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Helpless but not homeless

May 2nd, 2004 · 1 Comment

I think I feel the same way about home ownership as Scheherazade does:

There are a million things like the air filter that are involved with owning a home — things that require errands and purchases and fiddling around with machinery, things that will involve people looking at me and matter-of-factly asking questions like, “Well, do you want gas or electric?” as though I know what they are talking about and have an opinion, and making me feel flaky and stupid and incompetent because I don’t. And at the end all I have is the status quo — a mowed lawn, a hedge that’s not outrageously out of control, a stove that works, water that’s hot when I want it to be hot and cold when I want it to be cold. I have so little interest in learning new vocabularies and physical skills where the result is, well, that the house stays under control. And yet I hate that I don’t love doing it.

I feel guilty that I’m not competent, that I don’t know how to rip out cabinets, take apart a kitchen sink or install tile. Grout and caulk are where I’m at for skills. Even painting seems too complicated for me. The one time I tried it – after wall paper peeled away, leaving us no other options – I dripped it everywhere and left an uneven finish. I envy those who are talented at taking care of houses, those who remodel as a way to relax, who live with kitchens and bathrooms in disarray without dismay. If I have a “House Beautiful” it won’t be because I made it that way. Ted doesn’t enjoy it either. We are reluctant homeowners. Grateful to have our own piece of land (that we’re buying back from the bank, of course). Our own roof over our heads. No landlord forcing the rent up or forcing us out. A place we belong, a stable neighborhood for our family, enough bedrooms and bathrooms for us all. But we struggle at times with what we need to do to take proper care of this place we’ve been given.

Like Scheherazade, I’ve been tempted to wish for “lots of money” to have the luxury of paying someone else to do “the million things”. It’d be great to be able to hand someone the money and the duties: take care of this for me. Then again I feel I’ve learned a lot from learning to do things by myself or with Ted. The sense of “helplessness” – or running around Home Depot looking for an orange apron to solve my problems and answer my questions – isn’t comfortable. But it is where I am. And I have things to learn from being there – not just how to hold a hammer, strip a deck or caulk the sink, but how to gracefully receive help when I feel stupid and incompetent. How to make mistakes. How to communicate with each other kindly when we’re in the middle of messing up our primary investment. How to look at myself – and my home – and see what I can’t do well. Lessons I’d need to learn whether or not I own a house.

Tags: family

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Phil // May 2, 2004 at 7:36 pm

    Why do I get the impression this sentence is a severe understatement? 🙂

    “How to communicate with each other kindly when we’re in the middle of messing up our primary investment.”

    (And, of course, I realise you really meant your *secondary* investment, after your family. 🙂 )