I have something big and exciting and scary and exciting and thrilling and exciting and a little bit unbelievable and exciting going on right now. And I am trying not to get TOO excited. One of my innate defense mechanisms when things really seem to be going my way is to make sure I temper my excitement with a little bit of…distance, I guess. So that if things don’t work out in the way they seem they are going to, I have put a little bit of space between the expectation of having everything work out and myself. That way, if everything does not work out, I maybe don’t have as far to fall.
So that being said, I am in the midst of purchasing a house! And I have found a house I love in a neighborhood I love, and I have spent time in this house and can feel that it (she) is waiting for me. The house has a long history in one family, and they find that their time there has passed, and now it is someone else’s turn to take her and love her and make her into a home.
Earlier this year, my mom told me that her childhood home was listed for sale on Zillow, and I took some time check it out. My mom grew up in a Cape Cod-style house on Long Island, and I spent plenty of time there when I was a child. I have great memories of that house. Well, in the years since my grandfather passed away (I was in eighth grade at the time) and now, the house has been completely redone. It’s beautiful. They had some good work done on it. But when I saw it, I felt like, for me, the house had been ruined. I could no longer picture my Aunt Sophie sitting in her chair or my grandfather eating breakfast at his kitchen table. Instead, it was a strange house that had been passed along to strangers. And it made me very sad.
So I have found for myself a Cape Cod-style house in one of the many boroughs that are around here, and it has not been completely redone. It has been well-cared for, and it has been updated (the important stuff…roof, electric, etc.), but it many ways, it feels the way my grandfather’s house did to me. It feels like a house that has known some good years and has been a home. And if all goes according to plan, some time in December,it will be my home.
I have written before about how I like to hold my career up as the main measure of who I am. Tell me about yourself. I’m a nurse. What do you do? I’m a nurse. What do you enjoy? I’m a nurse. I have been other things in the past, certainly. I have been a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a cousin. I have been a friend and a classmate and a coworker and a girlfriend. I have been a wife and a stepmother. I have been a part of my own smaller family and part of my ex-husband’s larger family. I have been a teacher and a program director and a professional Girl Scout. I have been a student.
I am listening to Glennon Melton Doyle’s first memoir because I last read it several years ago and wanted to go through it again. I love a lot of what Glennon writes because I find her easy to relate to, even though I am not a mom and she is kind of a mommy blogger. She is open and honest, and she is someone who seems to be unapologetically herself. I appreciate that because it is a goal I have for myself…unapologetically me. Work in progress.
Anyway, listening to some of what she wrote before her marriage took a turn down the road that eventually led her to separation (and a planned divorce), I am surprised at the difficulty I have with it. Whenever she writes something about how amazing her husband is, I find myself getting almost rage-y because I know what she has shared since then. I know that, as there was in my marriage, there was infidelity in her marriage, and I know that, just as I did not, she did not ever expect it, and I feel like it is bringing up “stuff” for me. Mostly, it feels like excruciating compassion and also “all the feels.” And I don’t have a great track record with all the feels.
So between the “normal” stuff (work, school, general function in the world) and the house stuff (which some studies have shown to be among the most stressful life events there is, right up there with divorce and bereavement), I have this “stuff” stuff. And apparently, if you go back far enough in my blog, you can have the opportunity to feel similarly about my former life as I do about Glennon’s. It’s there in the archives for anyone to see.
So I was a wife for about six years, and I spent an additional six years before that in a relationship that included some stepparent-ish stuff. All the fun and not much of the responsibility, actually…but baseball seasons and basketball seasons and football seasons and volleyball seasons. Christmas trees and Easter baskets. Family weddings. Births and deaths. First Communions and Confirmations and graduations. A college search. A lot of love, even if I didn’t always know how to show it. And I have not been any of these things for almost five years now, which is when I was served an eviction notice from life as I knew it (this is a Glennon-ism) and found myself starting over with very little of my pride intact but with my career, at least, to hang my hat on.
The years since then have both dragged and flown by. My former stepsons, whom I am not in touch with, are adults. My ex-husband’s family, whom I am not in touch with, beyond the occasional Facebook interactions, are strangers. I still have a career that makes me proud, and I have a lot of good stuff coming up in the future. But I think that buying a house for myself, to live in and create a home from and to shape my life in, is a harder transition than I expected it to be.
I am IN LOVE with this house, but I am also scared of it. My spending habits have gotten me in some trouble before, and I am presenting to myself this blank canvas, and I “need” to fill it. But is there anything I actually need? Am I wanting for anything? I am fed and clothed. I have plenty of shoes. I have electricity and heat and running water, excellent healthcare, a kick-ass therapist (XO), a caring family, friends who show me time and again that they care for me, an awesome dog and a mediocre (awesome if not for the vindictive peeing thing) cat, and exciting plans for the future. But when I feel overwhelmed by life, I often go in one of two directions (or sometimes both directions at the same time, which is easier than it sounds)…I either shop, or I eat. And man, could you ask for a better reason to shop? It feels like I am taking care of myself, planning to fill my home with new treasures.
But I don’t want just to fill my home. I want to be deliberate about it. I don’t want to go to a big furniture store and buy a living room set. I want to buy things as I come upon them and really love them instead. I don’t want to mindlessly fill my spaces with things that don’t make me feel like my home is my haven. I want to add little touches and make improvement as time goes by, something here and something there, always a work in progress. I don’t want to use my house to numb my feelings and check out of my body and hold people at arm’s length. But that is kind of what I am doing (okay, that is mostly what I am doing) now.
So who am I? Well, I work as a nurse. I am a sister and sister-in-law, a daughter and a granddaughter, a niece and a cousin. I am an ex-wife and former stepmother. I once worked as a teacher, but I don’t any longer. I am still a Girl Scout. I am someone who roots for the underdog, can be overly analytical, does not take compliments well, and sometimes finds direct eye contact to feel like too much. I am a reader and a writer. I am a dog and cat mama. I am a student, both in my post-Masters program and in life. I am a vault with secrets and full of compassion and someone friends can rely on. I sometimes overstep, but it is because of how much I care. I want to save the world, but first I have to worry about myself.
I am a work in progress, and it’s not so important to see the whole path in front of me. I guess, instead, I can live on a little bit of faith for a while as I figure things out.