Oh my God, what am I going to do?
I shot up in bed in a cold sweat; not comforting at 3:30 a.m. when you have early appointments the next day. Reassured by my IPhone that it was not yet the accepted time for rising, I forced myself to lie back on my pillow faking a calm acceptance I didn’t feel. The next three hours stretched out forever before me with no false hope of falling back to a soothing, supportive rest. To prove my point to myself, my mind raced from bill-paying, to discussions past and future with attorneys to…
…what? Garbage cans! There is no place to keep outdoor garbage cans at this new house! How could I have missed that? Where is the town dump? I haven’t been to the dump since I was 20…or maybe 30…and never alone. I shouldn’t be buying this house. I should get out of the contract right now. Nothing has been signed. I know this process well …and I want OUT! What am I going to do if I don’t get out now? What am I going to do if I do?
The emotional tsunami swept over me with a vengeance I’d come to recognize, it’s driving force a panic attack shaking my foundations when it was least expected. Just when everything in my life seems to be moving in the right direction, settling down, resolving itself, I find myself in the throes of one of these chilling sweats threatening my balance and sending my heart into a violent percussion drowning out rational thought. This recent incident washed in just as I finally had a fully executed contract of sale on my too-big house in the country, as well as an about-to-be executed contract to buy a little house in the near-by village. What could be more ideal? Why was everything suddenly so imperfect?
But here I was, doing my best to punish myself with fears about buying what I wanted even after selling what I didn’t. What sense did that make? None. Yet it rang all sorts of bells from my experience as a former real estate broker, and those chimes reminded me of how hard it is for people to deal with the emotional upheaval involved in buying and selling homes, and in particular, doing it alone; making all sorts of statements, both explicit and implicit, about who you have been, are today, and might be tomorrow. I used to find it ridiculous when I watched my strong, capable, professional clients turn to mewling fledglings when about to step up to a contract of sale—alone. So that, I was told then and have suddenly begun to understand now for myself, is the pivotal point—alone.
Suddenly all visions of who we might, could or should be someday, turn to rubble; flotsam over the lens of our mind’s eye creating a cataract effect and robbing us of clarity. But the expectations we had for one kind of life were no more than imaginary, so you wouldn’t think giving them up would be so traumatic. I had little sympathy for my former clients’ cold feet during their own sales, or their remorse as buyers, when I could see perfectly well they were headed for new lives of enormous potential for success and happiness. Ah, why does our lack of empathy at one time come back to haunt us at another? My early morning panic attack was a perfect example of reliving the horrors I’d glossed over when they’d visited others.
4:30 a.m.—I suppose I could put those garbage cans in the side alley next to the house. Protected from view in both front and back yards, it should serve the purpose well, and the need for containers will be greatly diminished in that small house, anyway. I also think the garbage dump is just down the street there; and besides, you meet the most interesting people at the dump and collect terrific stories if you’re a writer…which I am. Let’s not forget that important point. This new little house could be a writer’s paradise. And if it’s not, I can sell it in a few years. It’s always going to be desirable if I know my real estate values, and I do. So things are looking up.
5:30 a.m.—I wonder if those garbage cans are metaphors for other things; not the cans in and of themselves, but the worry over them. It would seem I haven’t been comfortable for a long time, maybe forever, with getting what I want. I’m afraid my vision of being a good little girl was colored by sacrifice and self-denial—emotionally, I mean, not literally. I want the good stuff as much as anyone else and work just as hard to get it. But maybe the idea of a new home that satisfies what I want right now is hard to reconcile with the idea that it’s all for me. The decision is all mine and the rewards will be mine as well. It’s for me alone. I know that’s what used to upset my former single clients who couldn’t initiate their moves into new homes. How could they make such life-changing decisions alone? If they did, would that mean they’d be doomed to be alone forever? Could all that worry be mine, now, as well? Could the worry over garbage cans be a symptom of a much deeper, older fear?
I’m holding my own has been my response, lately, to friends’ questions about my emotional and physical health. Truer than anyone could know, and even more poignant than even I was aware, I often wake in one of those panics to realize I’m holding my own hand! Left in right, as if soothed and supported by some ethereal friend, I know that firm, sure grip is my own, not the grasp of another. I am the one taking care of myself, making my own decisions about buying and selling homes, and calming myself when the panic sets in. I’m going to sign that contract to buy a writer’s dream house because…I’m holding my own.
6:30 a.m.—It’s time to get up, at last!