I woke early this morning at the new house, in what will eventually be the guest bedroom, grey light filtering through the temporary sheers that cover the windows, and felt such a sense of contentment, of rightness and belonging, that it nearly brought tears to my eyes. I don’t have my desk here yet, so I didn’t get out of bed to write, but I knew without a doubt that when it is here, I will be doing so. The Guys are right: this room is “my” room. It will end up being my dressing room, yoga room and writing room, after we have properly moved in. Just being here fills me with peace.
(Funny that they both knew this was “my” room before I knew it was. Before I even wanted a room to be “mine.” (And perhaps, truthfully, I still don’t need a room of my own, not like the Guys did.) But somehow it has become so, just as the Guys predicted.)
At times, as we have begun renovations, clean-up, maintenance, painting and just getting the house ready to move into, I have felt like a broken record: “I love this house. I love this space. I am so happy here. I have never felt this way about a place before, about a house.” I keep repeating myself, I know, but that’s probably because I know I am incapable of articulating the fullness of what I mean by those words. Of how much it means to me, to be here, in this moment, in this space.
What I want to say is that I have never felt at home before now, not the way this house – and my life in it – makes me feel at home.
Which sounds ridiculous, considering I lived with my Ex in the house we owned for nine years, and have lived with Ad first at our house in the city for three years and then at the condo we shared with his father for seven or eight years, but there is such a huge gulf of experience – emotional and physical – between those words and the reality that I carry around with me every day. No I have never been homeless, but I have never truly had a home of my own. I try to convey what I mean, but unless someone has experienced the sense of displacement, of unrootedness, that having moved so many times as a child can instill in a person, it is hard to truly understand.
I have only recently begun to understand it myself, to understand the lifelong effect it has had on me, and to accept that yes, while I may have embraced my “freedom,” while I may even have flouted it and held my rootless self up with a fierce pride, I recognize that much of that was rationalization and bluster. I have wanted a place of my own – I just never knew it.
Or maybe I did know it, in some small, quiet corner of my mind. I certainly recognized the very deliberate “choosing” of my Ex as my husband, based on criteria I would not have admitted to at the time, but which I see clearly in hindsight:
He belongs to that peculiar subset of St. Louisians who, while they may venture away for college or a job, always return to the homebase. His family is well-connected, his parents well-established in an upper-middle-class neighborhood, with upper-middle-class values – and, ultimately, they are bound with a rigidity I could not bend, and live behind walls of class and rootedness I could not breach.
There was no gate in that particular fence for one such as me – nor were they willing to open one.
I can also see now how having failed at my efforts to fit into that life, to be allowed to grow roots there, informed the next ten years or so of my life after my divorce – years in which I once again gloried in my rootlessness and denied a need for them.
“I don’t want to be tied down.”
That included being tied to the land, to property ownership, to owning much of anything. I wanted to be ready to leave any time I chose – and several times, early in those ten years, I did leave, packing a tent and a few belongs and literally running away, like a child. I always came back, but still I kept my options open, and never gave anyone the keys to lock me up.
It’s hard to put a finger on what, exactly, has changed so dramatically. Maybe I’ve just gotten older, and the idea of being “footloose and fancy-free” is not as appealing as it once was. Maybe it never WAS that appealing, I just embraced it as self-protection. I’m a pro at rejecting before I am rejected, of being the first to walk away, so maybe this was just an extension of that. “You don’t want me here? Good, because I was already gone…”
Regardless of the genesis of it, the bottom line is that I don’t feel any of those things now. I feel settled, I feel safe, I feel…at home.
I will confess to a momentary freak-out, a return to my old mental/emotional habit pattern, on the first day that we all stayed at the house. W and Ad had gone shopping, leaving me alone in the house for the first time. I think we had closed on it only a couple days before, and really all we had in the house was a table and some chairs, a coffee maker, a few mismatched dishes, a mattress on the floor and a pile of blankets. The refridgerator hadn’t even been delivered yet. But I really wanted to have a first night there, so I had talked them into bringing the mattress and some blankets over, and they had run to the store for cleaning supplies, lightbulbs and a bottle of wine. I decided to stay behind to clean what I could and make the bed. But as the door closed behind them, the weight of all that house settled on me, and suddenly I couldn’t breathe anymore.
I had a mortgage. A goddamn mortgage!
I had responsibilities to the two of them – financial responsibilities – that tied me to them, and because of that, tied me to this new job.
I had to keep working, I couldn’t just decide to take a year off and go to school, or dog sit in Mexico, or write.
I didn’t get to spend my “extra” money on shoes or kink toys or traveling anymore. We weren’t house poor by any means, but this new responsibility did mean that I did have to stick to a budget, and there was a lot less “extra” than there had been before.
I looked around at the house and thought about all the things that needed doing, both for cosmetic renovations and as regular maintenence, and knew I wasn’t up to it all, knew that I would never live up to my responsibilities, that I would just end up disappointing everyone.
I felt weighed down, felt my feet growing roots, and those roots climbing up my legs, encircling my waist, binding my chest and closing around my throat.
What the fuck was I doing? What had I done, pushing the Guys into doing this crazy-ass thing? Everyone knew I was unreliable, had no “stick-to-it-iveness,” would give up at the first hint of adversity.
I crumpled onto the bed I had just made, wrapped my arms around FeeFee, and proceeded to have a good anxiety cry.
And then, when could breathe again, I got up, wiped my eyes, and started cleaning the house. My house. My home.
Today I can hardly remember what that freak-out felt like. All I know is I want to wake up every day here.