Last week was the end of a long chapter in my life. The house I lived in for 6 years transferred ownership to my buyers and I officially moved out. I will never pull into that driveway again, never dash up the stairs to grab the scarf I forgot in my closet, never make a huge mess in the kitchen while putting together a delicious meal, never enjoy a glass of wine with loved ones on the couch in the living room, never plant another garden in the backyard… It is with absolute certainty that I can say that this experience would serve as the perfect definition of bittersweet. All week long I found myself sitting in the middle of two extreme emotions: liberated joy and crushing sadness.
The latter was the stronger of the two feelings in the last few days as I went through the closing of the sale and emptying of the final things in the house; but there was a constant optimism underlying the sorrow attempting to remind me of the great things ahead. Emotions are tricky, aren’t they? The logical side of me was rolling her eyes at the weepy side and biting her tongue even though she wanted to shout: “Hey dummy, you’ve been waiting for months to sell your house and move on from this break-up, why are you so sad!?” Conversely, the emotional side of me was angry at the rational side and more than once she wailed: “Why doesn’t logical me and everyone else understand why I feel sad, and isn’t it OK to feel this way anyway?!” Fortunately I am somehow comfortable living in the middle of juxtapositional craziness and although I felt completely disheveled, I was equally fine with oscillating between the sad and happy, rolling with whichever felt stronger and appreciating that what I was feeing was all valid.
That said, it’s been a tough couple of weeks. Particularly the last handful of times I went into the empty house, after I had moved out and was returning to pick up the last of my boxes or clean up before handing over the keys to the new owners… I left the house in tears more than once and felt sick to my stomach every time I drove away. There’s something quite heartbreaking about saying a goodbye that you know is permanent. It was the same feeling I had when I said goodbye to the dog and the cats that my ex took after we split – there’s this terrible finality in walking away from something or someone you know you will never see again. And in this case, this goodbye was to a really beautiful house that I cherished very dearly as a wonderful home for many years. And even though the life I shared with my former partner is over and I know that he and I are both better off in our new lives, I still have happy memories of the time we had together in that home.
So my goal with this post is to pay tribute to the house, my home, which I loved and will always love. And if Julie Andrews has taught me anything (apart from the best word in the world, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious), when I’m feeling sad, I just need to think of a few of my favourite things. Here are a few from the first house I ever owned.
The floors. Hardwood oak, medium brown, with beautiful and unique swirls in every individual piece. I still remember the first days of installation – pulling each strip of wood from the piles of boxes, delighting in the idea that these gorgeous pieces were just like a fingerprint or snowflake, unique and unlike any other in the pile.
The mudroom. Square slabs of slate in shades of grey, blue, yellow, green, and even a speckle or two of red – all with a magical feel of the cosmos that would take me away into reveries of outer-space whenever I allowed myself to stop for a moment to recognize their beauty. One side of the room was comprised of pale grey built-in cabinets framing the washing machine and dryer with a large and sturdy matching bench opposite, all designed for optimal convenience in this welcoming room that served as my main entry on the side of the house.
The dolomite. The kitchen was already perfectly installed when we purchased the house (IKEA kitchens for the win!) so there wasn’t really much to do in this room apart from dressing it up a bit. The dolomite tile that I chose as backsplash was absolutely stunning: a soft white with the faintest whispers of grey streaking throughout, along with a pale grey grout… it was special. And then to top it all off, functional hand-build shelving was added on either side of the stove, just above the backsplash.
The closet. One of my favourite decisions made in the early days of the purchase was to tear down the wall between the linen closet in the hallway upstairs and the walk-in closet in the master bedroom, leaving me with all the space a girl could need for a (dare I say it?) dream closet. Pure white, good lighting, hooks for days, bead-board and ample shelving – it was the best closet I’ve ever had. (And that’s saying a lot, because the first place I ever rented had a spare bedroom that I used as a full closet.)
The fireplace. Remember that cosmic tile from my incredible mudroom? It was reclaimed for a fireplace-makeover in the first few years at the house. Where the fireplace was previously a pale indistinct purple-beige with absolutely NOTHING going for it, the refreshing makeover gave the mantlepiece new life with a crisp white on top contrasted by the bold and bright colours of the slate along the base.
The colours. Fossil Grey, Stratosphere, Seagull Grey… I can’t remember all the creative names of the paint colours I chose over the years but the colours are imprinted in my memory. Deep blues upstairs, a pale baby blue in the kitchen, varying shades of grey throughout the main floor, pure white in the bathroom and closets, and a pale greyish green in the mudroom all gave me joy from the first stroke of the paintbrush until the very last time I walked through the house.
Why were these my favourite things? I chose them. Living in this house allowed me the experience of my very first time decorating my own place, choosing the finishing touches, playing interior designer, and leaving my mark in every room. But, as much as I had a role to play in choosing the aesthetics in each room, my ex played a much larger role by installing them and adding special touches that I will always remember with gratitude. Strangely it occurred to me as I was writing – all the things I listed are vestiges of his handiwork. He was (and is) a talented craftsman – a quality that I continue to admire to this day. Just as I loved my house and will always love it, I loved him and always will. We weren’t right for each other, but he was good to me and we made a beautiful home together.
Saying goodbye to this house was as much a goodbye to the structure as much as it was a goodbye to him and all the beautiful work he did. “A few of my favourite things” could turn into an ongoing series about all the amazing work he did in that house – the raised bed for my garden in the backyard, the sturdy bannister that he installed after tearing out the weird wonky original that was there when we bought the place, those handmade cabinets and countertop he custom built around our washer and dryer in the mudroom, the inserts he installed in the oversized windows to give them an extra touch of character… It was a good home that we made, even though it wasn’t meant to be ours forever.
On that very last night in the house I walked from room to room, running my fingers along on the walls, taking in every corner in the hope that I would never forget those precious spaces. And now, as I write these words, I feel a fond appreciation for the home we made together and the lovely work he did for us in that house. More importantly, I know that there was great love in that home and that is something truly unforgettable. He worked hard and we worked hard together – regardless of how it ended, that house remains a monument to that love and work, and that is what I said goodbye to. These are, they were, they always will be, a few of my favourite things.
This will be difficult. It’s been a few months since I’ve written and whenever I have felt a longing to come back to the adventure project, I have found myself stuck and unsure of what to say when so much has been happening. Life can be hard. As my Queen Lana says: “Sometimes love is not enough and the road gets tough, I don’t know why…”
This blog is supposed to be my creative outlet for rambling essays and fun life projects, and I told myself when I started that I wanted this to be a positive space void of negativity. But hey, life can be a bitch sometimes, and occasionally we have to deal with “projects” that are totally unpleasant. Like… divorcing your partner of 7 years and selling your beautiful home and basically ending your entire life as you know it. That’s life. Sometimes it sucks and sometimes it’s great.
So it’s the start of a new chapter in my life and I have no idea what happens next. Thankfully, I have insanely wonderful and supportive family and friends to keep me afloat as I drift aimlessly through this strange new world where everything is uncertain and unclear. They’ve taught me that it is OK (not to mention incredibly important) to manage life day by day and to focus only on small tasks directly in front of me, rather than looking at the big picture and my unknown future life.
One day at a time. That’s been my mantra for the last few weeks and it’s keeping me sane. Today you will clean your bathroom. Today you will buy those light fixtures you need for the bedrooms upstairs. Today you will buy groceries and get back to eating real food. Today you will reach out to old friends and make plans to get yourself out of the house. Today you will put a for sale sign on your lawn. Today you will talk to your ex about who is taking the animals. Today you will clean out the closet in the hall. Today you will make a new budget. Today you will start writing again.
The divorce project was never something I imagined I would tackle and I certainly never thought I would feel the need to talk about it on this very public forum (although really… I always envision crickets chirping when I try to visualize the online world’s reaction to this little blog). But here we are, and even though it is an intensely private situation, I feel compelled to speak about it here. Maybe it’s because I have a faceless audience online compared to the unbearable pain of seeing the reaction on someone’s face when I tell them what’s happening. Maybe it’s because writing has and always will be a cathartic and beautiful process for me. Maybe it’s because this blog has inevitably become my 21st century form of journaling and I know that I will read this one day in the future and feel satisfied with how this journey unfolded. Maybe it’s because some small part of me hopes that this post will help somebody else feel better about starting their own new / scary / overwhelming / exciting / crazy chapter in life.
With that in mind, here are some thoughts on divorce – some good and some bad.
- Good: You get to be selfish and make decisions all by yourself.
- Bad: You no longer share your life with someone and there’s a big hole in your heart where your best friend used to be.
- Good: You can sprawl out in bed because you’re sleeping alone.
- Bad: You’re sleeping alone and it’s totally weird for at least a few weeks.
- Good: You start to appreciate hardcore gangster rap.
- Bad: Sad music feels EXTRA sad. (But that’s OK, because music makes my heart feel good even when it makes me want to cry.)
- Good: You come to understand what REALLY matters in life and stop stressing about the small stuff.
- Bad: Instead of stressing about small stuff, you are stressing about BIG stuff. (Like putting your house up for sale.)
- Good: You feel really good some days and get excited about what the future holds.
- Bad: You feel really bad some days and get sad about the past, present, and future.
- Good: You have family and friends to remind you that you are loved and will be OK and you believe them.
See what I did there? I ended on a “good” note! Still got it – the blog remains a (semi) positive space, largely thanks to the people in my life who have given me nothing but love through this difficult time. Family and friends, I love you. Thank you.