Reader, we decided not to sell our house.
For those of you who are fans (as I am) of Charlotte Bronte and “Jane Eyre”, you may recognize that I cribbed this first line.
In the writing workshop I took this spring our terrific teacher told us to get to the point at the beginning.
To let the reader of any story know the essential conflict with which the main character is dealing.
So I have.
And now, if you are patient (unlike a very self-important, senior lawyer at my first law firm who, when I launched into how I reached a conclusion in a legal research memo, would interrupt – “I don’t want to know your explanation. Just tell me the answer.”) – here is what happened:
This past Sunday – instead of clearing every surface and hiding laundry in the closet in anticipation of our planned first “Open House”, we went out and bought mulch.
Lots of mulch. Dark brown chips of decaying “material” which my husband gleefully spread beneath the recently trimmed bushes in our front and back yards.
JP stood back and looked at his handiwork with a pleased grin:
“The house looks great, doesn’t it? The lawn, so green because of all that rain. I’m glad we’re staying.”
I am too, sort of. Pretty much. Almost. Not as sure as he is. But the right decision – for now. I keep tacking the phrase “for now” at the end of every sentence when friends and family ask me why we changed our minds.
It took an intervention by friends to get me off the “Let’s sell NOW” track. My friends saw the blind spots I had that I couldn’t see. That I didn’t want to see. That I hoped would disappear if I tried not to think about them.
Well, duh, of course, I couldn’t see the blind spots – that’s why they have that name.
Everyone has blind spots, don’t they?
The friend who always says “yes” but doesn’t understand why she feels so exhausted.
The relative with the chip on his shoulder who doesn’t feel its weight.
The colleague who thinks she is being helpful but comes across as patronizing.
My blind spot was taking expert advice without adapting it to our family as our circumstances evolved. The expert crunches the numbers, looks at the market, studies the spread sheets. It all sounded so reasonable.
But when we really dug down into those pesky numbers, when we drilled into the details and up popped the real-life problems moving would create vs. the problems moving would solve, we realized the timing wasn’t right. For the experts maybe, but not for us.
Two of my dearest friends reached this conclusion before I did (and they didn’t even have to research and write a legal memo to get there. lucky them!) They came over on Thursday afternoon as I was taking a last batch of family photos down off the walls. They escorted me into our extremely clean, dog-free living room. They admired our freshly-painted walls, the newly empty mantel above the fireplace and the tidy book shelves and told me to sit down.
I sat on a chair; my friends on the couch facing me.
“The house looks great. It really does. You’ve worked very hard in the past few months to get it this way.”
“But don’t sell. JP is right. Now is not the time.”
I squirmed. Like any long married person (our 38th anniversary is this weekend.), I hate it when my husband is right – and I am not. (Thankfully, this is an infrequent occurrence.)
I let my friends list their reasons. I even listened intently without interrupting.
They pointed out the blind spots that I had failed to see. They saw what I knew in my heart but had trouble acknowledging. Moving now would cause tremendous upheaval that our family didn’t need. We already had enough turmoil going on. We didn’t need to pile on.
Not now. Not this spring. Maybe in the fall. Perhaps next spring. Perhaps not then either.
This ran against my nature – since I am quite excellent at creating a plan, making the “to do” list and seeing a project through to its conclusion. Check, check, check. I can focus narrowly and deeply. I do NOT like being thrown off course.
But circumstances changed – our plan stopped making sense – my husband could see that, my friends could too – it was only me who had trouble changing directions.
The intervention didn’t last long. We hugged, they left and I went to the kitchen to make dinner.
Every day this week, I’ve been happily putting back up the family photographs we had taken down while “decluttering”. JP is trying not to gloat. We are staying home.