House Elf, no more

My house is ‘home’ to both my adult daughters, a son-in-law and my grandson as well as two cats and two small dogs. It’s a four-bedroom cape with a half-finished basement that is the “family room/play room”. I’ve been here for almost twenty years and it has been financial and physical torture trying to either do work myself or being f*cked in the ass hiring “professionals” who take the money and do slip-shod work or bail altogether. I got to the point of giving up and hoping the place would fall down around me or go up in flames. When my daughter and her family moved in (with the ‘plan’ to rent and then buy) they wanted insisted certain renovations and work be done before-hand. I complied. I paid for the finished work in the basement, updated all electrical- adding new lighting, switches and outlets, all new windows and painted all the rooms in the house except mine and one bathroom *this in conjunction with other monetary gifts the kind that many parents give their children to ‘help out’, depleted my entire savings. They, in turn, were suppose to help me with property necessities: outdoor work, seasonal work, indoor/outdoor repairs – which I would either pay for or we’d halve the expense depending on who wanted what. I did/don’t mind paying for such things as long as there is cooperation from them so it didn’t/doesn’t all fall on my shoulders. As much as I wanted to sell the property and for as long as I’d been looking forward to be out from under the burden, I was actually happy to share the house and therefore the responsibilities that go with it. There are other additional benefits to sharing; someone is almost always home, someone can take care of the pets when others are not home, I’m available to babysit spontaneously without having to drive or make arrangements and there companionship if wanted or enough space for solitude.

I thought that things were going well. Throughout the first year we talked about possible options for making the ‘necessary’ (structural) renovations that had to be done in order for the house to be what they needed if they were to buy it *this was to be done when my son-in-law was finished with school and in a position to buy, about 3-4 years. We went over various ideas for maximum change with minimum $$. I soon realized – and I guess my glow over the family unit arrangement clouded my perceptions for a while – that they were not at all satisfied with the existing house and, to use my daughter’s words, it needed to be bulldozed and just start from scratch. I, having worked sometimes two jobs as a single mother of three for all my adult life, was starting to look forward to being unburdened. These two young adults were increasingly unhappy with the house (my daughter is an avid HGTV watcher) and this was starting to look suspiciously like I was going to get myself into a huge debt that they would – probably, based on my daughter’s increasing dissatisfaction, – then decide they no longer wanted to buy. I had no guarantee that in three or four years time they would still want to buy my house and, if they did, would I recoup the cost for the changes that they had wanted? I began having my doubts and so I suggested that we make some small DIY improvements around the house (because my daughter claimed she was too embarrassed to ever want to have anyone come to the house) and when they purchased it – if I was going to have an in-law space – we could renovate then.

In retrospect I now realize that this was the genesis of the freeze-out that has been going on. I am pretty independent and go about my life without interfering in theirs; I have all my worldly possessions in my bedroom with the exception of some tools and big items like a kayak so am out of their space most of the time but I like to let them know when I am headed out somewhere, such as the store and if anyone needs anything, or if I’m going to be gone for the day, etc. I make myself available if they need me for anything. It’s taken awhile – about a year – for me to realize that they have been harboring resentment because I wouldn’t make the house what they wanted. They are also spiteful in small ways; they do no cleaning – at all, the kitchen table is piled with whatever someone wants to leave on it, the bathroom is not cleaned nor are dishes with any regularity, the three-season porch, which is the main access to the house, is constantly cluttered with cast-offs and such and in complete disarray and the yard is a minefield of toys and clutter, the cellar is almost impassible to the W/D and the garage and extra storage room look like something from a hoarder show. I have patiently asked about cleaning up or getting rid of some things (that is obviously not used, broken or unwanted) and have on occasion just done it myself. I’d become defeated and was just going to hang on until they moved – which now would be about one year.

My son came home just before Christmas for a few weeks and I unburdened myself (some) about my feelings. He took the initiative and cleaned out the cellar, garage, storage room, porch, kitchen and living room. It’s all organized and clean. My son has motivated me to make repairs and do things around the house that I have been wanting, nay had bought tools and supplies and planned, to do but my efforts had been undermined by the two adults. During my son’s and my own efforts, my daughter made some small acknowledgments but makes a point of not following through with keeping the spaces clean; i.e. she tosses her coat repeatedly on the table/chairs instead of hanging it up (my son repeatedly hangs it up every time), she leaves her boots right at the door to the house instead of on the boot-mat where my son, repeatedly, replaces them, etc. Her single-minded determination to remain disrespectful and unappreciative is appalling. My son said he has no idea where she gets off being an “entitled bitch”.

I couldn’t sleep last night. I have been planning on doing the AT in the spring but having gone through and done all this work around the house, I don’t dare leave it in the hands of these two adults only to return home and have to clean and repair all over again. Fortunately it is my choice to thru-hike the AT and I may not do it this spring. I might decided to start in Maine in June and go south.

I am thinking of doing as much work as I can and, come mid-or-end of February, decide to either hike ~or sell my house (hopefully by mid summer) and then hike. Right now…it’s all up in the air. And I tell myself that “it’s okay”, I will make a decision based on how I feel at the time and deal with it then.

My son told me today that he is leaving for Maine tomorrow. I felt like crying a little. I feel that I am ‘defenseless’ emotionally speaking when I am here and it’s three-to-one but I am very capable I know. I am resolved to be strong and remind myself that this is my house and I’ve been generous to let them live here (because they cannot afford rent anywhere else) but they are going to respond and appreciate this gesture or I will have to tell them to start looking for another place to live. I am not sure that they will be able to find something that meets their high standards with their low income but maybe that’s what it will take to appreciate what I have done for them.

Daily Prompt: Capable

It’s easy to vanish when you are already living on the edge of existence.

Disclosure: this is boring mind-thoughts: nothing to be gained by reading this.

The last time I wrote was about a month ago. I went on vacation and came back to face reality – which is always a jarring transition, and somewhere between there and here I vanished ~~~ my purpose, my dreams, my plans. I’m artificially ”living” my life and it feels like a black-hole.

I got lost somehow. I go to work and come home and do whatever chores need to be done. I left behind my plans to hike the AT somewhere in pre-vacation mind-fog. I have not given up the plan…just haven’t thought about it much. And, here it is one month later and I’m feeling a little lost – a little unprepared. I have spent so much time in the last year consumed with reading or thinking about the AT that this past month has been one of those dreams that bother you awake but then you can’t remember what it was.

It’s now early December. If I am to start my hike in March or April (still undecided about the whole thing) then I have approximately three months of preparation: emotional, physical and practical.

All I feel right now is tired.

I started the day shift this past week and, after three days, I hate it as much as I thought I might. It may just be the transition. It might be a chronically chaotic shift and I’m only deceiving myself, “just give it some time to adjust”. It’s the lack of daylight, the holiday season, the lack of routine or purpose to my days ~ and I feel drained, I just want to read (“escape”) and sleep. This is not conducive to getting prepared for a six-month rigorous journey.

Tomorrow the sun is supposed to shine. I need to get up ‘early’ and get outside for a walk…hopefully the sun and brisk temperatures will help dissipate the heaviness in my head. I need to ‘get moving’, ‘get back on track’, ‘get out of my own way’ and move this plan forward – move my body and my mind. I need to find my way back.

That’s the plan anyway.

Daily Prompt: Vanish

Pity-parties and second thoughts.

Vacation was good. Not great, there were some hiccups but the atmosphere was ‘party’ and that helped smooth over the nagging little irritations. It was relatively easy to ignore that her “friends” made themselves scarce, they disappeared among the crowd of revelers. They were easy enough to find when she wanted to but they would soon have someone they had to go see or had to go use the bathroom (together) or make some other excuse to leave her. But they were nice about it…it wasn’t like they were snotty or overtly dismissive and, after all, it wasn’t completely unexpected behavior – she knew after the arrangements were made that she been manipulated into the trip. That didn’t make it any easier on her self-esteem, it didn’t keep the tight knot from forming in her throat but she reminded herself that this was her vacation too and she could entertain herself and enjoy it without help from anyone else. She’d had a life-time of practice. A half-century of making excuses for other peoples’ behaviors, keeping her expectations as low as she could tolerate (with friends) and making herself content with her minimal existence while maintaining a tiny sliver of hope that someday ‘things’ would get better. She felt the somedays were running out.

Home was empty and dark when she returned and although it was unusual for no one to be home it was okay, she unpacked and reflected briefly on her week. She knew she’d been slightly aloof with her friends that morning in preparation for their flights home but they’d all agreed that returning to ‘reality’ is a buzz-kill and everyone was a little sedate. She warmed up through the morning with the intention that she wouldn’t leave the little group with a sour taste; don’t let them see you cry. Isn’t that the mantra? Keep your chin up and don’t reveal your weakness. She made the mental note: I probably won’t hear or see these ‘friends’ again for sometime, probably not until the holidays when I might get a “Happy Holidays” text. That’s okay. She can pretend to be friends as long as they can. Once, after decades of what she termed “one-way-friendships” (for the obvious reason that they only seemed to work one way), she had decided that she was no longer going to be the only real friend in the relationship, they had always had a way of just dying from neglect and that would be the way these too would go. She was tired of maintaining superficial relationships, a false facade of happiness or contentment and she was especially tired of holding out hope.

The next morning her two grown children were home. One asked if she had a good time; “yeah” she replied with enthusiasm. That was the end of the inquiries; there was no further interest in specifics or asking to see photos. Nothing. They were not at all curious about her week abroad. Only slightly deflated she thought it just as well, this way she wouldn’t have to magnify the highlights and minimize the disappointment.

At work one person asked about her two week absence. She replied with only slightly feigned delight that she’d been on vacation and told them where she had gone. Her peer replied that they had also been to the same place and had a great time. She started to elaborate on her experience but her co-worker took over the conversation reliving their own vacation.  Shortly thereafter she returned to her work. Throughout the day, just as an experiment to satisfy a curiosity, she mentioned her vacation time away from work – just in passing – to a few other staff members but there were no bites, it was as if she hadn’t said anything at all. She went about her work day as she always did, quietly and dutifully, nothing out of the ordinary.

A few days later was election day. There was animated conversations at work and no small amount of anxiety over the much talked about campaigns and dirty tactics. She had returned home to find her two children watching some news coverage – this was unique. Their usual diet was “reality TV”. She asked what the latest ‘news’ was and her children became engaged in conversation. This was surprising. The three adults within this house typically passed as ships in the night, very little interaction or dialogue. This had become a mental focus of hers in the last year or so. She tried to interact when either of them were home, taking an interest in their day and life without being ‘nosey’. What young adult wants their parent snooping around in their business? She understood. There would be light conversation, nothing personal or even informative. She might say what she was going to do that day or evening or maybe mention some chore around the house or yard she planned on tackling but dialogue petered out and the electronic devices became important. That was the case when she involved herself with the election discussion. She had confided to her two adult children that she could understand the anger of Americans who felt ‘left out’ or ‘disenfranchised’ but she found herself watching them engage with their iPhones. She abruptly ended her short monologue and noticed they were unaware. Or were they deliberately ignoring her?

As she left to go to her room, the only room in the house where she kept her few remaining personal items having already emptied the rest of the house a few years ago when she’d intended to sell – just before the kids came back home, unable to ‘make in it on their own’, she reviewed what she’d just noticed like frames of a movie. As she changed her clothes she realized, not for the first time, that she felt like the unwanted house-guest in her own house with her own children. The events of the last few weeks all lined up like the magnetized toy trains she’d seen kids play with in the bookstore. The friends that are cordial but not really interested, the co-workers that are professional but not friendly and her own small family – living together peacefully but not engaged, not with her anyway. She squelched the rising knot and the welling in her eyes. Pity-party for one never helped in the past and there was no point in giving in now either. She busied herself with putting away the last of her summer clothes, the vacation clothes, in storage in the closet.

She suddenly had an epiphany – she was like one of those misfits in books or movies, one of those people to whom others give a thin smile and then with some embarrassment, shift away from while avoiding eye contact, or maybe making eye rolling gestures with their friends at the encounter. She imagined her grown children embarrassed by her, her few friends pitying her if not laughing behind her back. She realized with clarity and finality that she was a social outcast trying to be “normal” and engaging and just like those misfits in movies, her attempts also fell flat. She saw herself now as others must see her; a person with some small but noticeable disfigurement or affliction that makes others uncomfortable with her but not outright mean toward her.

Suddenly a swiftly moving heaviness dropped within her like her blood pressure just bottomed out. She sat down in the closet doorway and immediately felt hot and sweaty. This realization of her life-long status as an ‘untouchable’ felt somehow deeply grounded and with an acute awareness of the permanency, her hope for something better in her future flickered. Her eyes remained dry and her throat did not begin to knot and throb as it often did when she felt she was on the brink of despair. She breathed deeply with control and deliberateness. She felt like paper, tissue paper, as if she could just float away. She remained that way for a little while, assessing her past and future, tabulating her losses and lack of any gains. Her life felt thin to her like she was insubstantial and just drifting through time with no tether to anyone or anything. She thought she could just sit here and  dissipate and it would be days before anyone noticed she was missing. And, with dry realization like stone, she knew she no longer cared and she knew no one else did either and, oddly, this made her feel better.

She stood up with a deep sigh of relief and a strange feeling of resolution. She started pulling out the boxes and removing the winter clothes to be replaced with the summer. She felt singularly alone and a part of the universe simultaneously when something heavy clunked. She removed a heavy sweater and saw the small revolver sitting on the bottom of the box. Her face tightened and her hands went cold. She had forgotten about the little hand gun she had bought at a yard sale not long ago when she felt particularly vulnerable. She picked up the surprisingly heavy weapon and held it like an egg in her hand. It made her smile to herself.

She thought in a sing-song voice, pity-party for one will go off with a bang.

Daily Prompt: Second Thoughts

A short list

There are millions of stars

millions of miles between us – earth – and the rest of the universe

there are a million kisses and hugs over a life-time

there are a ‘million things to do’

dreams and hopes by the millions

it’s a million-to-one shot

millions of dollars wasted

I’d love to win a million dollars

millions of dust specks floating in the air

millions of leaves turning autumn colors

millions of opinions

millions of gallons of water in the ocean

millions of people, all busy, all at the same time, living their lives.

Daily Prompt: Millions

Urgency is all relative

Autumn has arrived so quickly.

When we have ‘big plans’ for something like a wedding or a long-anticipated extended trip there are the mixed emotions of ‘can’t wait’ and the dread that we won’t get ‘everything done’ in time. The event seems so distant into the future that we feel we have the luxury of time but daily life gets in the way of necessary preparations and appointments then, before we know it, the time has arrived.

I’m in the middle of those emotions. Everyday I feel the urgency of being prepared for my thru-hike combined with the necessary things that need to be done on a daily basis. The more ‘training’ I do, i.e. hiking, weight-lifting, aerobics – not to mention acquiring, not only equipment, but the “right” or “best” equipment, the better prepared I will be for my hike but work and daily life doesn’t allow me to use as much of my time as I’d like for what seems (or feels) necessary to me.

My solution: everything in moderation. We can only do so much in the time we have. I need to work so that’s a forty-hour hunk of my week. I have to sit and pay bills, go to appointments, winterize, fulfill obligations of life and throw a little bit of relaxing (or otherwise ‘fun’) in there to break up the monotony. I have to realize that I might not be as prepared for my hike as I would like and that’s okay. Many people successfully thru-hike on sheer determination.

While urgency has it’s place (like initiating CPR) most things are not as urgent as we may feel or believe. We increase our own anxiety by giving in to a fear that really is not as extreme or maybe even warranted. If we had to explain it, if we had to justify our fear or convey the sense of urgency, we probably couldn’t do it without coming off as a little ‘out-of-control’ or emotionally unbalanced; disproportionate pragmatism verses hysteria. Best we keep our heads cool and take life an hour at a time – eventually we will get where we want to be, with or without comprehensive preparedness, and all that fuss will just seem like wasted energy.

Daily Prompt: urgent

The subtlety of ‘daring’.

Stream of Consciousness:

It’s so subtle, daring…to be yourself, to speak up, to express your opinions, to smile for no outwardly discernible reason, to chuckle out-loud when you read something funny, to openly observe a stranger’s child entertaining themselves and remember what freedom of spirit was like and unaware of judgment, to dress in something comfortable and not at all stylish, to tune-out the negative conversations around you and drift into a happier world of your imagination, to know each day that the world can and might get much worse but live like it won’t, to be aware that you never know when you won’t be here anymore and disregard the criticism of ‘being morbid’, to wonder what someone else’s hidden life might be like, to show compassion when other’s feel disgust, to turn your face up toward the warmth of the sun and smile and not care what someone might think, to buy a bottle of wine in the morning, to drive under the speed limit, to listen to non-contemporary music/radio with your windows down at a stop light, to walk along the sidewalk and not move out of someone else’s way, to stop coloring your hair, to eat out…alone, to exist completely comfortable with yourself and who you are, for whatever reason, and let the world turn into what it will and know that it doesn’t matter because you can only be who you are.

Daily Prompt: Daring