About 15 months ago, my home was pulled out from under me.
I have lived in this house that I call home since 2001. The house was built by my aunt, who called it home for 40 years and raised her family here. It is the only home my daughter remembers. And while it is too much property for me, too much space to tend, too old to keep up on repairs, too much house to clean, it has always felt like mine. Kind of like your first stuffed animal that is crumbling before you, but you don’t want to part with it.
Of course, it is the people inside a house that makes it a home, but I have a very strong sense that place matters, too. Our roots are more important than we know.
In 2008, my childhood home – where my mother had lived since she was 18 (and the property on which she was born) – was destroyed in what was called a “500-year flood.” I call it “b.s. road construction that blocked the natural flood plain,” but the government and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the subject. That was earth-shattering for my parents, of course, and my aunt who lived with them. The near-death experience was enough – they were rescued by boat while standing in chest-deep water in their home – but the total upheaval of restarting your life in your late 60s and 80s was rough, to put it mildly. They worked at it – hard – moved to a temporary home, then built a new place, moved flooded belongings, attempted to reuse building materials that could be reused. It was a lot of work for old folks. The past year, in fact, has just started to feel “normal” around them. My parents finally seem to be settling into their new home. (My aunt died in 2011.)
So, I wasn’t without example of how to recover when what I called home was destroyed overnight.
I learned that my significant other – and person who appeared as “life partner” on all of my next of kin forms, the person I had planned to have a future with, who had been there for me through my second bout with cancer and my daughter’s surgery (so I thought) – was cheating and had been for a year. That sucked.
But what knocked me totally off balance and continues to be something I must continue to recover from emotionally and is certainly the most violating experience of my life, is that most of the year-long affair had happened in my home.
While I have come very far in this process, the first months were some of the most troubled times of my life. I felt unsafe in my home. Being there made me feel like tearing off my own skin. I wanted out, out, OUT. I envisioned setting the place on fire on a daily basis. Truly, I wanted to burn it to the ground and get a fresh start. I felt like MY place had betrayed me. I felt like the walls had absorbed the betrayal. I even, for a time, had ugly feelings toward my dog, who must have known and said nothing. (I know that is funny now, but it was not remotely funny to me at the time.)
Let me repeat, so you don’t call the authorities: I have come really far since then. I could not have written this post a year ago. I could hardly write a year ago, hardly put a sentence together. Times have changed.
One of the first things I did was rip out our bed, tear the room apart, paint and create a refuge for ME. I wanted something that was MINE again. Within a week, I had something that made me happier.
Some days, the walls could not contain my rage (and it was rage, not just anger, RAGE), hurt and disappointment. Many days, though, I could hardly get out of bed. Those times, I was grateful to have my new purple walls, so that I wasn’t staring at the same things they had seen.
As I started to get better (thanks friends, medications, friends, therapy, friends, doctors, friends, support groups. Oh, yeah, and friends), I started to reclaim my HOME.
It is such a strong symbol to me of everything I have fought for in my life. I fought for the home itself through these challenges, as a combination of the cancer recurrence and that relationship nearly cost me my mortgage. It is how I take care of my daughter, who is the center of my life, and it’s how I take care of myself. It’s the place from which my life emanates. It should be a source of strength and place for renewal, a soft place to land and a shelter for the storms.
So, I’ve been working on it ever since. I’ve given myself permission to consider home decorating an essential part of life. I’ve stayed home more than I’ve gone out. I feel like I (and I should say, we, as the kiddo is part of these actions) have created and created and created. It’s not there yet. It’s not everything we hope it to be. But the process has turned out to be part of the cure.
Around the time I started my home reclamation, I wrote an assignment for work with the theme of “home.” My article in HOPE magazine was “Sister Susanne Gallagher creates home all around her.”
Blogging from A to Z Challenge
This blog post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. As part of the challenge, I commit to visiting five new blogs a day, chosen from a list. I love doing this! It is so interesting to me how many bloggers are out there writing so many different types of blogs. Here are the blogs I visited today: