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This is the House That Love Built

by Crystal Torres on July 31, 2016

I am okay. Today, I am okay in that there’s nothing particularly wrong. Some days, I am okay, in that the things that are wrong will not destroy me. Other days, I am okay, because I have to be, because to admit to anything else would loosen my grip on the shore and let the undertow drag me away. Lately though, most of my days, I am this honestly less than perfect, better than enough, okay.

I still haven’t learned how to ask for help gracefully. So that last week when my son, with kidney problems, was sent by urgent care to the ER with a really bad urinary tract infection, and I was freaking out inside, I couldn’t tell anyone that I was falling apart. I sent a text to one friend begging for distraction, “Amuse me. Please.” I texted another, “Can you come over? I’m having a bad day.” I wouldn’t tell either of them what was wrong, not until the one friend came over with a treat for each of my kids and I had to explain why I only had one kid at that moment. Still, I did at least ask them to come over. I’m getting better.

I highly recommend, especially if you’re about to turn your life upside down, reading Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking before you do, or if you procrastinate like me, then read it while you’re upending everything. I really needed to be told to take the flower, to take the donuts, to let people help me. My divorce required borrowing lawyer money from one friend, room and board from another. When I got my own place, I didn’t own much, but I was confident that one paycheck at a time, one thrift store visit at a time, I would get the things I needed. It was going to be okay, probably all of the aforementioned versions of okay, but okay enough.

Friends wanted to help. Here I am trying to prove that I can do it, stand on my own two feet, and everybody’s trying to offer me a hand. Some people sent me words of encouragement, some people sent me gifts. One woman arranged a veritable barn-raising worth of hand-me-downs and miscellaneous odds and ends. She pooled a group of mostly mutual friends together and I penned a wishlist and these amazing people gave me what they could, a whole SUV load of what they could. It was overwhelming.

Have you ever had your gratitude dialed up so high it almost begins to burn? Every time the mail carrier had left another package at my door, or there was another notification to the online group of people trying to get their contributions coordinated, I wanted to cry. It was just so much love and support and affirmation. I mean, I like the stuff. I use the stuff. I had no idea how much I needed the stuff. It was so much more than the stuff though.

My ex was more of a stay-together-for-the-sake-of-the-kids sort. I disagreed with him. I’m more of a live-your-healthiest-and-best-life-and-have-that-to-draw-from-and-model-for-the-kids sort. We both do what we do because we believe it is best for our children, even though we almost always take different paths in doing so. As fiercely as I may have argued my position, there was still a shadow of a doubt that he could be right. Maybe I was destroying everything.

It meant so much to have people telling me they were proud of me, and also, making it possible. I was broke, but not broken. I’d spent my margin on a few extras, things I didn’t need but that definitely make life here more pleasant. Then I ended up getting an expensive emergency root canal. Then I got the hospital bill from when my daughter sprained her ankle in April. Then my son got sent to the ER and they ran tests and he was given fluids, antibiotics, anti-nausea meds and painkillers by IV and he was given prescriptions to be filled. Medical emergencies are expensive. The margin in my budget was already spent.

When I tried to turn down the gifts right after I moved in, I knew that I was financially tapped by security deposits and other one off incidentals. I believed that with each paycheck my financial footing would be more solid and that, if I was patient, I could do this alone. I can be patient. Still I had friends who wanted to help and Amanda Palmer’s voice in my head saying, “take the fucking donuts.” So I took the generosity that was above and beyond what I thought I needed. I am still, now, taking the generosity that is so above and beyond my expectations.

I can afford groceries right now in part because of all of the things that I didn’t have to buy to make this home function. I have what I need in my kitchen to cook when I can’t afford to eat out. Hard times hit sooner than I expected, but they didn’t hit nearly as hard because my friends insisted on setting me up. Every room in this house is blessed with gifts from someone, constant reminders of how amazing my friends really are. My home is still humble, but it is warm and welcoming and overflowing with love.

I have been able to have guests. I finally met Buggy and Ducky in person, when they swung by for an early leg of their journey. Buggy and I are living this strange sisterhood of parallel lives, eerily the same and then opposite, but so opposite it’s almost the same. I hope they can swing by again, the next time they’re out this way. On another occasion, we fired up the grill and had dear friends and coworkers and newly met volunteers over for a bring-your-own-everything party at the end of a particularly strenuous project at work. I can haz houseguests!

I have been able to pay it forward, just a little bit, while living the kind of life I’d always dreamed of. I didn’t do it all by myself, but I did it. My children and I have a home and we get to share it. All I ever wanted was to love and be loved. This is that. This is the house that love built.

Also, I’m continuing my efforts at visually documenting my journey. At least the DIY, home improvement, Permaculture parts.

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