In This House
As some of you know, my family and I moved last summer, away from a house I loved, and had imagined I’d spend the rest of my days in. But it was time for a change, a psychic page turn. The house was beautiful, but our lives there were built on stories we told about ourselves that were no longer true.
It’s a good house, this new one. Unlike the last one, it’s not particularly fancy, or polished, or showy. It’s just a house, a blank canvas upon which we can project our idea of what a home should be: A refuge, a place of inspiration, a temple.
It’s an odd time to be building, when the world outside seems to be collapsing ever faster. I spend a lot of time in hardware stores, a near-daily ritual of buying the things I forgot the day before. Is it too early to save money by buying the “10-Year Rated” items instead of the “25-Year Rated” ones? How long before this place is no longer livable, before the people who want what we believe to be ours come to claim it for themselves?
I find myself more anxious than usual these days, and I’m coming to accept that my “anxious” may be different than other peoples’ “anxious.” There’s a harder edge now, an unwelcome questioning of myself and my place here. Strangely, the work of rebuilding this home does not soothe this disquiet, but instead seems to animate it.
I am writing as I build, too, diving deep into the story of my family, trying to divine what they have passed on to me and what is mine alone. Perhaps this disquiet, then, is only what I have asked for: To step into the place of mystery, of no answers. Of awakening each day and beckoning the story to coalesce around me like St. Elmo’s fire. Sometimes it does.
I thought—I hoped—it would be more easeful: a relaxing into this not-knowing, an acceptance. Instead, I find that it stirs up old and unwelcome dragons: The specter of my time here running out, of my own not-enoughness.
But there are embers of comfort to be found as I deepen into story: My grandparents daring to begin a family in the momentary calm of mid-20s Hungary, a charmed and illusory moment before the nightmare to come. Did they know then what was to be?
Tomorrow I will wake up and beckon again. Is there any other option?