My husband hates me. My children hate me. And, I suspect, the dog does as well. I can feel her eyes on my back. Reproachful. Poisonous. That's okay. It's mutual. I hate them, too. Well, maybe not the dog. It's not her fault. There are men here cutting holes in the floor. One crawling under the house, the other yelling at him through the holes. Cold air rushing in. And a cockroach. Big and black. Die, you bastard. A man upstairs filling in the holes other men have made in the walls. It's been raining, heavily, steadily, although it's more of a drizzle now. Yeah, I know, count your blessings and all that. But the mud, the mud, and the sawdust, oh the frickin' sawdust. And here I sit, among it all, at the dirty dining table, a laptop-sized space carved out of the chaos, between lurching box towers. FONDUE SET, one is labelled. FONDUE SET & SUMMER HATS. What crazy person packed that?
Er, that would have been me. And that was me, too, who thought it was a good idea to move, and while we were at it, renovate. I'm sucking in fat, mindful breaths. Hoovering up vitamin D and these weird teeny tiny Chinese herbal pills for nervous tension. Practising gratitude (I am not homeless. I am not a refugee. I have not been separated from my wailing children at the border). Running miles and eating bowls full of porridge made from ancient grains. I am not internalising anything. I am vocalising everything. Screaming. A lot. At my husband. My children. The dog. Nothing is working. And all I want to do is revert, regress, be once more someone's dependent.
Thrice in the past three months we have stayed with my parents. Twice during the open homes. And once during the actual shift. Each time I have promised it would just be for the one night, two maximum. And each time it's been for longer: three, four, five. Each time the pull greater, the wrench worse. Don't make me go, a small, whiny voice inside me has cried. It's nice here. It's warm and there is food in the fridge and someone who wants to make it all better. Someone who asks me what I'd like for breakfast and loves me unconditionally. It hasn't always been this way. Once I was desperate to go. But at the age of 43, my parents' home has become an embrace I can't quite bring myself to wriggle free of.
Anyone who has ever carried out the slightest work on their house will know that the decisions are endless. You find yourself deliberating what you had never before thought to consider: the placement of a toilet roll holder, the height of an architrave. Builders, plumbers, painters; all wanting you to make a call on the spot. As a child, I hated not being given a choice — do you want the sauce on your sausage, Megan, or beside it?
Agency is something of a buzzword these days, particularly beloved of the ILE (Innovative Learning Environment) and #MeToo movements, it means being able to make choices and maintain control, having an impact on your own world. Stuff that. My world is currently a big, cold, confusing mess and I just want someone to tell me what's what. Like it or lump it.
Re moving, June had this to say: "I, too, have some antique china. When we were to move to our new house, my husband, in a tender, loving voice, said, 'You know you won't be able to take it with you.' He placed two big bins on the floor in the lounge and said, 'That one's for taking, the other's for selling or giving away.' When he came back the taking one was full and the other one was empty. 'They are all mine,' I said. He sighed and gave up and I still have everything." Kristina is sorting through her "collection of stuff" in order to get her house ready to sell, and also finding the going tough, but, she says, there is good reason for this. "The sight of the collection brings fear and anxiety. On my brave days I circle it and plan the pack, the donate, the bin. Most other times I don't even have the courage to look in the downstairs garage where this badly curated life museum dwells … If it didn't mean a thing, then what was the point? The pictures on the wall are gone, life moves on, but love and memory endure carefully swaddled in our brain."