Friday, June 17, 2011

Mailbox is up, anybody home?



It's done.

In what was an elaborate, somewhat messy, collaboration, our custom-designed mailbox is fully painted and fixed to its new perch-- a solid, beefy post stuck firmly into the ground. Let's see if it's vandal proof.

I still haven't done a thing on the inside of the house, other than blow some dust around and stare in disbelief at the wide-pine floors on the first floor and wonder just how many parties it took to trash them like that. And were the party guests wearing hockey skates, or crampons, in the house?















Remarkably little progress has been made towards us ever making a home of our house again.

Day after day goes by and I remain in hiding, ensconced in this little cabin in the woods, just a stone’s throw away from our real home, our empty home, our home which stands empty and hollow, just waiting for us to come back inside and fill its every cavernous inch with love and noise, peals of laughter, shrieks of anger and wails of sorrow, and the smell drying clothes and burnt toast and curry and the feel of stickyness--not spilled beer but strawberry jam and honey-- on the floor, all mixed together with the hair of our old dog.

“When are we going to our real home?” Isla asks me day after day. “I want to find my dress-ups, that green cape you told me about. I want to set up my bed.”

And Esther wants to move into her attic bedroom, and be with the horses every day. She wants to be able to wander outside to the barn without me escorting her down there.


But I.... I don’t seem to want any of it. Though I occasionally get glimmers of longing, moments of nostalgia, when I’m out in the weed choked perrenial garden, looking back on our home. I discovered, hidden under the messy tangle of dried and fresh weeds, our old strawberry patch. There under the blanket of dead wood sat perfect heart shaped leaves and dangling, bright red fruit.

But I don’t get that sense of promise and excitement when I’m inside. I feel nothing in there.

How could eight years of raising children in one house, a house my husband dropped sweat and pounds and years building for us, get pulled into a swirling funnel and sucked down memory drain?

What does it mean that I don’t have any desire to make a home for my children? When I was pregnant with Esther and we first moved in, the place was still a construction zone, yet I took on the role of the expecting mother and wife and trotted off to town to pick up things, little and big, things to fill up the empty space with, things to surround ourselves with, to feather our nest with.

Now all these things have been put away, stored in the attic, left behind for two whole years and, honestly, I don’t have the desire to ever see any of it again.

There is nothing in our living room but two rotten couches, a handed down Ikea chair and a kitchen table. I feel empty when I stand in that room. I cannot imagine it ever feeling anything but empty. Is this normal?

I expected some depression from this whole reentry to America experience. But not quite of this depth. 


Anyone know a good, cheap therapist? Is there such a thing as a "find your old life" service?

Slightly more encouraging words can be found over here at Momformation. 

28 comments:

kebrown2007 said...

The only therapy I can think of is going up to the attic and start pulling it all out. Once you see it around you again, you might feel more at home again.

and WTH did those college brats do to those floors??? What boogers. If they were around, make them come in and labor over those floors to repair the damage.

good luck, and while it may take time, you will feel at home again soon.

Robin said...

Betsy, do you think that maybe it's just that you want to wait until Ian is back before you jump into the old home reclamation project? Maybe you feel like you're a bit in limbo, a temporary situation, and that you can make the move toward more permanence all at once? Not that I'm intending to contradict your complete competence on your own, per the Momformation post earlier in the week. And I'm feeling free to ask you these probing questions as simply a loyal reader, not someone who actually knows what she's talking about. Maybe I have aspirations to be your cheap therapist? (That probing question is for myself, not you. :))

Anonymous said...

That's really upsetting about the floors. Did the guy ever come and get the rest of their belongings?

I'm not sure what to say about how you're feeling about your house. Compared to the house that I live in, yours is amazing- even with the floors needing to be fixed. Not to mention that I would love to just be able to smell the air there again, feel the grass between my toes, see the green and the mountains, smell the horses and ride again....... Your house is basically what my dream house is. I would just start cleaning one room at a time from the attic down and putting the furniture back in every room as you went. Getting the floors downstairs fixed while you're doing the upstairs rooms. By the time you're done upstairs the floors should be finished and you can do the downstairs. Maybe then you'll feel more like you're at home (?). Or maybe when Ian comes back you'll feel differently.

KiminAZ

Julie said...

I'm feeling lots of empathy for you right now! Not that I've ever been in your situation, but between this post and your post over at Momformation I sense that you are in a deep pit of depression. I've been struggling in my own depression for the last few weeks. And I've found that it doesn't matter how many sensible words of advice my loved ones have for me - I just can't get out of this pit! If I could pull myself up by my boot straps and "git er done" I most certainly would not hesitate! But, it's not about the house or the chores or the things that are right in front of our faces that "need" to be done. Sometimes it's much deeper than that.

Betsy said...

Julie: I am an open book here. You are right. And I'm not sure I realized just how much "deeper" it goes until today. I suspect I am probably going through a textbook pattern of "stages of reentry." Once the initial excitement and newness, or "new oldness," wears off and your feet touch the ground again, there is bound to be some fallout. Here it comes.

Betsy said...

Robin: I do hate that Ian is not here to simply absorb all of this with me. I know it feels more overwhelming than it would if he were here as well. I am experiencing a real blockage, or sense of inertia when it comes to moving forward, or is it backward, into our home. It has taken me by surprise.

Betsy said...

Kim: Hope you are far away from the fires???

Emma said...

:(
Betsy, like the others said, you do sound depressed. I'm so sorry! But i don't think it's unusual or strange. You just spent 2 years trying to make a home for your family somewhere totally foreign. Then you had to leave it, perhaps at a time when you were feeling, finally, like you weren't such a stranger in a strange land. And now you're back, without Ian for the time being. So why would you want to put any energy into setting up your home again? One sign of depression is having no interest in things you used to enjoy. Now I'm not suggesting you go straight to medication, but some sessions with a counselor would probably be very worthwhile. I bet there's a lot of stuff you have shoved down deep that really, really needs to come out before you can move on.
And- and i really hope i am not out of line here, because obviously i don't know you personally, so totally ignore this if i am way off the mark- but i wonder if you have some resentment (maybe completely unconsciously) towrads Ian that he is back in France and you are trying to piece your old life back together on your own? I think I would be totally overwhelmed in your position. But like I said, please don't be offended if that's way off the mark, I'm just imagining how I would feel!

Liz said...

Betsy... you describe your feelings so well on this blog, that I believe you will work through all of this in time. A house is just a building, no matter how many of your life's memories it holds. It's your family that makes it a home and when you're ready to move back there it will transform into a home again. It seems as though if Ian were there with you right now that he would refinish the floors and make things more appealing to go back to. Hang in there...

Angela said...

Robin already said approximately what I wanted to say! So, hear hear! I would say (from semi-similar experience long ago): your heart is somewhere else. Partly in France, of course, but mostly with Ian. He will come soon. And help you to dust off the memories and sand down the floors and put life back into the house. I suspect you might avoid it somewhat precisely _because_ he is not there.........? Which, all in all, is perhaps right? (I mean, if you sang and danced and went about a complete happy life with gusto, he might feel a bit superfluous! ;) )

Anonymous said...

Hi Betsy, from your reader Liz C in NJ.... you, like me, are prone to melancholy, this I have learned from reading your blog(s) all these years.... but I think that this is, not any professional knowledge here, just layman(woman) guessing here.... like other readers said, this is all A LOT. A LOT. Like a ton of A LOT. You gotta just let yourself Feel What You Feel, and take your time. I'm guessing, the whole moving back, plus solo parenting, plus no partner/husband, plus home being ransacked and floors scratched up, plus surreal-ness of going from France to home, but what is "home?" etc, etc, etc.... it is A LOT. I have had great help from therapy, but for some reason my gut tells me that you are just processing all of this.... maybe processing all of it with a professional might be helpful... but maybe it takes a loooooong time.. I just deep sighed for you, literally..... use this time, this summer, to just crawl at a snail's pace. And, if it were me, I would explain to your girls, they are old enough to hear it, what you are going through, feeling... what a healthy example to teach them, about the difficulty of sorting out emotions. "I want to let you girls know that Mom is having a lot of emotions right now. You know how you girls are both happy to be back here, but also miss France, and miss Daddy, all at the same time? Mom feels that way too." Just my thoughts on it. Hugs to you. Let yourself drink cold beer (or whatever is your fancy) while chatting with your mom, while watching your girls enjoy summer, and do not give yourself a deadline. Hugs to you again.

Laree said...

" a house my husband dropped sweat and pounds and years building for us, "

I think you nailed your lack of motivation to move back right there.

Obviously, all I know is what you write. But, I'm a pilot's wife. My husband is in a diffrent state for 3 1/2 days out of every week. When he first started working, it was AWFUL! I hated that he was gone all the time. And we had just moved 2000 miles away from all my family and friends to a place where I knew no one, the weather was competly diffrent than home, and I was lonely.

One thing I've learned about you through your blog: Ian is your home. I think you're dragging your feet because your house won't really be home until he can be back. And it's really hard to face something so overwhelming without your awesome hubby by your side.

But, 4 1/2 years into this pseudo single mommy gig I've got going for me, I know that the sooner I just do something, the better it gets. It gets easier (and harder) as you go along.

Hang in there girl. Just think of next summer, when you can look back on these posts and think how silly it was back then!

Anonymous said...

KiminAZ:

Betsy, we're in central Arizona, so no fires here. Plus, since the wind generally blows east, we're not seeing much smoke either. The fires have gone through almost all of the beautiful parts of Arizona that are in the mountains. It's so sad since the majority of AZ is desert and we couldn't really afford to loose the bit of green that's here. Where we are there's not much to burn, just some scrubby mesquite and cactus.

I also want to say that I wasn't trying to be, um, a jerk, in my last post. I understand that you're feeling very out of sorts and somewhat depressed. I'm not trying to minimize what you're feeling or going through. It's just that I struggle with my own depressed feelings and wish that my own circumstances were different than they are. As you know, I have a..... longing for home (which is where you happen to be!), or a place that feels and looks like it. I miss it right to my core, but we're stuck here because of the economy, etc. I'm sorry that you're struggling and wish- so much- that I could be somewhere near where you are and we could get together, drag that flea ridden couch out to the college kids' bonfire, torch it, and smoke a Drum. And laugh.... A lot!

Special K said...

You're breaking my heart. I hope you find a FRIEND. A very productive get-things-done friend who will help you move in so you can find "home" again. I hope you can find happiness so your girls can live again in hope and joy in a home, even with daddy so far away. You are brave to write your feelings, I can only hope someone hears them that can help.

Betsy said...

Kim: I knew what you meant. Don't worry. My house and the land around it is beautiful. And I am acting as if someone died or something. It's hard to explain what my problem is, since I dont' really know.
@Al: Don't worry about me.I have sisters, one who is insisting we have a painting party. And a friend is coming in to refinish the downstairs floors tomorrow. $$
I'm not entirely sure I would feel would be any different even if the house was in perfect shape. It's something about leaving my home,changing a bit, and having someone else live in it, and, yes, not having Ian here to process this with me, that is taking me awhile to wrap my head around, I guess, is all. I will do it in my own time, yes,Thank you Laree. I am so fortunate to have this amazing empty second home of my parents' to squat in in the meantime. They aren't in a huge rush to kick me out, just yet.

Betsy said...

That should read @All.

Anonymous said...

Go to the library. Get some books by Pema Chodron. Learn to be okay with the emptiness. Embrace it. I recommend "When Things Fall Apart." A quote:

"Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look."

Now I can't promise you that it will solve anything or make you more or less likely to move into your old home, but I can promise that it will make you more comfortable with where your at right now in your mind, good or bad, pretty or ugly. It's a great read that allows you to live in insanity when you need lots of sanity (or husbands...)

Good Luck! Jenn B

Megan said...

Oh don't ya know I love me a funky mailbox! Yours is just as I imagined... perched in all its rainbow glory, surrounded by ALL THAT GREEN!
I imagine you, my dear, are simply exhausted, both physically and emotionally. It's been a very fast and wild two months for you and your family. Shifting gears can take it out of you. And now your home that you longed for while in France is not 'home' yet and that has to feel off. But not to worry! Rest assured that it WILL get to good again, that y'all will find your groove in this fresh start at your previous life.
But where to start, right? When we moved to France last fall and all of our stuff (WAY too much of it, I'm embarrassed to admit, but since my husband's firm was paying to ship and we're here for the long haul we figured what the hell and packed up... wait, losing my train of thought here). Starting over- when we moved to France and our zillions of boxes and bookcases finally arrived it was the middle of the winter. My husband was in Hong Kong for two months. I was overwhelmed and depressed and practically paralyzed. I had been longing for our books and linens and legos, I had been longing to make our apartment feel like our home. Of course now that it was all here all I wanted to do was throw it out the stupid fenetre.

I have more thoughts to share (hint: think pitcher of mojitos and billy joel), but first I am going to see if I can actually post this comment. I've had difficulty recently and my comments were erased. I have a very special ability when it comes to mucking up simple computer transactions...
let's see...

Megan said...

Oh don't ya know I love me a funky mailbox! Yours is just as I imagined... perched in all its rainbow glory, surrounded by ALL THAT GREEN!

You've got to be exhausted, both physically and emotionally. It's been a very fast and wild two months for you and your family. Shifting gears can take it out of you. And now your home that you longed for while in France is not 'home' yet and that has to feel off. But not to worry! Keep in mind that it WILL get to good again, that y'all will find your groove in this fresh start at your previous life.
But where to start, right? When we moved to France last fall and all of our stuff (WAY too much of it, I'm embarrassed to admit, but since my husband's firm was paying to ship and we're here for the long haul we figured what the hell and packed up... wait, losing my train of thought here). Starting over- when we moved to France and our zillions of boxes and bookcases finally arrived it was the middle of the winter. My husband was in Hong Kong for two months. I was overwhelmed and depressed and practically paralyzed. I had been longing for our books, linens, legos... I had been longing to make our apartment feel like our home. Of course now that it was all here all I wanted to do was throw it out the stupid fenetre.

I have more thoughts to share (hint: think pitcher of mojitos and billy joel), but first I am going to see if I can actually post this comment. I've had difficulty recently and my comments were erased on account of my very special ability when it comes to mucking up simple computer transactions...
let's see...

Megan said...

The above comment posted twice shows just how talented I am at these simple computer interactions. Oye.

So, I say;
Put on some loud, fun tunes like Madonna or Billy Joel or Talking Heads. Perhaps Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints? Anyhow, I'd get some good music going and make myself a pitcher of mojitos and start pulling out those boxes! Maybe think of it as a fun adventure in rediscovering old capes and princess dresses and books and lamps. Perhaps once you begin to let your old life literally spill back into your home you'll feel better? I always unpack my favorite stuff first. And remember, there's no rush, no deadline. Try and enjoy it some, if you can. I know it's a lot of work but there's something to say about the 'ritual' to settling a home. You know what I mean?

Anyhow, it's a bummer those Dead Heads left your home in a mess. Can't you take some of their deposit to pay for a maid or floor person or something?

By the way, your house is amazing! I'm loving the windows and wood floors and absolute idyllic surroundings. A perennial garden and horses? Are you kidding me?! I just looked out my apartment window and saw a man peeing on a parked bicycle.

Good luck, Betsy. And I should tell you that when I was depressed this winter and completely overwhelmed with our move to Paris your blog was like a good friend to me. It's your strength, sense of humor, and creative energy that I found myself so often leaning on. So thanks for that.

(By the way, is it too soon to suggest The Grateful Dead be added to the playlist?)

Betsy said...

Megan: I'm not kidding about the garden and horses. The horses belong to my sister, but we are their keepers. Vermont is like Never Never land. We call it the gilded cage because it's so lovely, yet so hard to make a living.
It's only 8:30 and you have already made my day complete with your description of what you are seeing out your window. Esther and I had a favorite saying, the exact wording escapes me now, but it went along the lines of: "You're not in France until you see a man peeing in public." We, of course, saw men peeing in public almost every day. And I thought it was a rural thing...
Peeing on a Paris bicycle shows no shame.
We celebrated my mom's 87th and my dad's 82nd with mint juleps yesterday. Not exactly mojitos, but close.

Kip said...

I am prone to 'analysis paralysis' when a job is overwhelming like yours. Nice that you have the cabin for a decompression chamber while you slowly resurface.

A journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step, or something like that...

Kip

(LOVE the mailbox!)

Kip said...

I was just thinking it's as if your house cheated on you and you are trying to forgive it. Giving it the ol' silent treatment till you can patch things up - which you will, because you set up the whole indiscretion in the first place, you know, one of those crazy mid-life decisions trying to spice things up a little?

Betsy said...

Kip: Too funny. Yes, my house is a no good hussy in my eyes right about now. By the looks of the floors she was quite promiscuous.

adrianne-p said...

From reading/scanning/skimming the others' comments I think I'm alone in saying, "Leave those boxes in the attic!" I don't think pulling them out is going to make you feel better ... it's just going to add more clutter to an already empty and cluttered house. I think it'll only add to your stress. It won't feel like a "home" again until you start to put the stuff in the boxes back together ... and you have to want to do that! I certainly think throwing out the old stuff left (and resurfacing those floors -- OMG!) will by the most help. I think those boxes are just going to bring up more emotions and memories ... for you and the girls! You have to want to contend with that as well.

Adrianne

allison said...

Oh, I hate travel and moving long distances for all those feelings that you are having. While other people feel that they gain from travel- and I do too to a certain extent- I feel more that I lose some of myself to the place that I have left. When I return, I just feel jaded, and no longer "fresh", with the weird deja vu feeling that you have from a dream that you can't quite remember. It will get better- at least it does for me- especially as I expect to feel that way now.

Cristy said...

It sounds to me like maybe it is hard to move forward and make it a home because Ian isn't there. I transferred to a new school in college and totally sucked and wasted time, knowing that my best friend would be there with me in a few months. Without meaning to, I essentially wanted for her. Also, maybe it's a feeling of not being able to go back. Honestly, it's the same house, but you and your family have changed. You can never come back and leave off right where you left. The house just isn't going to be the same as when you left it, just as all of you aren't either. It's a hard realization and probably a different expectation than you originally had. Best advice I ever got was from my mom: "Sometimes you have to adjust your expectations."

Cristy said...

Ok, I meant *waited, not wanted. LOL And I meant you can't start again where you left off. It's like trying to relive or redo a great moment. It's never as good as the first time. :)