Two Julys ago I danced, headphones blaring, spreading a roller filled with paint over dingy greyed apartment walls. The walls were transforming into a brighter shade of winter snow, hoping to bring bright into the basement apartment which relied on only one glass door window for daylight.

I had spent months painting walls, beside my husband. We had tiled a kitchen, restored a fireplace and stood distantly side-by-side as we turned a house we were impartial to, into a home for our family. This last bit, an apartment for my mother, felt bigger than a paint job.

Two years ago I was seeing a counselor weekly. I was on the verge of an internal emotional collapse due the impending changes happening in my family, and in my home. My mother was coming to live with me. My mother, whom I had not actually lived with since I was twelve. My mother, our history of severe abuse and neglect spread like a chasm of complication and fear between us. She stated that coming to live with me sounded like hell to her, and if I were being honest, I felt the same. Instead I lied to myself and anyone who would listen about how I simply wanted her last days on earth to be happy and healthy ones. I picked up the responsibility of healing the relationship between us and carried it all alone. This, while distance grew by the day between my husband and I. He was my partner, my very best friend and I had no idea how to process such an unexplained gap. This house, and the impending arrival of my mother sat between us like a foul toad, squatting and promising to destroy everything it touched. Life felt hard, heavy, with air dank and thick. My flight or fight instinct kicked in roughly two years ago. I had to fight for everything I loved, or get out. I knew it as well as I understood anything. What I did not understand was the distance between Chw & I, or how to repair it. I did not understand how to walk in steps without him really present by my side. I did not understand how to approach and deal with this thing regarding my mother. Who am I kidding, before that house I felt competent and capable, but in that house I did not really know much of anything at all.

I flew. I disappeared into school on an impulse decision and lost myself into the healing of an unhealthy friendship because there I understood exactly where I fit in. While every day confirmed to me that my husband, my daughter (at home) and my mother were the people who liked my presence the least, this friend needed me. I knew where I stood with him. We did not have the sort of relationship that betrayed my marriage, though honestly I was so desperate for someone to actually find me of value- it could have happened. I was like a person living so far outside of their actual life, numb to the realities of what happened and just getting through each day.

My life fell apart, and I am sad to say my counselor was very instrumental in everything. From the losing myself in the friendship, to the personally pushing distance between my husband and I. By the time a few months had passed, I was only listening to two people- the mental health professional I relied on, and the only person who seemed to think I was worth anything. I felt like I was daily dying to be loved.

It has been a really long two years. It is hard to believe that Chw and I were only physically separated for 6 months, it felt like years. Years of heartache, years of life experience and years of growth and healing within myself.

This July I chose paint colors for the walls of our new home. (it’s a rental, though long-term. I’ve learned the lesson of buying houses in Michigan. Two huge financial failures, and I’m secure in a lease, thank you very much.) I unpacked boxes and displayed family photos as though they were precious art. The reality struck me that the last time I put together a home, was that house, those two years ago. I both loved and hated that house. Seeing the new buyers change things is both bitter and sweet. While new homes should feel full of possibility, that home never really did. For two years I have wandered internally, wishing for balm to soothe aches and hurts, devastation and broken trusts. For two years I have felt stranded and abandoned. The last year of that had me finally sleeping in the same bed every night, though temporary. loss and turmoil were the interior design of choice then.

This time around there is simply home. My soul needed the roller on wall to reset the purpose behind such acts. The process, the newness, the fresh paint scented creation of some place good.

It has been one literal hell of a journey, but I finally feel home. Home is not walls and a roof, nor is it a destination. Home is simply a place of peace and rest, and a shelter for the growth life takes us through.

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