Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Thursday, May 5, 2016
I remember being 15 and proclaiming that my intent was to own a piece of property and have my dream house built on it with a big garden and a small orchard. I decided I would be successful enough to fund this on my own, and if there was someone there to enjoy it with me, fine, but it wasn't a necessity. I wasn't the little girl that had all the details of my wedding planned out. I was the girl that sat at my desk as an office assistant looking up blueprints of houses with wraparound porches, roughly mapping on binder paper the hypothetical juxtaposition of chickens, a greenhouse, a garden and entertaining space. And where would the aquaponics fit in? Tilapia or something else?
To be fair and paint a truly complete picture, I was also researching natural childbirth options and crunchy parenting avenues like cloth diapering and making my own baby food. I was by no means eager to have a kid, but I felt like, as a woman, it was best to be mentally prepared for such a possibility should I be faced with making that decision. Now arguably a reasonable age to embark on such an adventure, if it were to happen without considerable planning I would not rule out any measures necessary to avoid it. I don't believe in "oops" babies, at least not in my life. Nope, no thank you.
I have, at times, been susceptible to the social conditioning that specifies that I, as a woman in my 20s, should want to be married, have a shiny rock adorning my hand, and keep up with the Joneses. In a sense I'm kind of glad I got that out of my system. Granted, while we were engaged and I was planning the wedding, my fiance would occasionally call me out and tell me that I only wanted this stuff because I was conditioned to. I usually replied with 'be that as it may, I still want it." He also sneered that I only cared about "my princess party" any time we had an argument. Go ahead and file that under "red flags." I got my princess party. It was a blast and I don't regret it at all. I had the diamonds, I had the whole shebang, albeit a very flawed shebang. My point is that I indulged in the conditioned picture of what I'm supposed to want.
This is a bit of a ramble, but I guess what I'm getting at is I'll take a semi-spontaneous* flight to Hawaii over a pair of diamond stud earrings. I'll take my vegetable garden over a lawn. I'll take a career and autonomous home-ownership over being a wife and parent. Having indulged in those stereotypical ideals and having renounced them has liberated me to define what I want my life to be. That includes the freedom to come back to those things, too, if someday they feel like a better fit. And if I do, I'll be able to approach that from a place of honesty with myself rather than a place of succumbing to social pressures.
And with a magnet on my fridge from that time I went to Kauai on a whim.
*two weeks in advance is pretty spontaneous for a vacation, at least for me.
Monday, May 2, 2016
Tales from a past life: volume 2
We decided to move in together after 6 months. I'd just turned 21 and we rented half a duplex that a friend had recently bought. We stayed there a little less than a year. He and his sister owned a house together. Rather, they'd inherited a house. Their dad passed away 2 years before I met him, but he was still riddled with debilitating grief. He was unemployed when we met, living through the life insurance money. Having recently split from a guy ten years my senior who was happy to have me support him, I was just glad he could pay his own bills.
After living in the duplex a while, he suggested that we move into the house he half owned. I was concerned that living in the house his dad died in might not be a good idea... his severe depression and resultant alcohol abuse were all tied to the death of his dad. But.. we did it anyway. We lived there almost 3 years. I have some fond memories of that time. Some terrible ones too, of course. I talk a lot about how shitty it was, and all the unspeakably unkind things I endured, but there were good times too. There were jam sessions and, until the one I have now, the garden I am most proud of. There was day-drinking white wine over ice in a blow up pool and eating garlic stuffed olives on a 108 degree day because the AC didn't work. How delightfully white trash that was.
That was the house at which the most drywall holes occurred. One year we threw a Halloween party and I bought a roll of cheesy haunted house wall decor sheeting to cover them up. Drywall patches are fine but you cant patch a hole in a door. It was the house at which I was chased into the garage and heard the hiss of all four of my tires slashed as I ran down the street at 2am, calling my friend to come pick me up. It was the house in which he learned that calling me a cunt got a rise out of me and then employed it any chance he got. It was then the house in which I learned to desensitize myself to name calling.
I don't recall exactly how the decision was made that we'd move out and that they'd sell the place, but that became the plan. He got the ball rolling, hired the real estate agent he thought his dad would have wanted... and then he checked out. We had a large waste pickup scheduled... the kind where you place a heap of junk on the street. We had a lot of things to clear out to get the house staged, and because he was hungover he elected to nap instead of help. He insisted that he'd help out later but I knew better. I did it all myself.
Eventually the process became too much to bear. He basically had a nervous breakdown and said he couldn't be in the house. There was still paperwork to be done with the agent, and all our stuff needed to be packed. But he just... couldn't be there. A friend's place was furnished but empty, because she'd begun staying with her new boyfriend. He stayed there for 2 and a half weeks, living like an invalid, while I ran around like a courier with real estate documents, packed the house on my own, shuttled the dogs across town at a moment's notice (not to mention coordinating where they could go) in case the house was going to be shown to a prospective buyer. Oh, and I was also responsible for finding a new place to live. And I had a full time job. I essentially managed the sale of a house I didn't own, while effectively homeless and taking care of an unstable adult.
I work well under pressure. I handled everything without cracking, somehow. I found us a place to live and I had high hopes for a more normal future, as I was attributing the chaos to his living in a high-trigger environment. The plan was that once the house sold, we'd use his payout as a down payment on our own house. Eventually the house did sell, and he received the payout about 2 weeks before he had a falling-out with his only client. He chose to live on the money from the house instead of trying to find a new job. I vacillated between a cocktail of anxiety and fury as I watched it trickle away over the next year, and a resolute acceptance because it was never my money to care about to begin with. I mean.. we were married so one would think that coming to a financial middle ground would be reasonable, but no. I've always maintained the stance that I don't need your money, so I refused to bring it up as a point of contention. In hindsight, not merging finances made the divorce much cleaner.
Can I just say, it feels SO. FUCKING. GOOD. to have bought my house on my own. I alone needed to be present to sign paperwork. I alone am responsible for paying the mortgage. I alone make decisions about what improvements to make, how to organize the cabinets, what color to paint a room, what to plant in the yard. I'm not waiting on anyone to get off his ass, because most of what needs doing I can happily do myself, and if I can't I'm sure I can find someone I can pay to do it for me. While I am accustomed to doing everything myself, even in partnerships, the absence of someone who ought to be helping makes the whole experience better. I don't need your money. I have my own, thanks.