Envied

A friend whose life was recently disrupted told me she almost envied me. The “almost” was because of how I got to this place in my life. The death of my life mate/soul mate and other family members, the years of not knowing where to go or what to do, and the need to start over are all the unenviable things that pushed me in this direction.

Her comment made me realize that if I weren’t me, I’d almost envy me too. I seem to have reached a balance in my life. No great emotional swings, just a quiet contentment punctuated by a brief sad spell now and again. I still tend to occasionally get caught in a mind trap (you know — when a disgruntlement gets stuck in your head, and it keeps going around and around and around, and doesn’t seem to be able to find its way out). And I do have small infirmities that slow me down (such as knees that don’t work as well as they once did). And sometimes I get restless from being so settled down.

But balancing all of that is . . . a place for me. Not just a room of my own, but a whole house of my own. A place to be me. A place where I get to set the rules (or to set no rules). A place I can count on being for years to come.

And not just a house, but a community.

I don’t count the cost of how I got here since it wasn’t a choice, trading a life mate for a house. It was simply that he died, and years later, I unexpectedly ended up with a house. (Oddly, the other day, I found myself wandering through the house wondering where we’d put his office and all his things, as if his living here were a possibility. But it was just an idle sort of “what if.” Not a grief thing.)

I never expected to love a house. It makes me feel good, owning this house, like wrapping a great warm blanket around my life.

So far, I feel safe inside the house, though certain neighbors make me leery, which is why I fenced the property. There is still a part of the back fence that isn’t finished since it will pass close to the as yet unremodeled garage (though the contractor is here at the moment working, and he plans to be here all next week. Yay!). I used a large board to block off the space between the fence and garage to keep people and dogs away, and someone stole the big board and left a smaller board in its place. Huh? Still mystifies me. But it does show me I was correct to have a fence installed, and once it’s completed, and the gates locked at night, I’m sure I’ll feel even safer.

So yes, though I never considered myself someone to be envied, I am envied, if only by me.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Living in a Gated Community

Four years ago, I rented a room in a modular house in a 55+ gated community, and the experience gave me the creeps. Although the people I generally hung around with were older than me, I didn’t like being forced into an area with only retired folks. It seemed too segregated. That these people were a mixed lot, all colors, nationalities, and opinions, did not mitigate their age-related sameness.

I vowed never to live in a gated community, and yet here I am:

In my defense, these gates enclose a community of one — me. (Can one person be a community? It seems rather oxymoronic.)

When I moved here, I liked that only a portion of the backyard was enclosed. It didn’t intimidate me the way a large yard would have; it was less yard to take care of, and I am not a fan of lawn pampering. When the safety factor of a fence was pointed out to me, I had to agree that fencing the whole place was important. After all, this is my old age home, and the person I am now has to look after the person I will become.

As it turns out, I like the fence. I like having a large yard. I like looking around and greedily thinking, “This is mine!” At least it’s mine for now. Obviously, I can’t take the property with me after I’m gone, so it’s more that I have a life tenancy. Which is okay. That’s all I need.

Most of my life, I have done without. In a culture that seemed bent on accumulating as much as possible, I tried to keep my possessions to a bare minimum. Now, when the fad is to get rid of one’s excess and to declutter, I am cluttering.

Still, part of the decluttering movement is about keeping things that bring you joy, and seeing my things after so many years of being in storage, seeing my pristine kitchen and my cozy living room with its beautiful furniture, seeing my winter-brown yard, all make me smile. Even something so mundane as those gates make me smile.

Yep, a whole lot of smiling going on in this little gated community of one!

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Don’t Fence Me In

Oh, wait. Do fence me in! At least do so if you are the people putting up my new fence.

I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of fencing myself in — I worried I would feel a bit like a prisoner, and I worried it would cause problems with the neighbors since the fence would cut off some of the access to their vehicles. But I do like the safety factor, even if it is mostly an illusion.

This town is a mixture of the good and the iffy, with less than 50% of the houses owner occupied. The street where I live is wonderful, though there have been instances of people walking off with stuff that doesn’t belong to them, more homeless are moving to the area, and the drug dealers are quite blatant. One drug dealer lives on the corner, and a couple of drug dealers supposedly got in a gunfight in the rental across the alley right before I moved here. (The rumor is that one of the guys killed the other, but the dead guy has been seen on the streets of a nearby town, and the killer was never arraigned. They say he could have been a cop or agent checking out the local drug situation.)

To my surprise, I feel good about the fence, and not just because it will protect against impulse theft, keep dogs out, and deter the reprobates. I think my neighbors have come to an acceptance, not of the fence, but of my need for the fence. (Whew!) And I don’t feel at all as if I’m fenced in, at least not in a bad way. It feels as if I am claiming my territory, and expanding my home into the outside.

When I moved here, only a fraction of the backyard was fenced, and originally, I liked the idea of a small yard, but it turns out I like the big yard even better. Although it’s only about 1/6th of an acre, this property feels quite substantial with the little fence out and the big one in. It will feel even more substantial when the garage is done and the carport out. (Right now, it sits in the middle of my backyard.)

I’m so looking forward to planting flowers and bushes and whatever else I can think of to make my outside “room” as livable and homey as my inside rooms.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.