It’s 4am and I can’t sleep… again. I have my father’s heightened ability to anthropomorphize things to the nth degree and it seems to be haunting me.
As you may know, we are in the midst of selling our house – our beautiful, 150 year-old, storybook house with matching property. It’s a grueling process to sell a house, I’m quickly discovering, made even trickier by it being such an unusual house. The market is going nuts right now in Yakima as it is likely doing in several parts of the country and we’ve been told time and again that our house will sell “in a heartbeat!” Many houses are. Our neighbor had three offers on hers in just 2 days and ended up with $10k over her asking price! Perhaps we were naive to think it would go so quickly but I do think we’ll be able to head to Pittsburgh before the summer has completely ended, probably mid-August.
To me though, this isn’t just a house or an amazing piece of property hidden away in town. This house has been a friend to me. Unfortunately, I feel I’ve abused our friendship with all the difficult times that I’ve/we’ve had here but it hasn’t seemed to mind. Because where I live is so significant for me I know that I wouldn’t have been able to keep a smile on my face while staring down another heart surgery or another trip to the hospital if I hadn’t had this healing retreat to return to. In fact, Ian once talked me down from dilauded withdrawals by asking me to think about what we were going to be planting when I got out of the hospital and what would soon be popping out of the ground.
How can I leave a friend that has silently supported me with beautiful flowers, strong trees, warmly lit rooms and ample opportunity to show and live in my creative nature? How do you step away from the spot where you said “I do” and the yard that your beloved pup ran in from the time you brought him home to the time you had to say goodbye? How do you part from the owls, lilacs, raspberries, grapes, colors, sounds and smells that return year after year to renew your soul after a hard winter?
I think anyone who’s visited us knows that this place has something different about it. I don’t know if it’s mostly what it possessed before we got here or if it’s a shared presence with what we have brought. We haven’t furnished it with mass-market pieces. We haven’t painted it with the obvious colors. We haven’t stayed with one era of style. And yet it’s easy to see that it all goes together, it reflects us, it is part of us. I know that decorating can be achieved pretty much anywhere, in fact, I’ve joked with Ian saying that nearly every place I’ve lived in I’ve been unable to host a lively party because everyone ends up so relaxed from the lighting and music and comfortable furniture, but this house would have a personality even if unfurnished.
Yet I feel, we feel, a sense of duty to this house. It has a long and unusual history and each person that caretakes for it really needs to be of a certain sort. There’s a love and responsibility that goes along with an unconventional house and this is one of the most “unconventionalist” that I’ve met. We’ve had brief moments of meeting people as they come to view the house and I’m waiting for that spark, that feeling in my gut that says this person gets it. How could I leave my friend in the hands of someone that does not arrive with that banner across their chest?
If only I knew that the house was going to be ok and that this abyss we’re headed into was a step and beyond in the right direction. I know what you’re thinking, “Ah, so that ‘s what this is all about!” and while it is a large chunk, yes, this isn’t some sort of psychological transference, just a gigantic bullet on a long list of concerns. I feel like I’m being yanked in so many different directions and it becomes a challenge to remember why I’m putting myself through this. Ian’s health, my feeling of responsibility to the house and this wave of sadness from losing my home and a couple of dear friends are what wake me up in the middle of the night, the details about moving (packing, coordination, timing, etc.) are pretty overwhelming, anxiety about living in someone else’s house for a period of time is unsettling and all of the unknown that lies ahead feels pretty crippling. It’s funny though, I feel I can handle quite a bit of change with a good amount of relativity but when it comes to my base being uprooted I lose all sense of stability. I think I’ve faced so many things with patience or determination knowing that Ian has my back and this house will soothe me in the roughest spots without judgement and without the need to go over the details. As someone without many close friends that knowledge has given me the peace and mental fortitude to persevere. It’s hard for me to imagine conjuring up strength in someone else’s house or in any other house, for that matter.
I’ve lived in places that felt as if they were slowly sucking out my happiness – feel free to enter a Harry Potter/dementor reference here – and swore to myself that if I could ever leave that kind of situation I would never return. This has been the first place where I felt inspired, taken care of and recharged with each day – a “dream home” of sorts. I know I’m an adult, I know that I’m in control of what I do in my life and where I live but you have to understand that there have been so many times where I’ve been very alone and have lived in a place that didn’t feel loving or inspiring or comforting. And when you add that to my life being threatened during those times… it’s very weighty and makes me terribly frightened to even revisit those years in my head. I know I don’t have to live in a “dementor” house at this point but I also know that it’s never completely out of the question. I had ended up in those places before because I had run out of options, simple as that.
So, my overwhelming urge to make sure I do all in my power for this house as a repayment for it’s “kindness” and “love” is stopping me in my tracks. I wish I could lessen it, I wish I could move on to more pressing matters in this process. “It’s just a house” a few people have said. And it is a house… but it isn’t “just”. This has been my refuge, my pride and my great inspiration to get well enough to leave the hospital.
I’ll be leaving a “handbook” for the next owner with bits of history, advice and information: how to roast hazelnuts, why there is an unpainted patch revealing old-fashioned wallpaper in the front room, how to best use the baseboard heaters and fireplace in the winter to insure toastiness without a huge power bill, why the back step has written in cursive “Welcome to Glad’s house!”, etc. Perhaps the new owner will be given a heightened connection and a need to treat the house well from that, perhaps not.
I’ve debated having a conversation with the buyer of our house. It could go one of two ways; they could be lovely and talking with them could reassure me that we’re leaving our home in loving hands or make me realize this person/these people don’t know what they’re doing and the house is likely to fall into a state of disrepair. I don’t think I could handle the latter… We don’t have much choice when it comes down to it, though. I guess I shouldn’t be saying that… but we need to get on with our lives; recuperate, get better healthcare, find things, places and people that inspire us. It’s time but this weight is like carrying concrete blocks as I walk though mud. How can I hold on to the memories and let go of the weight?