If I Had a Teacher, It Would Be a Dog, and Definitely Not an Economist

We’ve moved into the new house but have yet to sell the old one. Realtor assures me that this college town has an Autumn market. I’m gonna have to trust the pro on this one. But I can’t help but feel that my move is a model case of How Now To Move. My old house wasn’t ready. I threw it up at the end of the peak spring season. We had a bunch of other stuff to do this summer. I could have waited until my son went to college then moved into a smaller house that would, eventually, be just for me. For every contractor that’s been a gem, there’s been another one that’s a con man. I’ve tried to do some home improvements myself. I do them, but sloppily, and I’m taking time from my career. On paper, I’ve done everything wrong.

And, still, moving was the right thing to do. We have been liberated from that old house, and its patterns, and its memories. Despite all the problems we still have, it feels like the three of of us are a family, setting up house.

It’s financially inefficient, economically irrational, but there are other standards, and I seem to have hit on one that matters.

I do a little Pilates/yoga in the new sunroom before the sun rises. We eat dinner on the screened-in porch, tucked among the treetops. The new house is as nice as I thought it would be. On a recent evening dog walk I passed a woman walking and I was like “omg, when you pass that curve, you gotta look to the right and glimpse the sunset,” and she responded, “Yes! The light is so beautiful,” gesturing behind me. What I’d recommended was red. She invited me to turn around and see purple. It’s lovely here, on a ridge in town, and sometimes it’s breathtaking.

Despite such moments, I feel like such a loser. Here I am, juggling two mortgages, hemorrhaging money to banks and rotten contractors, when I could have used that money for the kids’ college, or for a real vacation, or for anything else but this . Basically, I’m going to sell my house for less than it’s worth, scoop up the equity, pay off (some of) the credit card bills, and start over. I’m in my mid-40s, and I’m not settling in, to comfort or security. I’m starting over. The crappy financial choices I’m making are rational in light of the crappy situation I’m in.

And while we’re being negative, I feel guilty that I’m providing my children such a crappy childhood. Sure, we have some nice moments, but I’m coming to see that my children lack a foundation. It’s just us, rattling around this house, day to day. We lack regular connections to family. We don’t feel tied to the community. We’re more Gray Gardens than Kennedy Compound. I had a lot of hopes and dreams for my kids. At this point, I’m feeling like our lives are spare. My one hope is that my kids are the kind of fighters who will overcome adversity and use their hardship to become good people, creative types, generous humans, humbled souls who still want more. All my hopes and dreams are now in their overcoming this life that I gave them, which makes me so ashamed. I brought them into the world thinking that I could provide children with a rich, full life, and I just feel like I blew it.

So I’m walking the dogs on a night when the light wasn’t magnificent, and I’m thinking of what a failure I am. I stepped off the path of personal and professional success,and I just keep digging a groove into this other path, which is the path of the outcast, the peculiar, the solitude. I’m just this weird widow who lives in the lovely cottage and walks the dogs a lot. And, while I shudder at the thought of taking one’s own life (for reasons that are obvious) I did consider that if I got some terminal disease tomorrow, that would be kind of a relief, because I could just stop, and capitulate, end this trainwreck, and get some rest. I realize how crazy that sounds as I type it, but I can’t deny it. I’m tuckered. I am worn out. There isn’t a lot of respite from the grind. But I’ve got these kids to raise. So I forge on.

The dogs and I turned a corner and encountered a dog loose in his/her yard. This is the sort of thing that worries me, what with the dog fighting and me being inept and all, but it was just some little terrier, and it was old, really old, and it couldn’t even move from its spot. As I passed with my giant dogs, it lifted up its head and yowled, “Ahhhooooowooooooowwwwww!” in the feeblest decibel, but it was all heart. I admired the effort. I paused to look at this old, weary, little fighter, and I threw back my head and laughed. And my bigger dog, easily 10x the size of the terrier, got his game up a little, as if the little dog were a contender, or maybe a friend.

And I got over it, for the moment.