I heard the unfamiliar screech of a forklift dumping off supplies for the new house being built catty-corner to my lot this morning. As I watched it back up across the barren dirt to the street behind it, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. The relative privacy I’ve enjoyed due to the housing recession is coming to an end. The open lots in my subdivision are beginning to fill. It won’t be long until there is a new house blocking the view from my back patio of open space and sky.
The tiny lots, so appealing to me five years ago as I moved into town from the country and the work it took to tend just over three acres, feel suffocating. The luxury of three open lots out my back door almost made up for the fact that my neighbors’ houses to the right and the left of me are each ten feet off the walls of my own house. I hear street noises and conversations and the clunks and thumps of construction that were silent not that long ago.
My little dog flings himself out the dog-door in the kitchen as he winds up a growl started across the house at the front window, legs flailing, claws scrabbling across the wooden floor, and bursts into a loud, short blast or two of barking at something, person or animal, daring to cross behind our property. He, too, thinks of the empty lots as his territory.
I love my house. If anyone could succeed at manifesting a perfect sanctuary in which to heal from a thirty year marriage and a lifetime of allowing other peoples’ (mother, husband, society) opinions to dictate who I was and how I should be in the world, I have certainly done so. Like the ancient maxim that a church would provide refuge from the law to a fugitive, so my house has protected me from a grudge-holding, secret-keeping, inflexible, angry manipulator who would have rather seen me left with nothing than stepping into my own life without him.
Don’t get me wrong. I am well aware that relationships, however destructive, are two-way streets. My husband could not have been the bully he was without, on some level, my compliance. He could not have stripped me of self-esteem without my giving it to him to begin with. He could not have physically threatened me, or stepped between me and my relationships with my children, if I had had the courage at the time to stand my ground. I didn’t. I look back on that time now and I wonder how I ever did find a way out. I tell people it must have been Divine intervention. And on many levels, it was.
I know in reality it was a series of steps, over a number of years, to finally live true to my heart. I couldn’t look myself in the mirror anymore and put up with the hypocrisy of what I saw. I didn’t want my daughter to look at me on whatever level and see a possible role model for being a woman in who I was in that marriage. I didn’t want my son to see a woman who would allow herself to be treated as I allowed myself to be treated. I was angry, vindictive and frustrated myself. I felt cornered, and like a wild animal with no room left to retreat, I attacked those closest to me, especially my children. I was like an emotional banshee.
I’m not that person anymore. I’ve worked very, very hard on myself and my perceptions of the world as it was, and is. The fact that I even have this house, this time, this space in which to recuperate is at least partially the result of a gift from the other nemesis in my life, my mother. My dear, sweet mother with whom I battled all my life gave me in death what she never could in life. I could buy this house, build this sanctuary, find this peace because she left me the funds to do so. When I first bought the house I used to keep a picture of my mother on my kitchen counter. I wanted her to see what she had given me.
I suspect it was always her intention, all across my life, to provide me with whatever I might need to survive. The fact that her ideas rarely if ever matched mine, made for a difficult relationship. But I am eternally grateful for my house. I am even grateful for her, and the courage she gave me in the end, to stand up for myself.
I feel the houses closing in around me as the economy recovers. I have to listen to music blaring on a car radio when a neighbor washes his car in his driveway nearby. My dog goes bananas barking at the kid who walks his dog across the last few weeks and months of the empty lot behind my back fence. Snow is falling gently from the purple sky, momentarily driving the forklift back to its garage. The quiet roar of my furnace and the ticking of clocks float through my house. Could it be I have outgrown this sanctuary? Could it be time to change, once again?