Our house is pretty old, for Queensland. It is 120 years old, but it’s heart is 150 years old. That’s what special about our house. The original 1 room house was wrapped in a newer house at some stage. When you go underneath you can see the mismatch of timbers and joints between the two, and in the oldest part, we find hand-made nails. On the inside, part of the now-hall was once the verandah, and there is a cute proper outdoor window looking out from the oldest room to the hall, and the door from that room to the hall is an outside door, a simple hand-made front door with a key lock (the key long-lost).
My favourite parts of the house are that window and door, but also my perch on the back step. It’s kind of a humble place to sit, beside the loo pipe and the worst of the cracked paint, and all. But from this spot I can watch the chooks fuss about and I can wave at the neighbours as they pass. It’s a humble view: the view of the back yards-a-jumble of old cars (being worked on – or neglected) wild gardens, kids skating, clotheslines, veggies and chooks, bric-a-brac storage. It’s messy life and I like that.
Another part of the house I enjoy is the front verandah. The verandah is the coolest spot to be after about 11am. It is on the easternmost side, so is shaded by then and there is nearly always a good cooling breeze from the river. The verandah is wide enough for a full table and chairs and we all sit out here in the evening and eat our dinner. At first I felt a bit embarrassed about being in full view of the street, but if the neighbours thought it weird, they are now used to it and just smile and wave as they go past. My insomniac daughter also does yoga on the verandah in the middle of the night, in the dark. When I think of the verandah I realise how happy we are as a family here. It works.
Some parts of the house do suck though. The bathroom is too tiny to stand in with your arms spread wide, which is unpleasant. Also, the shower is made of asbestos and even though our builder said it was stable I hate looking at it, it gives me the creeps, so I don’t like to spend time in that room. And the kitchen is not suitable for tall people. We have all banged our heads on the cupboards when we wash up, and the stooping over the sink hurts our backs for ages afterwards. Just 1 little sink to wash up in, it’s pretty basic.
Sometimes I tell myself We really must do something about this! and get stressed out, especially about the asbestos. If I let myself, I will lie awake at night worrying about how much it will cost and imagining running out of money in the middle of renovations and having no toilet and the bank throwing us into the street and oh my god how are we all going to sleep in the car!! Getting myself into a state about it all. And this is where I use nonviolence to get me through. These are the things I can do…
I can breathe and be aware that I am breathing. Breathe in and out. Breathe in and calm my body, breathe out and smile (thank you Thich Nhat Hanh).
I can rephrase: We really could do something about the bathroom. And remind myself that it’s just a choice (thank you Landmark Education).
I can reach out and touch my house and be aware of the strength and character and love that lives here right now (thank you Marie Kondo).
I can think about the needs met and unmet by the house and in the space that opens up be free to consider alternate strategies to expensive renovations (thank you nonviolent communication).
So the really best part of the house is that there really is no need for me to suffer about this old house. I am free to enjoy her strength and character and quirkiness and her crumbling rambling shambles as well.