Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The House That Built Me

I'm moving this week, from my little one bedroom apartment, into a new place with the love of my life, a full 40 miles, two bedrooms, three baths, a mudroom and a lifetime away.

I seriously hate moving, people, and when I moved into my current little one bedroom apartment I swore I wouldn't leave till either I was old and grey, or I found the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with, and we moved on together, if only because I hate moving and packing/unpacking that much. At that time, two years ago, that prospect seemed like decades away from happening, if ever, and I envisioned a long, quiet existence in this little place. Yet here I am, a month away from our one year anniversary of falling in love, and facing the inevitable task of packing up again, and moving on.

I cannot believe how much I've managed to accumulate in just two short years. As I opened up the living room closet yesterday, to start digging through bags of old clothing to give away or sell, I found things I haven't seen in so long that I forgot I even had them. So much moss has gathered while this stone has been unrolling.

Yet, the one thing I am finding hardest to part with isn't old clothing, an awesome old brown papasan (message me if you want it!), unread magazines and half used bottles of condiments - it is the identity that I've found intricately tangled up in this apartment, my own identity, and the person that I used to be here, and that being here has made me.

In a way I have Miranda Lambert to blame. Well at least, she helped me put it all together. I have been going through such a hard time leaving here, not because I have any doubts of where I'm going or that it's the right path for me, but for reasons my heart couldn't identify. Up till last night, I couldn't tell you why I was fighting leaving, crumbling at the thought of packing, or why, strangely, the truth that I was moving out and on didn't seem real or concrete.

Then last night I sat down to take a break from packing, and I hit shuffle on my Cloud Drive, and the song "The House That Built Me" came on, and I broke down into tears. I love that song, and it has always provoked an emotional response in me, but for much different reasons. The first time I heard it, I realized that growing up it was my grandma's house that shaped so much of my childhood, as my own mom and brother and I were so often transient, living in too many apartments and houses to even count over the years. We always rented, seeming to move on every few years or so, so no place left lasting memories on me as much as my grandma's house at 2028 Yosemite Drive in Eagle Rock. It was there I would spend weekends helping out at grandma's stupid yard sales, or taking naps in that little back bedroom, waiting for Fiorucci, the little black Lhasa Apso to jump with her short legs up on the bed and nap with me. It was there that my aunt would sit me out on the back porch and cut (or, gasp! perm) my hair, or that we would all gather in the breakfast nook for dinner, grandpa reciting the same old prayer, me hiding in the bathroom to get out of washing dishes. It was there that Ryan and I I would play in the backyard, collecting fallen avocados from the tree on the side of the house to eat with salt and pepper, or that eventually I would entertain Hannah and Tristan, my younger cousins. It was there that a Tommy's run was just up the street, those greasy chili burgers and fries imbedding their poison on my culinary memory so that even now I would give anything for one bite. For the better part of my childhood and life, my grandma's house was the house that built me, and the memory and emotional response that the song evoked.

But last night, as I heard it again, I realized that despite childhood memories being tied up in that song, it also reminded me that living in a certain place can build who we are as adults, and shape how we see ourselves. So much of who I've thought I am has been wrapped up in this apartment, and these four walls have cemented in me a sense of who I am, or who I have been. With the song playing in the background, drifting in on a warm spring breeze from the living room, I stood in the doorway to my bedroom and was overwhelmed with emotion. This, of all other rooms in the apartment, was one that I so thoughtfully and craftily built to evoke a sense of comfort, warmth, and in a way independence. I remember for the first time in my life, feeling like I had a bedroom that was completely my own, and represented 150% who I was, what I liked, and pleased only me. This was a room built for no one else - it was pretty, slightly country, feminine, yet cozy and quirky. A sensory memory came to me then, that it was in this room that, for the first time in my life, I came to terms with the fact that I might spend the rest of my life alone, and I was, for the first in my life, completely and wholly content and happy with the thought. It was in that bedroom, that for the first time, I could picture what my life would be like alone, and I liked it.

Two years later I am packing up that bedroom and the reality of what that means finally hit me last night. No small wonder I've been hesitant, procrastinating and choosing to lay in bed overwhelmed rather than get up and pack. In leaving this place, this apartment, that bedroom, I am coming to terms and admitting who I am now, a wholly different person than the woman that moved in here two years ago.

I am moving on. I am sharing my life now. And I am scared. I will never be alone again, and I cannot tell you if that fact thrills me or scares me. For so very, very long, even while in this sometimes surreal feeling relationship, I have always felt that I am on my own. Even on warm summer weekends that Craig would spend up here, it always felt like my place, and when he would leave, it felt like a dream that he was even here. On Monday's when I would come home to this apartment, after spending the weekend with him, it felt like everything was just a figment of my imagination, and being alone was the true reality. I always chalked up those feelings to a sense of not being able to believe I'd gotten so lucky in life. I've been pinching myself for the last year! Here I am in the most amazing relationship, with the best man I've ever known - of course it felt like a dream.

Now I wonder if it was something more. Maybe the emotional ties of my own singleness and aloneness, to this apartment, have run deeper than I could have ever imagined, and it's like while I'm here, that is part of who I am. Maybe this apartment really is the last link to the old me, the person who didn't need anyone else to go on and be happy. Maybe while I am here I will never be able to shake that overwhelming, quiet but pervading sense of being alone.

But that is not the person I am anymore.

Truly a dream has come true, and I have met the most wonderful man. I love him with all my heart, and I know that he loves me. I have never felt so loved or cared for in my life, and in every way he exemplifies to me what true love, selfless, caring, and patient, really is. It is time for me to embrace my new life with him, time to let him in, to my life, to my inner house and to all that builds me.

It is time to pack up boxes, to pack up my life, and to move on. This is no longer who I am anymore, and as hard and altering as it is to say goodbye to, it is not somewhere I want to stay. The future is bright, and sometimes that brightness frightens me a little, like it's more than I could ever hope to deserve, therefore too good to be true. But true it is, and as much as I tread lightly, I know that it is time to go down that road, say goodbye to my singleness, what I have perceived before to be my independence, and to my identity as a single woman.

I am a "we" now, and for the sake of loving him I should pack so he doesn't have to. I should pack because there is a new road, a new street, and four new walls that are awaiting me, where I will learn what it means to be part of a couple, and function together with the other's well being in mind. I have new lessons to learn, memories to make and associations to sink deep inside those new walls. He promises me that someday our "we" will become three (or even four), and then we will have even bigger walls to build and to fill, for our lives together, with our children and our family, and our friends (and maybe even a puppy).

As I listen to Miranda's song again I can only hope that in leaving behind the fallacy that I would be alone for the rest of my life, I can build a home for the man I love and maybe one day our children too, and give their memories a place to nest. That by moving on (and in) together I can build a home that will be the foundation for our own dreams and life together. The more I think about it, the more I can't wait to get going and give life to those dreams and to start making memories somewhere new! In that prospect there is such hope, and joy. I think it's about time for me to say my goodbyes to this old place, and start loading up some boxes.

And that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.