Wherever You Go, There You Are…Or Are You?

18 09 2015

A friend offers up to me, “This is your midlife crisis.”

Duh, I think back as I’m listening to her voice message. We voice memo back and forth to one another pretty much every day — each of us streaming a monologue of consciousness packed with sharing, observations, revelations and advice ranging from 15-60 minutes. Over the past five years, we have logged not hours, but months worth of talking. She has saved me tens of thousands in therapy and, in some instances, has probably saved lives by talking me down from the proverbial tree.

Today she is stating the obvious.

I remember when she decided to move to Germany with her husband and newborn son. I said to her, “Don’t make these huge life decisions while breastfeeding.  Wait until your hormones return to normal, until you are you again.” She went anyway. It was a disaster. She moved back to California within a period of months and, after a bout of depression, found herself again.

No one told me, don’t go to the mountains, you’re in the throws of perimenopause, wait the seven years until your hormones normalize and you are you again.  I think no one told me this because all of my peers are of similar age and life stage.  We’re all tired and overwhelmed. We’re all feeling slightly unfulfilled and, at this stage in our lives, are looking for something more — more depth, more meaning, more living, whatever that means. And, of course, there is what is always unsaid, that once you reach a limit, once you realize you can’t stay “here”, wherever that is for you, the you that you once were becomes a room on fire. The only thing for you to do, is to shut the door behind you and make your way out.

This is what it was like for me leaving Garden Street for the very last time on Wednesday. Danae loaded the last of our belongings onto yet another truck, while I cleaned the entire house. Making my way through, room by room, making peace with the memories and events that took place here. My brother had reminded me of something that I had heard before, but had forgotten, that one should view events as though they are riding on a train and those events are the passing scenery. See them, notice them, but try to not hold on. I thought of this as I remembered preparing the baby’s room for Gwen’s arrival — here we were, clearing it out just three days before her thirteenth birthday. Let them pass. Hanging on to memories and feelings can be a bit like picking a scab. As soon as it crusts over, you pick it and make it bleed again.  Yup, that hurts. We’ve just past 9/11 and this causes me to think about the slogan, “Never Forget.” I’ve always taken issue with this. The way, after the towers came down, the media played over and over the footage of people jumping from the burning buildings — each of them making that impossible decision of how they would choose to die. Before the existence of media, stories were passed from person to person, leaving each to process information in their own way. Some may hold on, some may move on, but the choice was theirs. Modern media doesn’t allow for this. Honestly, who is going to forget 9/11? And do we really need to wallow in it year to year? That baby that I created a nursery for 13 years ago was a 9/11 baby — conceived just three months after the towers fell. I remember then, that people spoke of how the power was in moving forward and moving on with our lives. We could, as a nation, show our strength and resilience by just getting on with things. 9/11 babies were a big part of that show of strength and resilience.

Notice, then let it pass.

From 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. I cleaned every baseboard, every cobweb, every inch of floor. I recognized that I was anxious to leave, to move on, to no longer feel torn between two places. The night before I had awakened to severe a severe panic attack. I managed to get out of bed, feeling as though I was about to stroke out or have a heart attack. I opened the bedroom door and called out for Danae, “Help, help.” She came rushing. From 12:30 until about 1:30 she tried to focus me as wave after wave came. Panic attacks like these were what almost drove me to suicide in 2006. I remembered what my doctor told me, if I couldn’t get the waves to stop, to take a Unisom, even in the middle of the day, if necessary.  I took half. The waves didn’t stop. I took the other half and was out.

We were exhausted.

Around 5 the new owner’s realtor came by to collect the keys.  I headed her off out front.

“I got a text from Bradd,” she said, “that you guys will be out by 8.”

“Yes, that’s our plan.  I’m cleaning, and Danae is loading the last of our things before we begin taking down the chicken run and loading up the chickens.”

“Can I just come in and see the house,” she asks.

“No,” I say. “I really don’t think that’s a good idea. The dogs are here, and we’re in the middle of cleaning.”

She seems disappointed, but tries to find understanding.

She tells me that she will give the keys to Stig’s, one of the new owners, mother.  Suddenly an older woman pulls up and gets out of her car.

We make introductions and the woman immediately asks to get into the house.  Again I say no, that we have until 8 and if they would like to return after then, that would be fine.

The mother is not pleased.

“Well, when are you moving out?” she asks in a panic — perhaps thinking that we haven’t even started yet.

“We moved out Friday. We’re just clearing out the last of things.”

“Why can’t we just come in,” she asks.

I explain about the dogs, etc., but really, at the heart of it, I’m reading her and can tell she’s is the type of person that would stick around and dictate to us what is and isn’t good enough.

“Well, are you going to clear the yard,” she asks. This validates my read on her. I tell them I need to get back to work. I let them know I’ve left a document for Stig and Amy about the neighborhood, about the house, information that will help them settle in more quickly.  I am trying to appear friendly and reasonable. I don’t want them to feel toward us the way we felt about Joanne when we moved into Love Creek.

I don’t tell them that, on the way over to Garden Street that morning, I received the news that my father has aggressive Stage 4 prostate cancer, that there is only a 28% chance of him surviving five years. I don’t tell them that Danae’s father is still in the hospital for a myriad of issues involving his digestive system — that both of our fathers have been in the hospital for the past two weeks and that moving and remodeling a house simultaneously would have been enough to overwhelm anyone, but we have our fathers heaped on top of all of it.

No, you cannot come into the fucking house.  Eight o’clock means eight o’clock.  It does not mean five o’clock just because you’re excited, and now you have wasted thirty minutes of my time.

I go back inside and stand at the kitchen window and see some motion on the ground outside.  It is the neighborhood dove that has flown over the fence and onto the ground. This bird is so beautiful that people on the street often believe it to be someone’s escaped pet.  This bird has presence and beauty — it’s the full foul package.  It is looking for our fountain, which has already been loaded on the truck.

“Sorry,” I say. I have to look away.  I look out over the yard and into the street.  In order to find peace here, I always had to look inside the walls of my yard to the beauty I had cultivated.  There is no view beyond those walls outside of wires and hardscape. It is a fenced in perspective of beauty, literally, one which has closed me off from wanting to reach outward anymore. The smog, congestion and traffic, the elitism and entitlement that exists beyond those walls had grown to more than I could bear. At Love Creek, there is peace, space, baffling amounts of potential.  There is clean air and quiet.  All of this is causing me to crave company, to want to expand and reach out again. I walk the house, room to room and begin to see clearly the flaws that had been covered by furniture and other “things”.  Nothing could have changed that the bedrooms were too few and too small, that I never really loved any room in that house. I begin to question if the me that was me is mentally and emotionally setting the house on fire and exiting.

The old me would have let those women in the house because it was what THEY wanted. The new mid-life crisis me is no longer interested in pleasing people or in collecting friends like trading cards.  My circle is growing smaller and smaller and, as the size diminishes, the quality grows richer and deeper. By contrast, the space around me has grown and I can feel that the expansion of space has the same effect as the shrinking of my crew. The space causes me to want to draw my children closer, rather than push them farther away.  Our new dining room has allowed us to add two leaves to the table so that, at any given time, it can immediately seat six or more people.  We sit at the table for dinner and discuss our days in a way that we rarely did on Garden Street.  The small house, the lack of personal space for any of us, caused us to want to close off. Now we are seeking each other.

It is seven o’clock and, even with my nieces and their friend helping, we cannot get it all done. The sun is going down and we are exhausted.  We review our options: leave the chicken run up, even though we said we’d take it down, or ask for more time. I suggest Danae call our agent, Bradd, and be a human. Tell him what’s going on in our lives, that we’re completely overwhelmed and exhausted.  She does. Bradd fixes it so we have until eight the next evening.  The new owners aren’t moving in until Monday anyway.

We decide that I will pick up the kids the next day and Danae will come back with the van, hire some day laborers and get it all done.

I offer to take all the kids out to dinner for their help. They walk the few blocks to my sister’s house, while I put a few last things in my car. I pull out of the driveway for the very last time and a wave of emotion passes over me. This will not be the house where my daughter becomes a teenager. This will not be the place that houses my mid-life crisis.  This will not be the house where I lose my father. Everything that I am and will be now resides over the mountain. I drive toward my sister’s house and the tears come. I park a few houses away and give myself a moment to release. I am sad, I am exhausted, I am overwhelmed, but, more than anything, I am relieved.

After dinner, I take the kids back over the mountain and put them to bed. For 4-6 more weeks we will have a multitude of men working in the house from 8-5. We will be without a kitchen. We will be living in dust. We will be living out of boxes. But for whatever chaos and inconvenience, this is now us, and, with both feet firmly planted, this is now home.




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