Feeling the feelings

It’s been hard for me to write. It’s been hard for me to talk. It’s been hard for me to breathe. It’s been hard for me to put one foot in front of the other, knowing that everything is about to change; accepting, crying, laughing, my actions inspiring various family members to be unhappy/annoyed/righteously pissed off at me because—EVERYTHING is about to change.

I’ve known every day I needed to write, needed to cry on the page—NEEDED TO EXPRESS MYSELF AND FIGURE THINGS OUT. 

It’s been a whirlwind. A tornado. A cataclysmic, seismic, Earth-rumbling last few months. 

The Move is happening.

It’s not happening. The buyer dropped her offer. I countered. She found issues. OF COURSE!!! I live in a 100+ year-old house that’s been patched up with mortar and love and love and love and crossed-fingers for the entire almost 30 years I’ve owned her. She’s a mess, like her mom. But she is lovable and wonderful and my grandkids accept her, and me, and don’t dwell on our mutual flaws. To my little ragamuffins, Angel Cove Cottage by the Sea and her potbellied, floppy-chinned, grey-haired Grandma/Mama are perfect. Our little home by the Pier has provided a refuge where we can paint and grow and plant and spill and drip and dribble and be bare-footed and pajama-ed throughout the day. Here, we can build forts and paint rocks and drink wine and refill the imperfectly-engineered pond again and again because, that’s what we do. 

Here, in this land of dirt and four-legged family member hair, and dog and cat ashes, and egrets and fish and spiders and mosquitos and fire pit cabernet nights (and mornings and afternoons), we can be our imperfect selves. 

Angel Cove Cottage by the Sea and her sister, rentable, partner-in-crime, Moonstone Cottage by the Sea is our perfect, imperfect abode:

This beautiful, paint-chipped, termite-gnawed home has been my place, my vision, a sanctuary I have forever seen as beautiful and hopeful, a creative, open-canvas refuge that my carpenter dad tried to sway me away from “a money pit” and toward a more modern dwelling. He wanted me to knock it down and build three on a lot and make a profit. 

But I couldn’t. I felt Angel’s soul. I listened to her secrets. I understood her story.

Here was a place I could grow and imagine. 

Why then, you might ask, would I sell a home that I obviously love? 

The question has been torturing me for a very long time. 

Frankly, it has to do with money. With responsibilities I can’t afford as a single, retired woman. It has to do with a sense of duty and not being able to be an adequate caregiver to a home that needs a healthy checking account to keep her afloat, to launch her into the next generation.  I don’t happen to have a bunch of cash to do all the fixing and day-to-day caretaking. Nor do I have the enthusiasm to do all the daily upkeep. She’s a lotto handle: the continual raking, sweeping, dusting, watering, wiping down, putting away, cutting back, repairing, painting, plumbing—all by myself. Every single dollar goes into house upkeep and management. And I have concluded that I’d really rather use my money to go on adventures. 

I’m a 66-year-old cliché. 

My kids don’t understand me. One suggested I needed a Zoom “What’s Wrong with Mom?” intervention. 

I totally get it. I’m shocked. I’m actually having earthquake aftershocks. I cry all the time. But I put one foot in front of another, like a Zombie. I feel, but I don’t want to feel. I love, but I know it’s time to say goodbye.

Here’s the map of my decision: I have been responsible since I was 19, married the wrong guy, got pregnant, got pregnant again, got divorced and waded through this land of single parenthood with the help and strength of my parents, sister, and cousin. I tried—always—to do the “right thing” and make the best out of a bad situation. But it was hard and I often screwed up as a juvenile parent of babies. Still, my babies were my priority. They before me.

When Ryan was 13, I married Bruce, who provided stability and love. We both did our best. But it wasn’t enough and more than a decade ago we divorced. 

My point? God only knows. This is how my brain has been of late. Fragments between tears, between reaching out to God, looking at sunsets, listening to the backyard pond, watching squawking, nesting crows, knowing I’m making the right decision, doubting that I am. 

This day, I knew in my heart, would eventually come. 

My Realtor contacted me: Looks like the deal is back on: The buyer wants the house—warts and all. Escrow is going forth.

I suppose in some folks’ eyes, I should have continued to labor and toil, and die in the house, like I thought I would. 

Perhaps I should have lived small so my children and grandchildren could have, eventually, lived big. 

I suppose that’s what better people than I would have done; sacrifice until the day I died and be the Noble One honorably cloaked in a legacy of self-sacrifice, the one everyone at my funeral had high praise for.

No, I gotta be the selfish shmuck who called it a day, got out before the cookie crumbled, went on an extended vacation. Had no specific plans.

I’m baffling. I baffle my family. I baffle myself. 

These days of packing, of stripping the walls, of selling most of my material possessions in a matter of days, is excruciating, informative, and ultimately liberating. I have nothing to water, nothing to dust, nothing to resurrect memories. The Next Door Neighbors are happy to take all the stuff off my hands at bargain basement prices. And, I am happy to release them. Quickly. Before I feel the pain. Gone. As of today, almost everything.

The only thing I have left are kitchen items, boxes of already-sorted memories, the grandkids’ toys, Mom and Dad’s grandfather clock and the hope chest. Time and hope.

Photos of a lost me. Scrapbook moments. Letters. Wishes. Dreams and experiences diverted. Dust. Cracked yellow news clips. Toss? Keep? Does anyone care?

My things now belong to someone else. 

And in a few weeks, Angel Cove Cottage will share her life with a single parent, someone who, like me, only a few decades my junior; a woman who sees beauty where others see problems. A new owner who feels optimism and has the financial means to bring this fine home to a new level of comfort and modernization. 

Part of my emotional tsunami has to do with exactly this: My time, this part of my life, this passage, is over. Angel Cove deserves youth, enthusiasm, physicality, ms.-fix-it-knowhow, and, of course, the mighty funds to bring her up to speed. While I still have the love, I lack in the other areas. It’s just a single person’s reality: a person’s retired income doesn’t stretch very far.

I’ve known this day was coming. I could have postponed it another few years, but it was a’coming. With my sister and cousin moving, with my fortunate (as of now, good health–touch wood–), it seemed like all roads were pointing to, “Don’t let fear dictate your life. Or sentimentality. Or opposing voices. Or the what-ifs.” Just do it.

I am going to miss her. Deeply. Forever. And ever. I will miss the ghosts. I will miss the future parties. I will miss the backyard breakfasts and Wine Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesdays around the camp fire. I will miss my gazebo and bagels, cream cheese and the Sunday Los Angeles Times. I will miss the projects. I will miss the potential. 

But I can tell you, I have loved this sweet home probably more than any other homeowner who has ever lived here. I have given her everything. And now it is time to let go. 

2 Comments on “Feeling the feelings

  1. Oh, Janet! I resonate with your feelings, even though I haven’t had your experiences. I grew up part of my life in an old house by a river. I’d give anything to have access to that house right now (NOT the big, grand house it got turned into!). I also applaud your courage in doing the right thing for yourself, even though you don’t know how it will turn out. I also believe there’s another life waiting for you ‘out there’ and that you’ll find it.

    We’re so inescapably human! Not a bad thing. Unless you choose to ignore it. I hear you paying attention to your own humanity and acknowledging what you can and cannot do at this time. Still, it’s no fun, and we do ourselves a disfavor if we try to pretend otherwise. Thanks for this post. I’m a bit ahead of you (78, going on 79), but already I’m feeling the pressure of what will come next (and inevitably).


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you kindly. This writing and sharing thing can really help us feel less alone, less frantic. You share something deeply personal only to discover so many others facing similar challenges/opportunities. The connections are so important. You know how much I appreciate your writing so hearing from you just made my busy day. Mucho gracias.

      Liked by 1 person

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