Step Inside The Love Shack… a true tale about the power of allowing [episode 34]
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In 2006, I bought a house for myself and my son and our new life together following my divorce a couple of years earlier. I called this little hippie hide-away my “love shack” because, even though I really loved it, I knew it to be needful to the point of being shack-like. Some people would see my cottage and fall in love with it at first sight, just as I did. And others would take one look at the place and declare it “a tear down”.
I knew it was to be my project house that I planned to stay in for the long term because of its lush, fertile garden and perfect setting next to a big park and biking trail. It also has a year-round stream that flows from an artesian well just up the tree-covered hillside. Once I discovered the stream, I called my agent and bought the house the very same day. The stream was what sealed the deal for me because it reminded me of the stream in which I played during my earliest years in the dry hills of an abandoned California mining town.
The stream in Silverado was my favorite spot for hosting private tea parties with my imagined friends. I played there for countless hours, mostly by myself as my much older sister went off with her friends wanting none of the annoyance of a little sister. We lived in two different houses on the same street in Silverado where I eventually was married beneath the cover of the ancient live oaks.
After my son and I moved into the house, I hauled tons of garbage from the yard, cared for the hens that had been left by the previous owner and poured my soul into the cottage to make it match the pretty picture I held for it in my mind’s eye.
Little did I know at the time how my plans for my life would twist and turn, well beyond anything I’d ever imagined. I fell in love again, and became unexpectedly pregnant with my daughter. My new partner and I decided the house was simply too small for our new family and so I decided to put it on the market so we could move into a near-new and much larger place together.
However, I found myself to be in total resistance to moving away from my little shrangi-la. I slept there night after night, often alone but safe, until I was about 8 months pregnant. I did my best to care for the place despite the disability of carrying a nearly 10 pound baby.
Finally, I reluctantly left my little home with a sadness in my heart. I came back to it often as it lingered in a declining real estate market for the next year. With two house payments burdening us, I finally rented my cottage to a couple of difficult tenants who stayed there but caused even more damage.
After many years of a difficult and painful relationship with my daughter’s father, I knew I had to leave and return to my neglected little abode. All that time, the house sat peacefully in disrepair, hungry for the love I soooo desperately wanted to give it.
The roof had needed replacing years before and I’d saved $10,000 from a hefty tax refund so that I could fix my roof that summer. But as fate would have it, I lost my full time job within 72 hours of returning to my shady nest with two children to care for. We lived off the money I’d set aside for the roof for the next several months.
On and on I trudged, alone and exhausted by my efforts to build a business as a single mom during the great recession. The conflict with my former partner over co-parenting, child support and legal matters drained me in every way. I desperately wanted to show the world that I had the “right stuff” to make it on my own. And I blindly believed my house would act as the outward proof of my strength, my resilience and unyielding love and effort to create something beautiful from something that people might otherwise dismiss without a second thought.
I believed that I could do it, if I pushed myself hard enough and stayed focused on making the home and family I had always wanted for my life; the family I felt was always just beyond my reach as a child divided by her parents’ divorce. The more needy my little cottage became, the more I felt it had become a liability and a huge mistake.
I was no longer proud of it and felt the need to make excuses to my guests for its appearance. Instead of it becoming the trophy for my super-human strength and determination, it seemed to broadcast the poor choices and personal failings of my life like a scarlet letter.
False pride kept me isolated there, swimming hard against the current to be the breadwinner and role model for my kids. The “I think I can” lesson of my childhood book called ‘The Little Train That Could’ kept me squarely fixed in a position of deep isolation and shame. Over time, my sense of self worth and my confidence in my own abilities seemed to resemble the same sadness evidenced by my house and its unkempt garden.
I vacillated between wanting to fix-up my needful cottage and wishing a giant tree would flatten it to the ground one day while I ran errands. Eventually, my feelings of real capability eroded into a growing sense of being ineffectual. As the rain would poor down, I’d run about placing buckets and bowls beneath the various drips that seeped through the drywall. Eventually, a large section of my bathroom ceiling simply gave way under the pressure of total saturation and crashed one day to the tile floor below.
The cottage, once a shrine to my perseverance and idealism, now brought me to tears because it showed me (with undeniable evidence) just how profoundly and hopelessly alone I was in taking on my life. In an effort to take over primary custody of our daughter, my former partner even called Child Protective Services to report my house as unsafe and submitted satellite photos of my tarp-covered roof to the the courts.
Deep within, I was enduring the crushing weight of my circumstances and, to make it worse, I was doing it by myself yet again. My denial of just how bad things were joined forces with my ego’s need for competency and independence. What I wanted to avoid more than anything was actually NEEDING the help of others; help that I’d come to believe would simply NOT be there when I actually needed it.
I’d lived for so very long under the false notion that I was supposed to take care of everyone else, and everything else without actually admitting that I too was human and had equally human needs. I pretended to myself that I could withstand living without true community, sacred fellowship, and real support. I gave and gave and somehow imagined that I could sustain my giving without the benefit of receiving the love that was waiting to wash over me with a force equal to the weight of my burdens.
In the end, I proved something significant to myself. I proved that I was wrong. I was as wrong as any one person could be. And it took me finally buckling under the weight of my own faulty thinking to ultimately surrender to the indescribable sweetness of receiving the vast love of others; the kind of love that not only lifts you out of your depression and despair, but raises you up to heights that provide an entirely new and beautiful perspective on connection and caring.
I finally removed my own mask, took off my too-tight Wonder Woman costume and floated downstream in the current of what life had been waiting so long to give to me. Love started to show up in droves. It showed up as new friends who generously offered us refuge, food, emotional support and the sense of community I’d longed for but had single-handedly prevented by my decisions not to ALLOW myself to NEED anyone.
My father showed up from thousands of miles away and offered not only to loan me the money to replace my roof, but to work tirelessly at the age of 75 to see that the work got done right. New and selfless friends came with their own tools and even more tools loaned to them by friends of theirs that had never even met me. Sons of friends arrived to take down the rotten dormer. Even my ex-husband showed up one morning in his own quiet way with a pair of work gloves and carried bundle after bundle of 75-pound shingles up to the work site.
My 10 year old son learned to work a nail gun and spent a day or two experiencing what it’s like to grow into a thoughtful, giving man. The men and the woman worked together to fulfill a dream I’d held for decades after watching an Amish community join forces for a real barn raising. We worked in the rain and into the dark. We worked together on my roof with grace and cooperation, but without complaining about the aches and pains we all felt in giving such service. At least six men showed up to work on my behalf, not one of them expecting a penny for the efforts; perhaps each of them simply trusting that one day, I would be in a position to contribute to them in a way that might repay their efforts.
I helped to feed them and did the best I could to help put on the new roof without any real carpentry skills. I helped take off the old roof, as much as 6 layers deep in places. I cooked and cleaned, made beds and tried to hold myself together so I could see the project through to completion rather than collapsing into tears from the intensity of the gratitude my heart was holding.
And after 44 years, I finally got (down to my bones) that
I AM NEVER ALONE and NEVER was….
After decades of proving that I could live my life free from the vulnerability of needing others (especially men),
I was healed powerfully and permanently through the intention and love of the heroes I walk among each day. These are the men and women who have a hard time truly taking in the words “Thank You”.
They are the builders, the healers and the ones who makes things whole. They mend homes and restore hope. And they came together, miraculously and inexplicably, for me… putting the love back under my roof and into my heart for all time.
I LOVE YOU