Peaceful Mama, aka Carolyn Wallace, has the flu this week. So here is a post for you to enjoy that I wrote last summer. FYI, I am writing to you from our lovely new home that we were able to move into on August 27 of last year.
This past month has been an opportunity for our whole family to practice gratitude. My husband, son and I have been living in a one-room apartment since the end of June, when we sold our house to a lovely couple. We weren’t able to close on our new house until the beginning of August, so we had to find housing for the month of July. “It will be all right,” we told ourselves. “We can live together in one room, with a one-burner hot-plate as our only source of cooking, for a month. It might even be fun.” So we moved into an efficiency apartment, full of enthusiasm, ready to endure a little discomfort while we waited out the time-lapse between moving out of our old house and moving into the new house.
About a week before our August 2 closing, I called our realtor to make sure we could do a final walk through on the first. What I got back was, “Um, the current tenant, a single woman, hasn’t been organized about getting herself ready to move. Are you able to give her a couple of extra days?” Immediately I started to worry. What do you mean she hasn’t been organized about moving? She’s been living with a “For Sale” sign on her front lawn for the past 8 months. She knew the house was been shown to prospective buyers. She was given a full 5 weeks to notice to relocate. She knew this was coming. Why does disorganization on her part have to mean a crisis on our part?
Not wanting to be disrespectful of the difficulties of what might be going on with her, I told the realtor to tell her that we had to keep the closing date firm because I took the week off of work to move and to organize our new home. Because I work fee-for-service, I don’t have paid vacation days. I hadn’t scheduled any clients for four out of five days that week, and I couldn’t simply take them all back on again–it would be logistically impossible. But I told him that I didn’t want to see a single woman be homeless, so she was welcome to stay with us in our guest bedroom for another week if she needed to, but she had to have all of her stuff out and put in storage so that we could move in. A good compromise, I thought.
Apparently, she didn’t agree. She dug in her heels and refused to pack anything. Refused to move into the spare bedroom. Refused to move, period. The realtor for the people selling the house told us she had the opportunity to move in with her boyfriend temporarily, but she didn’t feel like moving twice. This really made me angry. Like we didn’t have to move twice? Like we really ENJOY living in a one-room apartment with a hot plate and with all of our stuff in storage, including most of our son’s toys?
I could hardly believe the rage and negative thoughts I had about this woman I’d never met. Who the heck was she to invade our lives and plans in this way? Closing date was pushed back to August 15, as she apparently had several other rental homes she wanted to explore. The question of why she hadn’t explored them during the 5 weeks she was given to relocate didn’t seem to occur to anyone but us. We were lucky that we could stay in our apartment for the month of August, as that wasn’t part of the original plan. We paid an extra month’s rent, both on our apartment and the storage unit. We dug out some of our son’s old toys, and bought him some new ones. I cobbled together what clients I could for the week I had taken off. I was lucky that some were able to come, but most didn’t. I definitely lost money that week. We checked with our lawyer. We hunkered down for a few more weeks.
A week before our new closing date on August 15th, my husband got a call letting us know that the troublesome tenant wouldn’t be out of our new house until the 24th, as she wasn’t interested in any of the places that were available by the 15th. We were told that this time she had actually signed a lease on a new rental property, so that this new date would definitely stick. Once again, my husband and I became enraged, then demoralized. Gee, we’re so glad she wasn’t allowing herself to be inconvenienced or anything. And then, what happens if she refuses to move again, and the third closing date falls through, too? As of September 1, our apartment was being rented to someone else. We’d be homeless if she continues to play these games. Maybe she really has no intention of moving at all, and will just wait to be evicted, a process that could take 6 months or more.
We spent a few days looking on line at other houses to buy in our area. This move might not work out for us after all. We coudn’t get our downpayment back until 60 days after the original closing date, so we were feeling stuck in limbo, without rights, and victimized. Just because she didn’t want to move twice? Come on, this is real life, honey, try living with a three year old in one room for two months.
Even as I was having all of my anger and negative thoughts toward this unnamed, unmoving woman, I was aware I was having them. And I knew they weren’t helping me or the situation. All we could do was wait. If she wasn’t out by October 1, we’d get our money back and move on. If she did, great, we’d move in. Being angry and spending my time and energy feeling victimized seemed useless. I began to do the metta meditation for her that Dani Shapiro, in her book Devotion, turned me on to. With the cadence of my early-morning jogs around the lake, I offered her the prayer, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be strong. May you live with ease.” I didn’t always like it. I wish I could say that I can got into blissful zones where I was filled with love and compassion for her, but truthfully, sometimes I couldn’t even bring myself to continue my prayer, out of my own smallness and insecurities. At those times I tried harder to validate my own feelings AND continue my metta prayers for her. I kept going, and took my anger and smallness right along with me.
We’ll see what happens on August 24th. I hope she moves out. But I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that my biggest value in life is to become more peaceful. I’m using both the metta prayer and daily gratitude to help myself manage this situation well. I read the headlines about starvation in Somalia, and I am immediately humbled. There are tens of thousands of people suffering, watching their day loved ones, including their children, die of hunger and thirst, and I’m feeling self-righteous about living with a hot plate? Really? Is that really the best I can do? What if I got on my knees and thanked God for being able to feed my child every? What if I were grateful for the shelter we have, and even more grateful we could extend our stay here for an extra month? What if I felt joyful about all of us being perfectly healthy, which is no small thing. We are fine. We are fed. We are safe. We have the resources to find another apartment if we need to. Thank you.