The woman who lives in my house runs with her dog every morning. She loves the quiet of that time and loses herself in thought or the book she’s listening to and never even realizes that an hour has passed of hard work. Back home, she slips back into the house, quiet, undetected, and eats yogurt and homemade granola or a fruit-filled oat wheat muffin she’s whipped up or slow cooked oatmeal (not instant). She showers, throws on a simple dress and clogs, and braids the hair that falls down her back. She reads the paper, fills her head up with ideas and information, and then sings- in a melodious voice- her baby awake. She has enough energy all day to meet her son’s needs while doing her work and is creative to boot. At night, she’s not too tired or brain dead to make an interesting, from scratch meal from the veggies she’s grown in her back yard. After one final round of playing outside, she easily and efficiently gets her son down before retiring to the front porch to rock or swing while reading some great book that has been hard for her to put down during the daytime.
For years, I met running buddies at the local YMCA to run first thing each morning. A few streets away from the Y, we’d take a turn down an oak-lined street whose families had lived there for decades and kept horses and cows in their backyards, despite the proximity to town. Just as we’d come to this one little cottage with its four big oaks, I’d sigh.
“I love that house,” I’d tell whoever I was running with and because I am a storyteller, because my imagination is always ready to paint a picture, I couldn’t help but imagine the woman that lived in that house. The woman who lived in the cottage was strong and athletic and simple and accessible and down to earth and earthy and always had flowers on her table. She was a good cook, but not fussy over what she put on the table. She wanted it to taste good, not look a certain way. She was a good neighbor, sharing zucchini fritters and extra eggplant and eggs with the neighbor. She spent a lot of time outside, gardening and painting, sitting in the grass to grade papers or write thank you notes. She could keep up a flower bed and loved the sight of February’s daffodils because they revealed promise for what was to come. She almost always had a pot of soup on the stove through winter. In the summer, she napped on the backyard hammock. She rode her bike to town if she was in a hurry, but her schedule was usually well-maintained enough that she had time to walk to town, instead.
Then the woman who lived in that house became me.
Just the other day, a friend was telling me that the little cottage was the house she imagined herself living in it, and that there was a whole life she would be living if she did.
“Yes,” I exclaimed, knowing exactly what she meant, and then I told her all about the woman who lived in my house. Or is supposed to live in my house. Because I do not run for an hour without realizing it. I run for five minutes and am aware of every second of it. My garden, planted with seeds this year, never took off, and I have so much stuff still on my to do list at night that I return to my desk as soon as the littlest kid (who sweetly asks me to sing more to him even though my tunes are not melodious) is down. I can count the times I sat on the porch this summer with two hands. I do take zucchini fritters and bread and muffins to the neighbors (check), but I haven’t painted in years, after spending a few years painting gifts for everyone around me, including all of my sister’s wedding thank you notes. My supplies are somewhere in our attic, long dried out from heat, I’m sure. Those four great oaks keep much else from growing on the lawn of the cottage, even grass, and sometimes, I’d sink into the hammock so terribly off balance that it threw me onto the yard so I quit trying. And though I spent hours of each day on my bike for years, my bike tires haven’t been filled with air since the little kid took up residence in the house, too.
But talking to my friend made me realize that I get to decide whether or not the woman who lives in my house actually does live in my house. And so I decided that she does, though she has shed a few of the things that were weighing her down in my last imagining of her. The very next day after that conversation, the woman who lives in my house really did get up to run with her dog by her side (I haven’t done this in years, the dog must have been thinking. And because the woman was listening to The Art of Racing in the Rain (which is told from the family dog’s perspective), the woman is now fairly certain that her dog very concretely thinks and opines). She came home forty minutes later surprised that forty minutes had passed and that she had run that long (the book on tape definitely helped). She made (instant) oatmeal and gobbled down an apple, and then greeted her baby with a big grin before riding the post runner’s high into her three hour teaching spiel on day 2 of class. When her little kid went to sleep, she did, too, because she really didn’t feel like scratching one more thing off her list. And just before she feel asleep, she reminded herself that she could always choose to be the woman who lived in her house because it was, indeed, after all those years of running past it and all these years of driving up to it each day, her house. And even one day in the future, when the littlest cottage is no longer her house, she can still be that woman. Because it is all really about what we imagine and decide for ourselves everyday.
So, who’s the woman that “lives in your house”, what’s her story, and has she made an appearance lately? What is holding her back from taking residence?