred to me that all the work we did on the house would get old and need to be redone. Why? I guess i never lived anywhere long enough for it to happen!

      Like

  7. lifelessons January 27, 2018 / 11:29 pm

    Ah well, at least the rich are getting richer. Someone has to pay for it!!!

    Like

    • Marilyn Armstrong January 27, 2018 / 11:43 pm

      And they will keep getting richer and ironically, it doesn’t matter who is in the White House. We didn’t have to hand them all our taxes, of course, but they will keep getting richer anyway. Oh the glories of capitalism.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lifelessons January 28, 2018 / 7:03 am

        Um, Marilyn. If the past year doesn’t prove it does matter who is in the Whitehouse, I don’t know what does. It matters!

        Like

        • Marilyn Armstrong January 28, 2018 / 2:34 pm

          It matters. I didn’t mean that is doesn’t, only that as far as the rich getting richer? They will do that anyway. That IS what they do.

          Like

  8. Globug January 28, 2018 / 1:33 pm

    Your post tells the truth about being old, poor, and the loss of neighbors to help – which was taken for granted when I was young. Neighbors stepped in and stepped up. I have lived in my home for 7 years – I don’t know a single one of my neighbors though I have tried to on several occasions to introduce myself. Sad commentary on America today.

    Like

    • Marilyn Armstrong January 28, 2018 / 2:33 pm

      They are not interested. Maybe it’s because this isn’t where they come from … or we aren’t their kind of people, whatever that means. But I agree. We had wonderful neighbors in Boston. Funny how in the country, they don’t know their neighbors, but in the city, they do.

      Like

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