EDITOR'S NOTER - I originally wrote this post over 2 years ago. Things were still too raw then, so I didn't publish it. It's going live today, because it's important to me to tell my story as it is.
I've lived in this house for 14 years and it's only felt like a home for about the last 8 months. You see, 8 months ago, this house truly became mine and mine alone. 8 months ago, my divorce was also finalized. I am truly blessed that I was able to afford to refinance this house on my own. I can't stress the importance of keeping yourself debt free - whether you are married, single, divorced, or whatever, being debt free really helps make some life choices easier - but that's another blog post. This one is about the home I now live in with my three beautiful children.
I used to say that I hated this house. It's not the style of home I like. It's a raised ranch, while I've always had a soft spot for old country farm houses or old Victorians with lots of character. To me, this house had no character - zero, zipppo, zilch. I grew up in an old house, built roughly in the 1850's. I've always loved it's intricate woodwork, the plaster walls, the built-in window sills ample enough to support houseplants, and the fact that all the bedrooms were upstairs and the main living area of the house was downstairs. I had romantic fantasies about life in decades and even a century past in my mom's old house. This house just didn't do it for me.
Fast forward to now - the only time that matters. I love my house, or make that, my home. It feels like home. I love the raised ranch style. I love the fact that all four (Four bedrooms! I know, right?! How lucky is that?) are in the same hallway. Each of my kids has their own, albiet small, room, as do I. I love the kitchen and I've got many plans for making this home even homier for us.
They say hindsight is 20/20. I've reflected a lot in the recent months about my shifting perspective. The clutter problem that existed before divorce really gave me such a high level of anxiety. I could never feel at home here when the walls were bursting at the seams with clutter. I just couldn't. I worked very hard at making sure our main living space had little to no clutter, but it still lurked behind closed doors. I was embarrassed to open the garage door for fear the entire neighborhood would see that our garage was packed wall to wall with clutter. Forget parking a vehicle in there. It wasn't happening.
Part of the clutter problem meant that many areas of the house never truly got cleaned. The utility room, which houses the boiler and hot water heater, was so packed with boxes of computer junk and other various things, that the cats were often confused about what was and was not their litter box. When my ex finally packed up all of his crap and moved it out, I was quite disturbed to find piles of cat feces near the walls and in corners where it had been hidden by boxes of junk.. No wonder I could never get rid of the odor coming from that room! It's gone now, though, much to my relief.
Minor repairs didn't happen in my previous life in this house, either. Things broke, as they do in all homes, and they didn't get fixed. I tried sometimes, but I have limited knowledge about home repairs. Still, thanks to Youtube, I learned how to snake a drain, glaze windows, and a few other handy tricks that any homeowner should know. Still, there were a lot of things left undone. The kitchen sink leaked for at least a year. I tried fixing it and failed. In a last ditch attempt to save our marriage, my ex went on a fix-it spree and he was able to repair it. It's still held up. He always had the knowledge to do many of these things, but he just chose not to.
Now, little by little, I'm fixing up a lot of what's broken. It helps that my amazing boyfriend is very handy with a hammer and nails, among other things. He fixed my clothesline, a burst pipe in my garage, and built a raised garden bed for me all in one weekend. I was speechless and on the verge of tears I was so grateful. He looked at me and said, "you know, this is what normal people do. There's nothing special about what I did." It is special to me. I'm not used to it at all.
Sometimes I wonder if the level of clutter that my ex kept here, knowing full well that it bothered me, and the blatant lack of helping around the house and making minor household repairs was a form of abuse. The thought would have never crossed my mind years ago when I was in the thick of the marriage, miserable and trying to put on a happy face to the world. But, now I wonder. It was a subtle form, for sure. But, given my strong reaction to my boyfriend doing what's "normal" for most people, I'm not so sure it wasn't abusive. I know, that's too strong of a word. But, it was a giant FU to me, that was repeated over and over again. I never felt like I was good enough or deserved to have a clean house that was in good repair. I never thought I deserved to have nice things, including a fridge that didn't leak, a garage door that wasn't falling apart, or a washing machine that drained properly. I just didn't. Now, I know that I do.
Worse, I was made to feel that I was the one at fault for wanting these things to begin with. I was blowing things out of proportion. I was too sensitive. Mind you, I was never a nag. Maybe I should have been. I would talk about what needed to be done. Sometimes, I'd bring home brochures from Home Depot on garage doors or storm doors. I'd even hired a handyman a time or two. But, things would get pushed under the rug. The handyman would do some stuff, then the ex would declare that he could do it cheaper. We couldn't have Home Depot install a new garage door. He could do it, and, the neighbor up the street had a second hand one he could give him! How lucky was that! The problem was, he never did any of it, not even when materials were free.
More importantly, I know that my boys deserve to grow up in a house that's filled with love, not tension. That they deserve to have a fridge that doesn't leak, they deserve to have the slide attached to their swing set fort, they deserve to have a garage door they can open to get their bikes out without chunks of it falling onto their heads and they deserve to have panes of glass in their bedroom windows.
They deserve to have a home. And, in order to give them that, I had to get divorced.