Over two years after my divorce, I am still moving through grief. It feels like quicksand sometimes…I make some headway, and then a little (or big) thing will just set me back into the mire. Then I slowly go about the business of climbing out again.
Recently, a somewhat big thing happened that set me back quite far, yet in retrospect it has helped me to see just how much I have grown. I am getting tougher. At the same time, I am learning to be humble and ask for help when I need it, even when it feels embarrassing. I am learning about the importance of community.
Last month, one Thursday morning, there was a particularly intense and heavy downpour. The thunder actually woke up my usually hard-to-rouse four year-old, who snuggled in my lap, frightened. It was all over relatively quickly. Then a few minutes later, I got a text message from my housemate, who lives in the basement: “Some water got under the door and soaked into the carpet.” I went downstairs to inspect and actually found that an approximately 10 x 15 foot area of the carpeting was completely soaked. The reason: a clogged, neglected drain outside the basement door. Totally my fault, and not covered by my homeowner’s insurance.
It is situations like these that trigger me to no end; they trigger my “YOU ARE ALONE” alarm. I am still learning the basics of homeownership, and feel so insecure when it comes to all things in this area. My ex-husband had taken care of all that stuff when he lived in the house. He magically seemed to know when drains had to be cleaned and gutters cleared; he patched holes and attached bookcases to walls. He re-caulked things. He hung pictures and hooks. He mowed lawns and shoveled snow and knew who to call when things went wrong and were beyond his ability to fix.
Down in the basement that morning, I tried, quite ineffectually, to sop up the waterlogged carpet with every towel I owned. As the severity of the problem slowly sunk in, I collapsed onto my knees on those sopping wet towels, I emitted howling sobs of fear and self-pity. It was a very sad scene.
By now, I have come to recognize my triggers, and realize that I cannot allow myself to be paralyzed by these feelings. I must move through the tears into the solution. There was a whole mess o’ water in the basement, and I had a tenant down there paying me rent in exchange for a dry, decent place to live. The situation simply had to be taken care of, and taken care of quickly, before it turned into a mold-festering free-for-all in my home.
I knew that I was in way over my head here, and I was going to have to ask for help.
So I dried my tears, put on my big girl panties, and leaped into action. I posted to my single mom’s listserv and my neighborhood listservs asking for advice on what the hell to do. I called up all the homeowners I knew. Neighbors and friends gave me recommendations, and I cobbled together a game plan. First the flood restoration guys came in, ripped up the carpet, and trained these ginormous fans all over the place. Then the carpet needed to be replaced. When one carpet company quoted me an exorbitant sum to do so, I simply called another company and got a quote that was $2000 less! I moved, and I shook, and the whole thing was taken care of in a span of two weeks.
It turned out that the fiasco cost me my entire (meager) savings. Yes, I am grateful that I had the savings to cover it, mostly — some had to go on a credit card, but I am hopeful about paying it off soon. I am also grateful to a whole host of individuals: the numerous, kind neighbors and friends who told me what the hell to do and recommended the guys to do it. Also, my most awesome tenant in the world (may she never move out!) She actually refused to accept the discount in rent I had offered in exchange for two weeks of serious inconvenience, and insisted on paying the full month’s rent.
I am also very grateful for Pierre, the kind, cute, patient Home Depot employee who spent an inordinate amount of time with me ordering new carpet and arranging to get it installed as quickly as possible; and the carpet cleaning guy, who purely out of the goodness of his heart provided a second opinion, free of charge, as to whether my basement was truly dry before I replaced the carpet (it was!!). He even let S play with his super cool night vision heat-detecting apparatus-thingie. I think of all of the people who helped to make a tough situation easier.
Believe me, I am very aware that in the scheme of things, this was not such a big deal. At the same time I was dealing with my little crisis, millions of Pakistanis were being displaced by floods. It seems that it is not the snags in life themselves that throw me, but facing them without a partner totally sets me off. I miss the steady reassurance that my ex-husband provided me. Now I have had to replace him with a whole community of people - friends and strangers alike. It has been scary to do so…and a lot of work. But this experience taught me that I am not as alone as I thought. Truly, I am never alone. My mind just likes to tell me I am. I can recognize this as a trick, and not the truth. That realization is very liberating and empowering.
Welcome to this blog - my chronicle of the illuminating, character-building path of single parenthood. I'm making this up as I go along. My life is my practice, and my five year-old son is my greatest teacher.