I’ve been busily unpacking and settling into the first home I’ve properly had since I left for the hospital four and a half years ago.
I had a deep feeling when I left that day that I wasn’t just saying see ya later to my pets and belongings, I was saying goodbye for good. It was the last time I’d see the man I’d married, too, but I had no way of knowing what the next few years would bring.
Medical complications and six more surgeries, learning to stand and walk again three separate times, experimental treatments, multiple stays in the ICU, and nearly dying…
His beginning relationships with and having children with multiple women while claiming I’d abused and abandoned him, and all l while I languished away at a hospital without his support, emotional, financial, or otherwise…
His moving to another state, leaving nearly $9,000 of damages to the property that had been thr last home I knew but not addressing it so it damaged my credit and rental history, not only taking all my belongings with him despite my pleas that he just leave them in a storage unit and send me the keys and the bill but also refusing to even share with me his new address, leaving me in a legal limbo of forced homelessness because a nonresidential hospital is not a legal residence…
When his threats and bullying were so much, so effective, that even my own lawyer was helping to try to force me to give him whatever he wanted while I was laying in the ICU having nearly died from anaphylaxis and seizing, I finally – finally – made a report for the domestic violence I’d endured with him since we’d wed, only for him to try to use civil divorce courts to force me to turn over all the evidence I had and redact the statements I’d made to the police…
All of this culminating two years later in a hearing that let him off while he built a new life with someone else and I still was left with the rubble from the the life he destroyed of ours, of mine.
I lived in seven temporary arrangements just trying to survive, to finish healing, and to start over in all that time. I had no place to call my home. I had places to lay my head, yes, but no place that was mine. Until now.
I’ve been working happily for a globally recognized company and just as I passed my first anniversary with them, I found the perfect crooked little cottage of my dreams tucked away in the Appalachian mountains in a village that could easily belong in a Hallmark Christmas romcom. Okay, maybe it isn’t perfect… It’s only one hundred fifty years old instead of five hundred, not in the English countryside, and doesn’t come with a handsome landowner gajillionare to fall in love with me, but it’s everything else I wanted with thick brick and stone walls, high ceilings, original plaster, a dungeon, er, I mean stone cellar that probably doesn’t have a skeleton, and corners that are charmingly not quite square but close.
I found this little hamlet last year when I started making a 200 mile round-trip jaunt to a hospital late last summer in preparation for my last surgery. It was an accidental discovery as I sought a local farm for fresh cream. It comes in milk bottles and is so fatty and delicious. But seeming it led me here and I found myself deliberately detouring with every trip just to enjoy the Gilmore Girls vibe of the seasons changing from summer to autumn to winter and again to spring.
The windows take in so much sunlight and I can’t get over the quiet and peace I feel inside, brightness in my home and my soul. The peace isn’t perfect and it definitely wavers at times, because how could it not with everything I’ve been through and lost?
But it is there nonetheless.
For years I’ve lived in a limbo marked by fear that what stability I had would be torn from me. For years I’ve longed to have my own space but was too sick to work enough to afford to. For years, I was abandoned and forsaken. For years, was stuck with the legacy he left me of debt and financial ruin, of untrustworthiness as a tenant, of people’s biases against a woman alone, against disability, and against survivors of domestic violence.
I may not have a couch or table yet, a bedframe, or other essentials, but despite him, despite everything that has happened, I’m grounded again and I did it without the help of a domestic violence organization, despite him and the threats I still get on behalf of him, and despite my own fears and anxieties. I may be lacking some things but I am not lacking the peace I feel in this crooked little cottage in the heart of Appalachia.
Sometimes peace is a gift given by a life free of trauma, I suppose, but sometimes it is won by fighting fiercely through the demons of your trauma, scaling the summits of your past, swimming the oceans of your fears, and fighting the feeling of a complete lack of control while falling, trusting that the canopy will open in time to save you from destruction. Somehow I’ve found it in a little cottage with no right angles and I didn’t finally win this space of my own by force but by fierce vulnerability and honesty when I told the owner the truth of my story from the moment I left my last home until now.