I put the boys to bed and stood alone in my dark living room. That was the first time I could call it my living room and it not be a half-truth.
No longer was I the owner’s wife — I was just the owner. With that came a lot.
Relief. All I wanted was to stay here. It was the first thing out of my mouth after the decision had been made. “I will not leave this house.” I shouted, big girl arms crossed tight.
Terror. I was now solely responsible for bills, and other odds and ends, that I never paid attention to from deep inside my blissed out Whole Foods bubble. I mean, who has time to discuss property taxes and home owners insurance when grappling with life or death decisions such as farm-raised or fresh? After all, someone had to carry the heavy stuff. The struggle was real.
But as mine as this house was, nothing felt much different where it counted. It still felt like his and I still felt like a fraud. And since I couldn’t very well take down our family photos while assuring the kids that we were still a family, I did what any mature woman would do and just shot daggers at them with my eyes. This sufficed for a time, but eventually even the daggers became useless because somehow it felt wrong to shoot them at people I didn’t recognize. People who’d become innocent strangers smiling barefoot on a beach – a filler photo stuffed inside a newly purchased frame. “Oh what a perfect precious little family. They must be so happy! Oh, wait…”
One by one I took them down — no sudden movements. But all this accomplished me was additional space to store my disconnect. The air was still haunting and heavy, on the walls still hung artwork that never spoke to me not even once, and the great big leather chair remained sitting empty but for his ghost. The only place I felt at home in my home was on the outside of it. I’d laid claim to the backyard years before — a tiny escape from my perfect crumbling life.
This new emptiness was killing me, much quicker than the old one had. And I knew it was time to strip it all down to nothing and rebuild from scratch — the house and myself.
A couple of weeks later, I was living inside of an Ikea warehouse. Only sadly it was one without meatballs. I’d done a fantastic job planning my new life, before asking myself if it was the right life – which is apparently something I excel at.
As I read over instructions, wondering what the hell I’d even bought, I realized two things. One, IKEA is hellbent on having me committed (something I’m sure was included in the manual, but who the fuck is fluent in IKEA?). And, two, I had no idea who I was or what I even liked. My own style? Not a chance. I’d nodded and gone along way too many times for that to have survived. Opinions of my very own? What are those because whatever you like is amazing and I’ll take three thank you, unless you think I need four.
So, stepping back, I took a break. I needed time to remember the girl who once thought for herself. And one day I found a bed that I loved and bought it. Then, slowly, I surrounded that bed with little pieces of myself, new and old. A lamp, a nightstand, a floating shelf … color. I moved from room to room, hanging giant canvases that wore cows because I like cows and I could. I bought pink throws, a turquoise ottoman, and a cute-as-a-button chair. I painted the too-grown-up-for me walls with a color I picked out without double or triple checking with anyone. Piece by piece, I made this house my very own in a way that truly matters. Surrounded by the things I love, I’m finding peace now not only on the outside, but on the inside as well. And that goes for my house, too.
I put the boys to bed last night and stood alone in my dark living room. That was the first time I could call it my own and it not be a half-truth.