Finding My Center: The Search For a Place to Call Home

February 7, 2012

I started this blog in August of 2010 and I have never missed a week up until recently. My excuse? Moving or trying to move. Buying and selling property. Struggling with decisions that will affect my family going forward for the next several years at minimum and perhaps, at max, our allotted time as a cohesive family unit here on this earth. 

Not to mention, the eventual inheritance of those yet to come. It is a weighty decision bounded by hard rules, I cannot disregard, and the even harder limitation of money.

Additionally, I have found it surprisingly necessary to factor in my entire fairly complicated relationship with the concept of home. Having grown up in a truly unhappy and traumatic household, I became a person who forged ties to people, instead of place. 

This ability allowed me to almost effortlessly leave home at a young age, travel widely and live in more places than I can easily account for. When I became a mother, I changed gears, making only a few strategic moves within a defined radius I deemed advantageous for growing children but each move was little more than a calculation made with no real emotion. I considered each house a responsibility and an investment and occasionally a haven but never the heartbeat of home.

So while I decorated and remodeled and increased property values in the places I lived over the course of my life, I was never strongly emotionally tied to an address. In retrospect I am sure that this disconnect sprang from my childhood relationship with two very different houses. The first was the beautiful split level in rural Michigan boasting a wooded lot and built in pool which all my friends envied. 

Sadly, the beautiful woods surrounding our little acre were chopped down in the name of development - forever destroying the secret places of childhood. It was a long heartbreaking process which taught me a lot about the Western concept of ownership and the failure of stewardship. Eclipsing even the loss of our forest playground, however, the profound and unremitting unhappiness I felt in that house taught me a very important lesson about the relationship between material wealth and interpersonal well-being. But as important as this lesson was, my second attachment to place had an even greater affect on my development.

Throughout my childhood, I spent small slices of summer at my grandparent's old farmhouse. It was a beautiful old house with long dark halls and sunlit windows and safe quiet spaces. The big farm kitchen always smelled like fresh bread and you could feel the energy of true happiness the second you walked in the door. There was a wide porch with rocking chairs and a sunrise view of the river and you could see forever from the mountain behind the backyard. In difficult times, it was my paradise and the only place I was ever truly safe. Loving it the way I did made it almost impossible for me to connect to all lesser houses later in life. In the end, losing all access to that place and the fields and mountains that were part of the property apparently severed my ability to forge an attachment to any future point on the map.

In November at the very start of my house search, I thought about the impact all of that history and decided to drive by my grandparent's old house and make my peace with the past before I truly moved on. When I reached the place I remembered so well, I stopped and sat in the car for a very long time - too stunned to cry. The the hill overlooking the river was barren and the house was no longer there. I saw nothing but brambles and the hint of a foundation. The final and irrevocable loss was unexpected and disheartening.

To me, this meant that it might be time for me to finally make my own real time connection to place. And so a few short months later it seemed about to happen. I found a lovely old Victorian at a surprisingly affordable price. It had plenty of room, a rental unit and all of the lovely original woodwork including two beautiful fireplaces. It needed work of course but it was a house worthy of such devotion. Over the course of the negotiations however, a feeling of foreboding overtook me. I blamed my past. I blamed my inability to believe in my own good fortune. But I just couldn't shake it. 

I pushed the deal forward anyway and tried hard to ignore my misgivings. The unremitting insomnia and anxiety took its toll in the end, and I gave in and I checked and rechecked all the information regarding the purchase until I found the fatal flaw which made it impossible for me to go through with the purchase. While neither the owner or neighbors were aware of it, flood plain maps showed that the house was in a zone A flood zone due to its proximity to a nearby mountain and stream.

It was a hard blow but I am a survivor and I moved on. The second house I seriously considered was disliked by all family members excluding myself and I was able to let it go, having no real attachment to the property other than practicality. Within a relatively short time, there was a third house but the subsequent rebound deal fell through as well.

But I still believe the right house will come along!

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