I’m graduating from a 10-year class in acceptance, held in my little 800 sq ft summer-cabin-turned-year-round-residence. 84 years old, it lists port-side toward the lake, floods regularly and has a living room couch as both dining room table AND business office. While most of my friends have been in their “grown up house” for years now, I’ve remained in my “college student” house, largely due to student loans.
As an Enneagram Four, my perceptual bias is toward what is missing, with a nice bit of comparing myself to others, and a tendency to start sentences with “If only….” (also known as the cardinal sin of Envy). This is a crappy bias to have, as it makes every single moment NOT good enough. There has not been a greater place for me to work on this than in my cute but seriously challenged house.
10 years ago, when I first moved in, all I saw was the cuteness. There was my adorable little fireplace, the view of the lake, the local pair of swans and the retired GM worker turned lawn-guy riding his John Deere tractor down the street in blue jean overalls. What a quaint little town and cottage! That didn’t last long. Years followed where all I saw was the inability to throw a dinner party, the 1927 ‘summer cabin’ architecture, and the 65+ years of “do it yourself” renovations made by owners who knew about as much as I do about home improvement (think duct tape and wire coat hangers – I’m serious). The swans attacked me in my kayak, the neighborhood developed a serious substance abuse problem, and the basement flooded with calendar precision each spring.
Add one goofy labrador retriever, one black cat, one husband & all of his possessions and suddenly we were looking like candidates for the show “Hoarding”. The dog became adept at backing out of rooms, as there wasn’t enough room to turn around. We humans got good at bumping into each other multiple times a day without taking it personally. Our hips & shoulders sported perpetual bruises from banging into the edges of furniture and doorways. We had not been out of each others physical view in over five years, and THAT makes for some creative marriage management.
Through it all, I practiced my acceptance, and wrestled my awareness out of what is missing, and into what is present. Being-here-now, breathing, and too many gratitude lists to count eventually paid off with some honest moments of peace. At first, it was if I’d shift into an alternative reality for just a second or two, where suddenly my couch/dining room table/office was a fine place to sit. There would be moments where the whole living room would suddenly be more cute than crowded. Just as quickly, the moments vanished, and I was back in the sinking shoe-box.
Over time, the balance shifted, until most of the time I resided in “enoughness.” Only occasionally did I curse the house in anger, or dissolve into self-pity and tears. How I felt about the house became a spiritual litmus test. If I could see the messy crowdedness as proof of a life well lived and full of love, I was doing ok. When I avoided having people over because I was too ashamed, I knew I needed to do some work on myself. It was like the couch was an accept-o-meter, measuring my ability to reside in the here-and-now with an open grateful heart.
About then, we started looking for a new house.
Have you ever noticed that once you put your notice in at a job, you suddenly can’t stand it there anymore? So it was while looking at newer, bigger houses. Our little cabin seemed smaller, darker and older each time we returned. We would walk around houses double and triple the size of ours (which only made them 1600-2400 sq ft, not huge by any means) and wonder how on earth we’d fill it all up.
We managed. Managed to find a house we adore, with high ceilings, whole walls of windows, room enough to walk and do yoga and put books on shelves, and our own little half acre of nature, including trees, water, deer, and all kinds of bugs, critters and plants.
Now there is a thawing in my heart, as I discover that I am not the lazy slob I assumed I was. In fact, I love cleaning, and I love love love putting things away in places they fit into without a struggle, with doors and drawers that close fully on well oiled rails and hinges. The dog and I can wrestle on the floor! I am typing at a proper desk! There’s a dining room table (in the dining room, of all places)!
As I get to know this new version of myself – myself with room to grow in – I believe that the Universe only gave me this house because I was able to accept the previous one. Finding peace in the moment somehow allowed the moment to shift.
And hence I graduate… into a bigger house, and more importantly into a bigger knowing of what I can create when I stop trying.