For most people, big decision time is a combination of intuition, facts and signs that it’s time to do something. Sometimes God, the Universe or the Great Cthulhu forces your hand; you get pushed off the side of the pool into the deep end, and you swim or you don’t. More often than not, though, we humans muddle along on our own, hoping for the best and dealing with the worst. So many of us didn’t listen to the immortal words of Kenny Rogers in The Gambler when he tried to tell us that key to all life is to “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run.” I’m listening, Kenny. I’m listening.
There have been junctures in my life where I have felt like what I was doing was part of “the plan” and things fell into place. I knew the exact moment that I was finished at one job, after a meeting with a woman. I had the strongest sense that the hour I spent with her was the last thing I was supposed to there. Other times, I have pretty much ignored the flashing yellow warnings, then screaming red alarms and then I’ve had the universe kick my butt into whatever I needed to be doing next in a not so nice way. Words to the wise: not making a decision is a decision and not choosing is a choice. Ignore your intuition at your own risk. Don’t pay attention to the signs at your own peril. Trust me, sometimes God goes all Old Testament and he’ll give you a shove that’s not gentle.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how anxiety and PTSD impact my ability to make big, huge, life decisions. They do. They paralyze me. At the time, I needed to make a decision. I still do, in fact. I was feeling a little bit unsure about it. I was at a fork in the road. The decision had to made but I didn’t feel any of the angst or stress or panic that usually accompanies such big things. I wondered if I was numb. I actually went to the doctor who told me I wasn’t depressed or failing to cope, I was fine and reacting reasonably.
The landlord wants our house back. Murph and I have to move. That’s not the decision, though. I could fight it. The beauty of living where you grew up is that you know tons of lawyers of and doctors and accountants and captains of industry. There are legal things I can do to prevent it, and I’m thinking on that in abstract kind of not really way. I could drag it out so Murph can finish 4th grade, even though that’s the last thing he wants to do. Murphy’s decision is for us to get out, get out now, go anywhere else. The only decision my offspring ever struggles with is how to spend his money; everything else is crystal clear for him. Cost/benefit of raising a child who is super-smart and insanely logical is that you listen to a 10.5yo like you would another adult because said child often makes a lot of sense. But we are not buying the RV for sale on Facebook Malvern Yard Sale and going cross-country. I had that discussion once before 11 years ago with another male, and the answer is still a resounding “NOPE.”
Back to moving. Last September, in a similar situation, I panicked. I lost my marbles, and I fought tooth and nail to stay here. That was less a decision and more a reaction, and being reactive is never an advantage. I moved heaven and earth, begged, borrowed, pleaded and bargained, and we were able to stay. I still don’t know why I did it, but I remember that I didn’t even consider anything else, and that’s how it played out. It never felt great, though. It never felt like home again. It felt like waiting. I don’t remember the last time this place felt like home.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. Same news. And nothing. And I mean nothing. No urge to stay. No attempt to negotiate. No fuss. Just okay. Just we’ll put the stuff we want to keep into storage if we don’t find a place right away, we’ll sell what we don’t want, and toss the rest. I have virtually no desire to fight this. I’m going along. I’ve told a couple of friends, and they are awesome and supportive and helping to shape the plan. But I feel ready. I feel done here. And yet, this is the home Murph knows, and his school, and his friends. I wondered if maybe I should fight. I could fight. I have fought. My friends keep checking to see if I’ve lost my marbles yet, and while I’ve had some anxious times, I’m still keeping it together.
If I look back, the decision to move in here was hastily made. On the hottest day in July, Michele and I and the movers moved me and the Murphster into Le Forge Court, and on the hottest night of the year, the air-conditioning failed. Yep. It wouldn’t turn on at all. And so an exhausted Murphy and I went to a hotel and slept there because it was 90 degrees that night, and I had an exhausted 5-year-old, and we’d spent the day moving. Then two weeks later, in the middles of a Tuesday night, the vertical blinds fell down (and were never replaced because I couldn’t wrap my mind around doing that and the landlord never bothered.). That’s been fun as we’re the only condo with no foliage in front of them. That winter, the heat gave us grief. It went off at weird times, and so began the endless saga of replacing valves and gas thingamajigs and parts here and there for five endless goddammed years.
In between blizzards that first winter, we went to my mother’s over the bridge and got trapped there by another storm because our house had no heat. I missed work. The plumbing has gone berserk 8 or 10 times. And so it went. It’s still not resolved. I didn’t even bother this year. Last year, I lost two weeks at work in January because of this disaster of a house. I’m sick of using my vacation time to be here so repairmen can come and go. And oh, let me tell me you about the epic disasters that have required those repairmen. Like when the washer overflowed into the sink and flooded the whole first floor in three inches of water in the middle of a January night. The bathroom ceiling caved in when the pipes in the condo above us burst right after I got out of the shower. The whole concrete foundation had to be jackhammered up and replaced. The pipes had to be completely re-routed from the kitchen into the bathroom because the drain stopped working. It’s been one epic, destructive disaster after another.
In the winter, you have to leave the hot water running in the master bathroom all night to prevent the pipes from freezing throughout the whole house. We have had to have the pipes defrosted no less than 8 times in 5 years (on top of the other plumbing misadventures – this was just routine awfulness that sometimes led to other awfulness). The washer exploded and wouldn’t stop pouring water out at the valve I couldn’t turn, and it needed to be replaced. The electric went berserk for no reason, and for six months I had to blow my hair dry in the dining room. The garbage disposal started an electrical fire last November that means that we have to keep half the electric off in the kitchen at the breaker because to reach the plug for it would mean tearing out cabinetry. The freezer on the fancy fridge doesn’t really keep stuff frozen, so we can never have ice cream and we have to constantly keep it on superfreeze or everything supermelts superfast. That was from Day 1. Can you imagine five years of no ice cream with a little kid? It’s also so huge that the door to the laundry room had to be removed so it would open, so whenever we do laundry, the whole place steams up like a sauna. Oh, and the water line to the fridge to make ice and filter the H20? Yeah, that went bonkers and leaked all over and made a big, huge mess a few years ago, so it doesn’t work. And the heat was, and is, at best, sporadic. I stopped even calling the landlord this year after the first time it wouldn’t turn on and the HVAC company sent out The Deer Hunter to terrorize us with tales of hunting and eating wildlife. It was a mild winter. We used the electric space heaters and fireplace. The dishwasher backs up into the sink, so we’ve been dealing with washing dishes instead of using it for three months, and I pour bleach into the drain to keep them smell down. Friends told me I should have him paying for me and the kiddo and the kitties to stay in a hotel while the weeks and weeks of work got done year after year, but I never did that. He’s a good guy, and I didn’t want to be a jerk. It’s not like he was sabotaging this money pit on purpose.
As you can imagine, the toll on the house has not been insignificant. My once adorable little condo now has mismatched and stained carpets, a kitchen floor that no longer sticks to the concrete, walls that need painting and spackling, baseboards that were never replaced, cabinets that aren’t nailed down, mix and match, old and new bathroom fixtures and nothing securing the dishwasher but a hose. It’s not cute anymore. It’s definitely a fixer-upper at this point. It might even be a total rehab. It’s a freaking hazard. It needs some reality television magic. And it’s not mine to fix up. You know what? I’m sick of this battle.
True story? Every unit in Le Forge has a story similar to this one. I have joked that if someone gave me one of these places, I’d run and not look back. The guys that built these in the ’80s were drunk the whole time. Shew Management is the property management group that works directly for Satanic Enterprises, Inc. Don’t believe me? Try Google. If they’re simply impolite, it’s a good day. Most times, they’re abusive.
So, Murph and I are spending his Spring Break packing and sorting (and doing some fun things, too). He’s enjoying the mounting pile of trash bags as we get rid of the detritus that weighs us down. I’m going to find a storage place for the stuff we don’t want to lose that has sentimental value. Everything else can be replaced. That much of the plan is in place.
But back to God, the universe, intuition and making a decision before one gets made for you. As I said, I was vacillating a bit about the fight or flight decision. Do I fight to stay for a bit longer? Do we walk away? I am so conscious of keeping Murphy feeling safe and stable, sometimes I get in my own way. I don’t have money for first, last and security for a new place. All the doctor’s appointments and ER visits and absences and lates and early dismissals take a toll financially, not just emotionally and physically. So we’re low on funds and trusting that the force will be with us in terms of having a place to go. Homelessness scares the hell out of me, and it’s not like we have family who will help. That’s weighing heavily on me at the moment. And we’ll miss Chris. In a weird way, he’s the best neighbor here. I know he cares about us, but I told him last week, and I haven’t seen him since. Our departure will be a huge loss for him; I hope there are people who will take care of him.
Yet, in the past few days, I’ve heard from or about more jobs than I can remember in the past few months. It’s weird and awesome. Nothing from that one in Key West, but I’m still hopeful. Florida is the dream for the kiddo and I, but we’ll go where we’re supposed to be.
A few days ago, my stepdaughter got in touch with me out of the blue. She’s 20 now, lovely and living several states north. It’s been 10 years since I’ve seen that little girl. It was good to chat with her; she is one of the few people who sees their father in the Murph. He’s a mini-me and not just in looks. His big brain and logic and ability to see things clearly that are cloudy for others is his dad. But she reminded me of the emotional and physical storm that saw all of us scattered to the four winds and ejected from our comfy place ten years ago. I had ignored the subtle and not so subtle warnings then, and the response from the universe was pretty catastrophic. It felt like a subtle reminder.
Last night, I took the spawn out for an ice cream (see, we still can’t have it at home), and on the way home, we met a neighbor at the mailbox. She was crying. She’s dealing with an epic disaster in her house, and it’s remedy is one that is going to impact the entire building — all 8 condos. It’s huge and horrific and spendy, and I want no part of it. TERMITES are in all of the units in our building. Seriously, termites. I feel bad for her, and I offered to help (though there’s nothing I can really do), and she will get through it even though it will be a big expensive fight and a huge amount of trouble. But they’re tenting the place on May 21, which means that we are outta here before that. Just gone. I’ve been spraying the stuff she told me to get under the counters to keep them off of my things while we pack.
I’ve told the landlord’s disgusting attorney that we’re gone before then. For a good guy, the landlord hired the lowest form of sleaze in an attorney. The kind that makes you want to bathe. The tv kind. The kind that gives all lawyers a bad name. The kind that takes joy in kicking people and beating them up when things are bad. He probably beats his wife and abuses his kids.
But I wondered if God isn’t starting to scream, “I’ve sent the floods and the fires and the plagues. The locusts are the last stop, and they are here, babe. Get outta there now.”
Message received, Oh Great Cthulu. Got it. Decision made. No more questions. Just boxes and faith.
If you’d like, you can make a small donation to The Kraken Relocation Fund to help us land in another home and not on someone’s sofa! Ask me how.