Sea Salt. It’s something that I never thought would bring me to tears or cause my throat to feel choked. It’s been a long process emptying the house that was our home. We watched it be built, chose the hardware, designed the kitchen, and where we grew from a family of five to a family of six. It was also where we decided to separate, told our children we were getting divorced, and where many tears were shed.
I have moved out of the house that I dedicated multiple Pinterest boards to and into an apartment. The apartment presented itself with a bit of magic. It’s in the perfect location; close to my kids’ school, an easy spot for their dad to drop them off in the mornings before school or pick them up after work. The apartment gives me conflicting feelings that I am continuing to work through. I have been reminded of why I dislike apartment living with its shared walls, breezeways, and neighbors who live above us. At the same time, I am so grateful to have somewhere safe for my children to live. They are enjoying have pool access, but still ask when we are going home.
Home. They miss their friends. They miss having their own rooms that were painted in colors they chose. They miss their bikes, their trampoline, and the backyard that they explored for countless hours. We all miss our bullmastiff that had to go live with their Dad because she was over the weight limit for the apartment complex. It’s been an adjustment going from 2100 square feet to 1100 square feet. I’ve given away, sold, and left many things that I simply do not have room for. My dining room table, although terribly scratched on the seats by the cats, doesn’t fit in the apartment’s small dining nook. It was one of the first new pieces of furniture that my ex and I ever purchased. I remember it being delivered and set-up. We hosted Thanksgiving for the first time that year; our table being the star of the show.
Trying to follow the Marie Kondo “thank it and let it go” mentality has been hard because, deep down, I don’t want to let it go. I want my table. I want my house with the walls that I agonized color choice over. The walls that were painted as we sang Hamilton loudly and off-key. I miss my deep kitchen sink and my abundant counter-top and cabinets. I miss my laundry room that wasn’t an odd shape and that allowed me to easily load and unload clothing. I miss my walk-in closet and the gorgeous Sea Salt walls that I painted the master bedroom. I found myself longing for the ability to go sit on the back patio, swinging as the night looms and the frogs sing. I miss the possibilities. Walking through the store a few days ago, my son announced that he thinks we should plant a garden for vegetables. The hurt he felt was apparent as he told me to never mind; we can’t plant one because we aren’t living in a house anymore. Maybe, he added, he can plant one at Daddy’s house.
As I’ve unpacked, I’ve tried to make this feel like home. I’m trying to hang pictures and art back on the walls, but it feels empty. They don’t look right against the boring beige walls compared to the way they complimented the blue-grey walls in the living room in the house. Some of the feelings are deeper, darker, and hurt to work through. A large part of me is embarrassed to now admit that I live in low-income housing. Trying to dismantle the shame that creeps up feels impossible some days. It causes my throat to tighten and my chest to ache because this was something I never wanted for my children. Despite all our issues, my ex and I wanted to make sure our children had a good childhood; one that was happy and filled with the opportunities that we never had. I hate that I can’t sign my five-year-old up for dance this year; I simply can’t afford it. The after-school clubs that my oldest daughter and son enjoyed last year won’t be happening again this year.
Last year as I school-shopped for my kids, it was fun and exciting. This year has been stressful and full of tough decisions. What school supplies do they absolutely need to start out the school year? Can I swallow my pride again to email the school and request help with some of the Waldorf supplies that I just can’t manage to find the money for? My older two still need shoes for this school year and my kindergartener needs a rain-coat and nap mat. Last year, an $18 nap mat would have already been purchased and washed, possibly even embroidered with her name. It now sits in my Amazon cart taunting me because I can’t afford to click check-out. The child support that I received last Friday is already gone. Keeping the electricity and water on took a huge chunk of it; what’s left is going straight to rent. This leaves me with roughly $50 to survive until next Friday. That money was borrowed from my sister.
$50 doesn’t seem that bad until I remember that my gas light is on in the van. We live in Florida—it’s August—and the air conditioning in my van isn’t working. I need an oil change; I’m already 1,000 miles over. The internet is going to be shut-off soon. It’s not that I’m horrible with money; there just simply isn’t enough. Now that three of the kids will be back in school full-time, I’ve begun looking for a job. I received a conditional employment offer and will go to fill out paperwork on Monday. If everything works out, then it will make the difference between being able to live and just scraping by. I chant this in my head as I try not to cry. This is an overnight shift; the kids, including the baby, will have to spend three nights a week with their Dad. As of today, the almost-two-year-old has only spent one night away from me. Pour more guilt and shame into my growing paradoxical emotions.
I want to grab this opportunity with both hands and hold onto it tightly. I sternly remind myself that this will let me pay off the amount I owe on last semester and it will let me go again in the Spring. It will let me pay bills. It will allow me to buy Christmas presents and birthday presents. I will be enough. I can do hard things. Sometimes, it feels like I’m lying to myself. Right now, I don’t feel like I can do hard things. I don’t feel like enough for anyone. It feels like I’m failing at everything and that my descent is gaining speed rapidly. The momentum grows and I begin to doubt if I will ever be able to stop this.
I am going to unload my van. I will bring in the boxes from the house and stash them somewhere. I will find my journal, pen, and sunglasses. I think I will go sit on the beach, hoping the waves calm my soul enough so I can pour all my emotions and thoughts onto paper. Maybe I’ll find some peace in the consistence of the tides. Maybe there will be a bit of hope that I can grab and hold tightly in my hand. Maybe I’ll begin to feel like I can do hard things again. I can’t have my Sea Salt walls back, but maybe I’ll find some comfort in the salty sea air that I will pull into my lungs as I step foot in the salt water that caresses the shore. Here’s hoping.