|I'd like to see birch trees in the place that I live...|
The news came to me last week, after a stressful two weeks of dealing with mortgage companies, realtors, and packing up of mine and my son’s belongings. It was as simple as this: My grandmother, whose home I was gearing up to buy…changed her mind.
This is not the first time this has happened. In 2007, I made a bid on a house and all was well and looked great until the appraiser came out and discovered the home I’d fallen in love with was completely eaten up with termites. I remember being so devastated, so heartbroken. That home came with a couple of acres and some really nice neighbors…but it was not meant to be.
That’s how I must look at this now, as not being meant to be, because even if my grandmother had not changed her mind, we were still running into a problem. In the past 20+ years she has lived there, the home has been refinanced many times…too many, really, because I had discovered, just a day before she decided not to sell, that the balance owed on the home was expected to far exceed the appraisal value. Which meant, if I pushed through with the plan, I would be paying more for a home than it was technically worth on paper. It was a Thursday when I found this out, and I came home riddled with indecision. I love that house, and I had fallen in love with the idea of living there. But for all of my frou-frou free-spirited dancing-in-the-meadows hippiness, I have a secret and very practical side that was telling me, “Think…it…through.”
This is the part where being ‘independent,’ something many people hold up as the ideal, can be very stressful, because despite what the stalwarts in denial want to spout out about going life solo by choice, the reality is we’re simply not hard-wired to do it on our own. We need other people, especially people who are just as vested in a situation as we are. In this situation, there was no one other than myself who stood to gain or lose from the buying of this house. I could talk to my friends all day, but in the end, my decision would only affect myself and my son…not anyone else in my immediate circle or even my family. And I was torn between buying a home that I loved that was perfect in so many ways, and making what could possibly be a ganormous financial blunder by paying more for that there home than it was actually worth.
But the biggest struggle I was facing was on a deeper level...I had to make a different kind of choice, one that kind of-sort of felt like giving up. That was the choice that was eating at me inside, making me toss and turn at night. It was what was likely going to make me bail in the end, and it has nothing to do with finances.
My grandmother’s decision absolved me of having to make that choice…but in truth, her decision to sell had created the dilemma for me in the first place. Now, sitting here a week later, having processed it all and made peace with what is and isn’t going to happen right now, I’m left with this question…how much do we allow ourselves to be at the mercy of the decisions other people make? Her offer to sell me the house for the balance she owed on it spun this catalyst into motion. Her decision two weeks later ceased it to a grinding halt. But her choices about refinancing it several times in the last decade would have greatly affected the entire buying process for me, if I’d followed through with the plan to buy it at all.
Bottom line…through most of this process, I was not at the wheel of this ship. Now, in hindsight, I feel almost infantile and silly. Something I wanted badly at one time in the past was dangled before me in the present and I leapt, without considering whether or not it was really in my best interests at this time, or whether or not I still desired it as intently as I once had. This same thing happened to me in late summer, with an entirely different situation, and I reacted much the same way. Why? Because it's easier to jump back into an old habit than it is to move towards a new dream.
A week before my grandmother offered me the home, I’d come to the hard-wrought decision that I wanted to raise my son in a less conservative community. I wanted the relaxed, open environment that I see and feel in towns like Athens and Asheville. I wanted to not be the one who is different for a change, and it was time to actively pursue this dream. I was beginning to feel like the crystal seller in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, who was still in the same tolerable place he’d landed in years before, still doing the same thing he’d been doing forever, still planning trips he wasn’t taking, still just being…still. I felt empowered by my decision, because though it was going to be a difficult one to put into motion, it still felt right.
Then suddenly, I threw it to the wind in order to dump all my eggs into this one basket…a basket that would have surely guaranteed me another decade here. I’d be well on my way into that process now, had my grandmother not changed her mind…and it would not have been the wisest investment I could have made, financially or spiritually. But it sure as heck would have been easier than blazing a new trail somewhere, on my own with a young child in tow...hence the appeal of it all.
If you have read The Alchemist, then I know you know what I mean, and you know how I am feeling right now. You know that there comes a time when we have to quit trying to convince ourselves that the easiest path is the right one, and accept that it’s just the easiest one and that’s why most people settle down somewhere along it. I know you know this and I know you’re at the same place I am…sitting on the side of the road, thinking, “Well, it’s nice enough here, maybe I’ll sit down a while and rest before moving on.” But then ten years pass, then another, and then we are the crystal seller, still here at the end of our lives simply because we just became too settled to go any further. We convinced ourself that this, somehow, was enough. We put down more and more roots, became more and more convinced that the risks of leaving far outweighed the risk of staying.
Ah, but I know you know for folks like us, that's never going to be true.
I’m glad now that my grandmother changed her mind, because I don’t want to be the crystal seller. And deep down inside, no matter how much you try to convince yourself and the rest of the world that remaining in place is for the best…I know you don’t want to be him, either.
So I left my own home listed on the market. This opens the door somewhat, throws a catalyst of another sort into motion. We'll see what happens.