We sold our house on Saturday night.
And it was a relief, to say the least, because we had already finalized the purchase of a different house on Friday night.
But while that window of time in which we owned two homes was excruciating (as were the five(!) days of back and forth and failed offers and complications) the fact that we are changing houses is not the full story.
The full story is that we are changing our lives.
But let me start at the beginning.
I was a bit of a hippie chick when I first met my husband Rob. I did not aspire to a big home or expensive things. I always envisioned my future self backpacking the world, tots in tow, based in a little city house surrounded by art and funky, creative friends.
And that’s the way it went for a while.
We fixed up a downtown row house just steps from one of Toronto’s main thoroughfares and we backpacked through Africa and South America. Even after we moved out of the city’s core to our current huge home, with its huge yard and suburban trappings, we continued to travel and even wrote, produced, and directed a short film that had some success on the festival circuit.
But that house, our house with all its attendant suburban trappings that at first we loved, started to become a monkey on our backs.
The thing about living in a big house with a big yard in a suburban neighborhood is that, as much as you might fight the transformation, you inevitably start to become the kind of person who lives in a big house with a big yard in a suburban neighborhood.
And I never felt like that person was me.
I am fiercely proud of my small-town roots. Anyone who frequents this space knows I am as comfortable tooling a float plane into my father’s fishing camp as I am socializing at a film wrap party in the heart of downtown Toronto. Cities and small towns: I love ’em both.
But it’s the in-between places I’m not crazy about.
A few months back when it became apparent to Rob and I that his beloved mother was very, very sick, it caused us to re-examine our priorities and our lives in short order.
And in short order we realized that we were working very, very hard and experiencing huge amounts of stress in order to maintain a home and a lifestyle that wasn’t making either of us very happy.
My parents live on a lake and own a motorboat, a float plane and a rustic fly-in fishing camp.Rob’s brother has a gorgeous lakeside cottage. We have a ton of camping equipment that every weekend gathers dust in our basement while we rush to complete hours of yard work and home maintenance in a vain attempt to relax and start enjoying weekend activities before mid-day Saturday.
Our current house is affordable, but just barely so. It’s certainly not affordable enough to allow Rob to relax and take in stride the inevitable ups and downs that come with being a freelancer in a volatile industry and it’s enough of a stretch that we must remain ever-vigilant on the financial front.
Being ever-vigilant? Is tiring.
In addition to the loss of Rob’s mom, during the past seventeen months we have weathered the sudden and untimely deaths of three work colleagues and friends who were all family men under the age of fifty—two in separate, horrific, freak accidents and one by his own hand.
In the face of so much unexpected, random loss it became crystal clear to us that life is short and so too must be our time spent pursuing anything not directly related to the health and happiness of our family.
There is stress in life that you can control. There is stress in life that you can’t control. We can, and we will, seize control of and excise from our lives, the things that stress us out.
That’s a picture of our new home. It is a large, new and (I think) chic townhouse.
It is within walking distance to great shops and restaurants and a short bus ride from the subway. It has a tiny, tiny backyard, but loads of style, a fabulous balcony and a great park with a wonderful children’s playground just 100 meters away.
Our new home will allow us to live virtually stress-free financially with a modest mortgage, zero debt and a hefty chunk of cash in a savings account.
It will allow us to shut the door and walk away: to be weekend warriors, to possibly travel longer term and to pursue whatever opportunities life throws at us.
And we are working to create those opportunities.
Our ski chalet, an investment property that we rarely use, is next on the chopping block. We don’t need more investments, we need more joy. When that property is sold we will look for a small house in the sunshiney place that we love and for where we are currently arranging work visas.
We don’t yet know if me or Rob or my three-year-old son or all of us will be there three weeks a year or three months. We don’t know if it will remain a vacation idyll or the place where we eventually make our home, but the weather and the strong arts and culture community there is extremely appealing.
And that is enough to compel us to dip our toes in the sand.
That is more than enough actually.
And I don’t care if our ultimate plan to follow our hearts sounds middle-aged crazy. We are taking control of our lives and our joy before we lose the nerve or the ability to do so.
We are committed to being fully present for our son and to showing him (and hopefully a sibling that, until now, we have apparently been too stressed and too busy to produce) that there is more than one way to organize your life and that the world is an exciting place full of adventure and beauty.
And to showing him also that his parents, for all their foibles, still possess the courage to live their lives with passion.
Photo courtesy of Don Mills Diva