I lie awake watching pimple-popping videos at 3 am on move-in day. I was stressed about moving into our new home which was, as far as I was concerned, a dump. The disappointment was real, but the anxiety was in galactic.
The morning before, Friday, my husband and I sat in his car and debated who would run to QuikTrip—a gas station St. Louisans are obsessed with—for breakfast and who would stay with for the internet installation.
I volunteered to stay with the baby because that was most practical. Fifteen seconds later I burst into tears. I’ve cried a lot in life–well as much or less than any other woman–but there are few times the emotion exploded out of my head as it did in that moment.
So Monday, March 4, we excitedly went to the property management office to sign the lease on the house our mother-in-law had viewed for us. She had viewed several. Some good in bad neighborhoods, some bad in decent neighborhoods. This one was one of few decent in a decent neighborhood. We signed the lease before we saw the property ourselves.
We let ourselves into the duplex. The air was stale. It was dirty, but it wasn’t until I saw the water logged wood panels on the basement floor that my eyes were opened to the rest of the flaws as I worked my way back upstairs.
I was upset.
My mother-in-law had been worried we wouldn’t like the space. I assured her that if she liked it, we would love it.
My mother-in-law is the type of person that never looks a mess and pays when we go out to eat and lets us get appetizers and cocktails, only shops brand name. So I felt like her standards would be as high or higher than mine.
I was severely let down by the house but couldn’t tell her of course. And don’t you tell her either.
I texted the realtor about getting out of the lease, and I couldn’t understand why she didn’t understand why I didn’t like the house. I couldn’t understand any of this. She told me we would probably lose the deposit. That wasn’t exactly a deal breaker for me.
That evening my husband and I went back to the house to start cleaning. I opened a box of cleaning supplies from our old house and found some alcohol as well.
After taking a swig of the cherry cocktail syrup I took a healthy shot of vodka. I poured bleach in the sink while the water ran and began wiping down the kitchen.
There is something about someone else’s grime. Even if a house looks clean, unless it looks brand new, I have to clean the bathrooms for myself before I’m comfortable.
Writing this makes me feel the same anxiety I experienced cleaning the crud out of the tubing from the refrigerator shelf. That was the point at which my cup runneth over with stress. I called my husband to come and finish cleaning the refrigerator shelf for me because I could not ‘even’ any longer.
What would I do instead? Pace the living room until I burst into tears. Just like a child, I cried because of fatigue, emotional fatigue. At that time, I was crushed I would have to spend the next 13 months in that place. I was so deeply disappointed.
You know how those girls break down on America’s Next Top Model when they have to get their waist-length hair chopped off? That was me.
Up until now, my housing had gotten better and better. Grew up in apartments, each apartment in St. Louis better than the last, ample counter space and a carport at Fort Bragg, and somehow I graduate to a stained toilet and a built in microwave from 1995. I have never seen a microwave like this.
So I called my mom on FaceTime and sobbed, and I mean boohooed with a level of drama rivaling my son. After the stresses of leaving Fort Bragg and all the cleaning and preparing I had to do, it was unfair I was going to have to do even more to feel comfortable in the next place on top of moving all my stuff in. This is where I was in life.
If you ask any of my friends, I was overreacting, the house was fine. I wanted to believe that, but I wasn’t choosing my emotions. They were occurring on a cellular level.
You know how the other girls usually tell the Top Model contestant how fierce she looks, but she still cries? This.
On the Friday of the internet installation, we piddled around the house and took turns sitting in the one camping chair I thought to bring. My son entertained himself with a mysterious black box affixed to the wall while my husband called to check on the four work orders he already put in.
The gravity of my predicament weighed me down and the emotions bubbled up again. This time my feelings had edges. I grabbed hold as I sobbed into my husband’s chest. I knew why I was upset.
Yeah, I didn’t like the house, but there were many other things I should have been upset about but weren’t on my mind.
I was not onboard months ago when my husband started talking about getting out of the Army and moving back to St. Louis. Four years and no additional marketable skills for either of us; it seems like we were picking up where we left off, as thirty-year olds.
I could tell I was crying because I felt like I was going backwards, economically anyway. Showing up in town with worse housing, less money in the bank, less qualifications, and no six-pack.
We couldn’t afford a place with a better microwave. But when I was 25 had choices. Even though we each drive an SUV paid for in cash, I felt badly. Were those purchases bad money moves?
But the real problem was that if I had I not quit my job in July, we wouldn’t be in this predicament either. So not only did I feel badly in general, I felt responsible and guilty.
My husband wasn’t fazed by the condition of the place or the lack of freedom in our budget, but I felt I had taken something away from him as well as myself.
But then again, I quit for a reason. I have a plan. This is a moment in time before my entrepreneurship dreams are realized. Should I have stayed at my job and been beat down by stress and busyness? Or was it right to take a chance at true happiness and freedom? The latter of course, but then here I am. I cried because this is where life had brought me. So many options and so many outcomes; and yet so little control.
Okay, at this point, I can admit I overreacted—the house isn’t that bad—however, I stand by my response. It was organic.
The house has a ton of space and a ton of storage. The rooms are big. There is a charming patio area off the front and a full deck on the side. IT’S MOMENTS AWAY FROM A QUIKTRIP. The wood floors and layout give it a classic look, along with a beautiful fireplace without instructions. I would say it was a gorgeous place to live twenty years ago.
The main issue is that the house gave me the impression of being neglected. As high maintenance and detail-oriented as I am, to stay in place like this feels incongruent with who I am as a person.
It was not clean, the painting is rough, and none of the fixtures or appliances would be considered “nice” by any means. Those are my primary complaints.
But worst of all was this built in shelving unit–which I found hideous in the photos—that caused me to start up a new round of heaving every time I caught sight of it while weeping on the phone with my mom.
But I should be able to paint that.
Had the house been clean, the issues may have hit me differently. And I think if the bathrooms had been in better shape, I could have forgiven everything else.
So my mom came and cleaned the place on Saturday– floors, baseboards, surfaces. After a day of coughing and wondering if I was getting sick, I could breathe easier when I arrived on Sunday. She also started the process of refinishing the porcelain on the kitchen sink and bathtub.
Clean, with a bright white sink, door knobs sanitized, and all my stuff in it…I still wasn’t comfortable.
So I’m overreacting, but imagine you have ordered a cheeseburger at a nice restaurant you found on Yelp. It looked amazing on the menu, but you take a bite and realize there is a fingernail in your mouth. Even if you remove the fingernail, you probably won’t be able to eat the rest of the burger or trust anything else from that establishment.
But that’s all you have to eat for the next 391 days. You would cry too.
Someone is going to tell me to focus on the positives and be grateful. I am there, but I can’t deny my true feelings.
You know how in horror movies, the scary thing is coming there is always one weakling who cowers in fear and freezes, and the other person snatches them to safety? The former is me and the latter my husband.
Move-in day finally came on Saturday, ten days after we moved out of North Carolina because the moving company ended up with extra stops. I was in a bad way but knew that as a woman, I would just have to stand in my feelings and deal.
It was raining. And we couldn’t reach the neighbors to have them move their car. For a brief moment I thought maybe it wasn’t meant for us to move in, but alas, my neighbor got out of the shower and moved his car.
Brief aside, the day before–when I had a fit before going into the house–I met the wife from next door. She was a black woman with crimped crochets in her hair, and no make up. She smelled good. She was very friendly and pleasant, but since I was going through something, I said she seemed busy and that I would talk to her later, to which she replied “I’m not busy!” So we exchanged numbers and that was a bright spot in such a bleak moment.
Weak with anxiety, I sat in the camping chair and scrolled through Facebook comments. In response to Dave’s note, I messaged him to let him know we would love to see him and his wife. They came quickly with paper towels, soap and breezy attitudes.
I was grateful for their presence when the movers couldn’t get my washer and dryer through the door…and then my couch. I heard my husband say “can we take it to a dumpster?” I rubbed my neck feverishly and wrung my hands.
Even though we have yet another set of furniture being handed down to us just as soon as my husband’s mom’s ex-husband sells his house, it was troubling to lose a valuable piece of my home.
My anxiety was high, but things were crazy so that wasn’t crazy. My mom cleaned and unpacked boxes while we were gone for the night. The next morning the house was cleaner and looked like a home…and I was still freaking out.
Andrew came to load the washer and dryer in his truck and take them to my mother-in-law’s storage. Megan cleaned the ceiling fans. Amber helped unpack. I felt so much better after an afternoon with all them and all my mom had done.
We went to dinner and the anxiety was still there when we returned.
The anxiety I had initially was the same as some of us experience when we find our hotel room is subpar and don’t want to touch the floor or comforter. I assume that isn’t just me.
The house isn’t so bad. My husband has vowed to harass management until several things are fixed. Almost all the grime is gone, and my things are in place.
Yet I still don’t care about making this place pretty.
But I realize it’s not just about the house or how I have failed as a college graduate. The house is just where I have channeled all my feelings.
First of all, it feels like I have to be a wife, mom, daughter-in-law, and friend for the first time. I have had these relationships on ice for all these years, but now I actually have to be in them real time. Yes, I’ve been a wife, but the game is changing. I have been a mom but without an audience.
And I didn’t really grieve leaving Fort Bragg. I had my moment but not what I anticipated. I’m sad it didn’t work out for my husband, I’m sad I’m leaving friends, I’m unsure about starting over. Do you think I might be feeling those feelings right now too?
I am disappointed because my Army house was better than my real life house, but I realize I wouldn’t be crushed like this if I showed up to a military house and it wasn’t as nice as the previous one.
I would be mad at the Army and complain to my wife friends, and it would just be part of the experience. Just like not being able to find a good job.
But everything I have on the outside is directly related to me and my choices. That hits differently. I am responsible for my life.
Autonomy is exactly what I wanted but also what I bear in this moment.
I can imagine leaving the military isn’t this complex for other people. But I’ve said it 10 times: I’m over-analytical. And maybe other individuals don’t experience this combination of stressors. Or maybe they do and just cry and eat carbohydrates and move on.
There is hope. I have hope that I will get more comfortable in my house Heck, I already have over the days it has taken me to write this. But alas, I still am not 100% and feeling inadequate as a partner because of the stress.
Nevertheless I am in love with being back in St. Louis. I can see my family and friends and am optimistic about meeting new people. There is always good and bad, but overall, this is good.