The Day the Earth Stood Still
I’ve lived here for almost a decade. When I first got here I liked to say I was going to be carried out feet first, more a statement of how tired I was of having all my addresses written in pencil in address books everywhere. How tired I was of moving. Of feeling that the next place would be different.
For awhile it was different. I loved it, then I hated it, then I loved it, then I hated it again. Now I can’t move because my relationship to my house is something like the hostage syndrome. I’ve taken too much care of it for too long, and now I simply can’t kill it.
Or I don’t know. Maybe it has taken care of me for all this time & it can’t kill me. The roles depend on the day.
I tend to get attached to inanimate objects. I really must stop naming everything.
When I first moved in, the place felt pretty rural. I mean, I live in a neighborhood, but most of the houses around me are empty most of the time (vacation homes), and there are only a few of what we call “full-timers” on my street. There was lots of empty forest. It was so dark that you could walk down the street and quite literally not see your hand in front of your face. The stars were a glittering crust on the black sky.
Then the housing boom came. The place was overbuilt. The guy who owned a lot across the street decided to build on it. And build he did. Not a little cabin, but an obscene tumor of a dwelling that has become a blight on the entire neighborhood. Because not only did he light up every square inch of the place in a way that makes standing in my front yard at night feel like you are in a police interrogation, quite soon afterward he realized he couldn’t afford it after all and rented it out to one set of derelicts after another, including an actual drug rehab place where the inhabitants were drunk at 10 in the morning and ambulances were constantly screaming in and out.
I could dwell on the details, but the biggest lesson I got from this is that, thinking back to the day I saw the owner & his son come up to look at where they were going to build this monstrosity, I realize that is the day I should have stuck a For Sale sign in the ground. Unfortunately that was during my first “love my house” phase and it seemed unthinkable. Did I think I could deal with it? Did I think would get used to it? I don’t even know any more, but I do know that I was waiting for something. Waiting for something to change. I’m not sure what, exactly, but I’m certain that in my heart of hearts I thought something would be different, would go back to the way it was. This was not something I could have articulated at the time. I wish I’d had the presence to take that line of thinking apart a little more.
Only two things could possibly have changed: me or the house. I know myself. Everything bugs me, so I’m fairly certain I didn’t think it would be me. I worried out the window while they broke ground. My stomach clenched into a knot that has never subsided. I suppose this all must point back to my lack of realization at the time that things are permanent. Unless I torched the place, that house wasn’t going anywhere. But on some deep level I must have thought it was just some kind of trial run, like the way I used to picture all of humanity & creation as some kind of weird chemistry experiment on the part of the godhead, whatever that entity was. Otherwise I would have moved. Been up & out before they even finished the place. I must have thought waiting would accomplish something, but it accomplished nothing. The lesson? Things either stay the same or get worse.
It’s probably not news to people older than I, but I think when you reach your 50s you start to realize, & not just in an intellectual way, that This Is Not a Rehearsal. I’ve lived my life as though it were. As though I had endless amounts of time to try everything I was interested in, which is, unfortunately, everything. Even worse: I was good at almost all of them. Just stating a fact. I’ve always been so envious of those child prodigies who were good at only one thing and knew from day one that that thing was what they would do forever. Not I. I dabbled endlessly thinking one thing would sweep me off my feet, but it really never did. I wanted the romance of work I loved, but I did not find that. Anyway, this is the decade when all the dabbling came to an end, because I finally realized that I was running out of time, this wasn’t Groundhog Day, that house wasn’t going anywhere.
So. I’m back to my original choices, which are 1) to change the only thing I can: me; or 2) to wait for everything around me to.
You’ll be happy to know that between the time I started this post and now, I stuck a For Sale sign in the front yard.