Thursday, March 12, 2009

THE HOUSE IN WALLINGFORD

Three months ago, I bought a house that is five blocks from our apartment. From the sidewalk you climb a long flight of stairs up a small hill to the front porch. Looking out from the porch, there is a view of the gracefully arching Aurora Bridge, the green trees of Queen Anne Hill, and that icon of the Seattle skyline, The Space Needle. The living room of the house has two large picture windows that show off the view and let in waves of sunlight.

I had wanted to buy a house for many reasons. Right now The Poet and I live in a tiny apartment that we love, but we are renting it, so I don’t feel secure that we can stay here always. I also wanted to have a home that was more energy efficient, with a dishwasher and little luxuries like screens in the windows and a stove vent fan that doesn’t sound like Hell’s Angels are arriving in my kitchen.

Besides, I thought it was the right time to get into the real estate market. If you can recall how things were in August, house prices were dropping, but the economic collapse had not happened, so it seemed like a good time to get into the game. I started looking.

And I looked, and I looked. I wanted to stay in Fremont, where everything is a pleasant, hilly walk from our door, and I can get my library books, groceries and exercise all in one trip. I looked for two and a half months, and saw some pretty awful places, or places that weren’t quite right, or had no good windows, or were tiny and overpriced. As I looked prices came down a little more, and at last I saw the house I wanted.

At that point I didn’t care that the house was old and badly needed renovations. I could update it myself, it would only take a month or so.

I didn’t have money to make the down payment and do all the necessary repairs, so I put in a very low offer. When, to my surprise, I got a counter offer just a few thousand above that, it seemed too much of a good thing to turn down. On the brink of actually buying a house, and one that need extra work on my part, made me extremely nervous. I talked it over with my parents and The Poet and decided to take the deal.

Three months later, I can’t believe how na├»ve I was. Looking back now, I wish I’d paid attention to how nervous I felt and backed off. In the last few weeks, as the renovations have dragged on and on and the final tally on the cost has been apparent, I’ve known I wouldn’t have undertaken this project had I been able to see into the future. And yet, there is no use thinking that way. I’d gotten myself into it and there is no going back. I simply have to see it through.

At some point along the way, The Poet and I decided the most sensible thing would be for us to rent the house. Taking on the mortgage would have almost doubled what we pay now in rent. I had hoped to defray this by making the basement into a separate apartment, but the other renovations cost so much that I had to put that off. With my medical expenses, and lack of a job, it’s best to keep other expenses at a minimum. We love our little apartment, so this isn’t too much of a hardship. To tell the truth, recently I haven’t minded washing the dishes by hand as much as I did when I started looking at real estate. (This is a testimony to improvement in my physical stamina. Dishes don’t seem so tiring when I’m not so tired myself.)

There are other advantages to staying where we are: being a few blocks closer to the library, the food co-op and the gluten free organic bakery; not having to move or buy furniture or rugs for a bigger space. I think we might even spruce up the extra room so that it’s a decent guest room and not just a place full of suitcases and stacks of old books.

Meanwhile, as I have suffered through the last few weeks of the renovations, I have often wanted to scream at people to stop asking me what kind of light switch I want and to stop calling me at 8 am when I am not yet awake, and not to expect me to make one more trip to Home Depot when I need be taking a nap.

In my exhaustion and frustration, and I have asked myself over and over why I did this. At my lowest moments I have felt that I’ve wandered far from my values and I am being punished for it. I have fallen into the trap of chasing after more: a bigger space, better things, but things—like pretty bathrooms and hardwood floors—that ultimately I don’t care about and I know won’t make any difference in my happiness or the Poet’s.

Yet deep down I know why I did this. It wasn’t the devil, or the trap of materialism, or thinking a dishwasher would change my life. It was one simple thing: I want to adopt a child. I know it can’t happen now, and because of Lyme disease having my own baby is not practical, but for some time I have carried a wish around inside me: to have a child once I am better, perhaps a six or seven-year-old, who needs parents and a home.

This would hardly be possible where we live now, with The Poet and I going through an intricate space-sharing dance each day, in a place so small we don’t have a kitchen table or room for a desk (now writing is done in the armchair or on the couch). The new house, although not large, easily doubles the 750 square feet we live in now, and would be perfect for a family of three.

Who knows if this will ever happen. For starters, I have to get over Lyme disease. Then there is The Poet, who likes the new house, but is only lukewarm on the idea of adopting a child. When we met, he was more enthusiastic about babies, although we both knew it might not be possible for me. As his work has been more draining and he has struggled through his own insomnia, he has begun to declare more vociferously that he does not want to have children because it takes too much time and energy. Still, on other occasions he has said that he would be willing to give foster parenting a try. (He is already a wonderful father to his son David, who unfortunately lives so far away that he only comes here twice a year.)

Then there is also my other dream: to write. When I think about what I am working towards, what I hope from my life when I am better, it is these two things: to be able to adopt a child, and to write.

But having a child takes money, and writing is the opposite of earning money. When I think about it truthfully, I probably won’t be able to have everything I want in the future. I bought the house so there might be room for a family, and yet if I want to write I would have been better off keeping my money in a CD and using it to buy time for writing once I am better. Now that the money is in the house, I don’t have that option.

“Don’t worry,” the Poet tells me. “The house will be a good investment if you give it time, even if we don’t end up living there. In a few years you can sell it and have more money back.”

He may be right, and yet I know that I will have hard choices to make once I’m over Lyme. I will need to sell the house if I can, or I will need to find some source of income, even if it’s part time. Ten years of illness will have its price, even after I am better.

These are things I cannot worry about now. I can only take small steps, as I am able, toward the things I want. For the past three months it has been fixing up a house. Now it is about finding someone to live in the house and turning my thoughts and energy back toward healing from Lyme disease. Meanwhile I am finding an hour, here and there, to start writing again.

4 comments:

heather. said...

hi,

i just found your blog and read the whole thing in one sitting. i too have lyme disease, and am thinking of relocating to the west coast (specifcally seattle or olympia, or maybe the CA bay area) within the year to be closer to those lyme practitioners whose methods i most trust.

with that in mind, i'm wondering how you like dr. derksen? and do you still see dr. r? do they coordinate your treatment together?

thanks so much, and take good care,
heather
:)

heather. said...

ps. if you feel more comfortable emailing me, my email address is letlovebe(at)gmail(dot)com. :)

Naomi said...

Hi Heather: Thanks for reading! I am so sorry you are sick, but we can be thankful that there is treatment for this disease.

I really like Amy Derksen and Dr. Ross. Between the two of them I really happy with my treatment so far. Marty Ross is overseeing the pharmaceutical/antibiotic side of my treatment and Amy Derksen is doing the supportive, naturopathic side which is just as important. Both are great people.

Derksen worked for and learned from the famous Dr. Klinghardt, and understands Lyme very well. You will get all the methods and insights that Klinghardt would give you but Amy charges less and has more time & accessibility for her patients (or so I've heard).

As for Ross, he is kind and compassionate and he keeps up on all the latest findings about Lyme.

I hope that helps.

All the best,

Naomi

heather. said...

thanks so much for responding! sorry it's taken me awhile to get back to you..

quick question: in WA state can naturopaths prescribe abx? does dr. derksen ever prescribe abx for lyme or is she strictly alternative? i would love to someday see dr. k but i can't afford his fees, so if dr. derksen does the same or similar work i wonder if it would be feasible to see her as a primary LL practitioner, or if i'd need an LLMD as well. sorry for being so verbose, just thinking aloud here.. :)

anyway, take good care, and i wish you the very best in your treatment.

~heather.