So, sometimes I’m rosy and reductive and carefully edit the mood of my posts to try to keep the blog positive and upbeat. No sense dwelling on the ugly bits, right? But those not-so-pretty-parts are real, and just as big a part (these days, sometimes more) of life as celebratory optimism. A perfect online world is all photo-ops, hot chocolate, playing in the snow with puppies, chickens that do tricks for treats, and cozy moments. The real world has those moments, true, but it also has days where you walk to the unfinished upstairs (contemplating putting your bedroom there, where there’s bright light, if a mess of construction) and find that not only is it 40 degrees (compared to the cozy 46 downstairs…), but that the dog you thought was just running upstairs to bark out the window at people on the street below was also using it as his indoor bathroom all week (too cold to go outside, wretched beast?). You throw sawdust on the wet spots and barricade the stairs so he can’t get back up there and steel yourself for the clean-up later. Upstairs, where you and the fella spent a couple nights a week all last winter working together, caulking, cutting insulation, caulking, cutting insulation… hours upon hours of work. Sometimes you fought but mostly you listened to music and enjoyed working together, in your recollection, though he says now he was always frustrated that you hadn’t done more on your days off (I worked part-time then). At any rate, you were making progress, together. Then life got even more complicated, and he bought another building, and another. He says it was for you, but all I ever wanted was to have all my stuff in one place. He was convinced that we had to do the whole building at once- I just wanted to finish the second floor, move up there, and then do the first. If he had less stuff, that might have worked. And all the while, the studio rent was a constant drain.
It’s snowing, still, and the roads are a mess, but you still have to trudge 3 miles each way to go unfreeze the water of the chickens you’re tending until next week because the solar-powered water heater in the fancy-pants architect-designed chicken coop can’t keep water unfrozen and there are no outdoor outlets to plug in a heater that actually works. Two of those chickens are in your basement, cooing and pooping and kicking straw and newspaper everywhere, and the roads are too terrible to try to transport them back to join their friends, even though they are healed from the injuries their flockmates gave them. You’re late to get there, not because you’re nursing an awesome party hangover, but because you’re recovering from both a broken heart and a stress-induced sinus infection that has migrated to being a nasty chest cold, so you’ve been hacking your lungs out all morning. Your house is dark and cold and in disarray, and the wood you put in the stove to try to get a cozy fire going with is hissing angrily instead of burning- still wet. You’ll wait till it’s totally cold and pull the big log out and dig in the shed for some cured wood when you get back from the snow-slog to chicken tending. There’s some sort of probably rodent-creature scrabbling around in the bathroom ceiling. The sink is half full of dishes, and as you stand over them turning them into clean ones, and thawing your icy hands in the hot water, you spontaneously sob for all of your lost hopes and lost love.
The fella apologized last night after dinner for being such a jerk for the past few years, and said he hoped you didn’t feel like you had wasted your time. Of course not, though this is not what I thought I was waiting and putting up with it all for… I was holding out for the amazing home we’d have when this was all over with, for a folky backyard wedding, surrounded by all our friends and family, and then a family of our own. For a home that we would share, for security and promises and a garden you could tend for years and years and years. You planted fruit trees and planned and hauled mountains of wood chips and compost… putting down roots. You buried your dog there. You put all of your savings (enough to pay off your last student loans) into trying to buy land nearby to make your urban farm dreams come true- a place that would feed you, that could grow with you and your life. It’s not a portable dream. You never thought you’d be living on borrowed time here. You started out both sharing that vision, or parts of it… but he gave up on it working long before you, while he was busy working on everything else.
But frankly, the two of you have been a mess for awhile- him frustrated and critical, controlling and mean. You depressed, also frustrated, feeling micromanaged and like nothing you did was ever good enough, and totally inadequate to help in the giant projects you were trying to do together… he always saying he felt he was on his own, and you being afraid to try and fail, and meet criticism once again. Him not understanding why things take you longer than him, or why you’re afraid to do things like teach yourself to tile a bathroom- because you are angry at him for not taking the time to teach you, rather than expecting you to figure it out on your own, but feeling that he didn’t actually believe in your ability to do it… I’ve never been particularly good at mechanical or construction projects, much as I’d like to be. And I have a hard time with being told what to do, rather than asked, or with working with someone who is convinced that they are almost always right. I know I’m no dream to work with at times also- stubborn and sensitive, sometimes selfish, and by the end, the two of you were almost unable to work together at all without fighting. I finally shut down and mostly stopped trying. He started drinking more, and assumed if I didn’t immediately pick up the phone during the day that I must still be in bed not doing anything… which sometimes was true, but often as not was not. I wasn’t always working on his to-do list, which I suppose is about the same thing. Our friends suggested therapy, which he said he’s try, but that it wasn’t going to work and it would be a waste of money and since I didn’t have any, he’d end up paying for it like everything else. Ouch. In short, we were a disaster. But still… years of love kept us together, or made us try again, even when we were being anything but loving towards each other.
And I resented all the stuff in the way, the piles of clutter and collections and just plain junk. And he always said he was trying to bring home less stuff, to clear out the stuff that was there, but the net movement was always always more and more and more stuff to try to move around and clean. I wanted to throw half of it away, and eventually mostly gave up on cleaning. I spent hours reading minimalist and tiny house blogs, daydreaming about a yurt or little cob studio out back that would be all mine and almost empty- a space where I could think, and breathe. I requested one room of my own at the apartment- the smallest one- originally for an office, but then when he acquired a bunch of woven grass tatami mats, you planned to make it a yoga room. Just a few plants and white walls. And even that room filled up with things- your books, sure, but became a collecting point for more things while you worked on the rest of the place so quickly that you couldn’t even get in the door without climbing over things. Temporary… or would it be?
And the snow keeps coming down, possibly a foot by the end of tonight. I shovelled the walk this afternoon and will have to do it again soon. I’ll be taking the train tomorrow, I’m pretty sure. I just want to burrow down and lick my wounds for awhile, drink some potent hot chocolate and get this fire going, but alas, the world has other ideas.
PS, creepy dude who was stalking me a while back, none of this is an invitation to reappear if you’re still reading. I will still mace your face and then call the cops if I see you lurking around my house or if you try to email me again.
Urgh, here’s hoping 2014 sucks less than this one. It can only get better, right?