Finding Joy in the Corner of My Home
My only intention was to clean. So much more happened.
Something needed to happen. Clearly there were evil spirits living my house. My daughter and I tried to have sense of humor about it. We named one of the evil spirits Jorge and cleaned up mess after mess. I was strongly considering that I might need to find some kind of Native American Shaman to smudge sage in this place.
Things escalated to the point where a Catholic priest for a full blown exorcism might be a better idea.
In the last year I’ve dealt with: a cracked pipe inside a wall flooding the house, a broken garage door, a tree falling on a wall, my pool falling apart, and an undetected shower leak ruining a wall.
A few weekends ago, I hit an irrigation line in my front yard. I had to shut off the water to my whole house and the yard. I struggled to get it fixed. Nothing was coming together.
At one point, I sat with my feet beneath me in the front yard, covered in mud, sweat and blue plumbers’ glue and sobbed. I didn’t care what the neighbors thought. I just sobbed, hopelessly.
It was clear that my house hates me. But, really, I can’t blame it. I’d hate me, too.
I have been in this house for exactly a dozen years. Together, we weathered out the explosion of the real estate bubble. It’s finally, after 12 years, worth as much as the day I bought it.
I never turned my back and walked away from it even when that would have been a good idea. Buying this house was a foolish, emotional decision I made after my first divorce. I wanted my daughter to have some kind of steadiness to her life. I wanted to stay put. I needed roots.
Somewhere along the line I gave up on my house and never held up my end of the bargain to take care of her and love her. No wonder she acted out.
The majority of the projects in my house are only 75% finished. I wish I was kidding. I have a recessed corner of my living room that was never painted. My kitchen cabinets only have half the pulls and handles on them. A few doors are missing trim. The blinds in the front are the wrong size and need to be moved to the back.
It’s not that I don’t care. I do. Getting this house in order was one of the major contributors to my recent divorce. I had asked my ex-husband so many times to help out and finish some projects. Namely, put the damn handles on the damn cabinets. It never got done. It’s how our marriage went and how it ended.
But, this house needs love. It’s mine and it’s served me well and I have treated it like an old hand-me-down sweater. Balled it up, tossed it aside and neglected it.
I had a quiet day where I had intended to do a deep clean. I was going to jump on the minimalist bandwagon and clean things out. Get rid of everything.
I got as far as the living room.
In the corner of my living room is an acoustic Fender guitar I bought for myself over 10 years ago. I can barely play it.
As I was dusting, I grabbed it and sat down on the couch. I couldn’t remember a single chord. So I grabbed an old book and figured it out. I played until I lost feeling in my fingertips. A song called “Dylan Thomas.”
When I was done, I started back at the cleaning. I dusted the shelves I made last year out of iron gas pipes and wood I stained with my own hands.
I rearranged books I’ve had since college. Thumbed through them and held them up to my nose to breathe in the must.
I stacked crates used to bring home wine from my first trip to Napa Valley.
I realized there is a lot of joy in this house. I’ve just not seen it. I’ve been a little overwhelmed. But, that joy’s everywhere.
In the last year or so of my life, I have given away so much, like an emotional yard sale where everything could be haggled for. I have lost my focus, my heart, my drive, my pride, my voice, my sanity. I’m in a place where I want to keep things. Like that old Fender guitar.
I’m going to spend less time staring at pictures of other people’s homes and more time taking care of the one I have. There’s joy in the back corners, hidden in drawers and sitting on shelves. It seems there’s a lot more to be dusted off than just books. I have a lot of work to do.