A week ago, if you’d have told me what I’d be blogging about today, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m not sure I believe it yet. Now, I’m a scientist by trade, and it just bunches my shorts when people twitter on about things like “Everything happens for a reason,” “It was meant to be…” In fact, I’ve blogged about that twice in my Platitude Culture posts: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/hidden-disabilities/2018/01/platitude-culture-type-aaaaaugh-if-youve-had-enough/, https://blogs.psychcentral.com/hidden-disabilities/2018/05/platitude-culture-ii-when-attempts-to-be-helpful-fail/. But this has all fallen together so neatly, it feels implausible and right at the same time.
You all know I had a major heartbreak recently when I wasn’t able to purchase a tiny house on Vancouver Island because I can’t get permanent residency in Canada, and I didn’t want to have to move the house from its idyllic location to the US 6 months after moving in. In reality, the house wasn’t perfect, it was workable. I could gerrymander the space into working for me, for a time. I would have outgrown it because the office and sleep space were one, and a reading chair wedged between the IKEA office loft bed and the wall would have been my entire living room. I’m a homebody; the builders lived their lives mostly outside the house. I really needed the “second floor” provided by lofting.
I attended a Tumbleweed Houses workshop in Vancouver, BC, in 2015. It cost a bloody fortune, because I stayed in the hotel where the workshop was held. My pre-crash MO would have been to stay in the hostel downtown and bus to the workshop, which would have necessitated getting up before dawn and missing all the evening activities. In my post-crash body, I can’t go to these things unless I stay on-site. I went on my 51st birthday weekend. My 50th was memorably the worst birthday since my 4th, when I had chicken pox. On my 50th, my dad’s memorial service had been the week before, and on the day of my birthday, I got the news that my cat, Nimby, had a recurrence of cancer and the new tumor was inoperable. I didn’t even care that my family pretty much shrugged off my 50th. I would only have been annoyed if they’d pretended there was anything to celebrate. So for my 51st, I threw myself a real birthday party at the hotel with my new Tiny House friends.
Four years later, I’d pretty much lost hope of doing anything with what I learned. My physical issues make building my own tiny house a laughable idea. My nearest land-owning friend was far enough away that it would have been impractical to try building on his property—I need such frequent breaks that I’d have built it in 2-hour shifts and finished sometime around my 60th. When the housing market heated up and my condo surfaced from 10 years of underwater mortgage to gasp for equity, I wanted to sell, but I had no place to go—the worst apartments in town cost more than my mortgage. Plus, when you have a hidden disability, the inertia is strong. You dig a groove with your daily routine and it’s much harder to make changes.
Then I found the tiny house in Errington, BC, that I tried to so hard to buy. People urged me to buy it and move in, and ask forgiveness rather than permission. Those people don’t know how high Canada’s virtual border wall is. I’d have been booted back across the border after my 6-month limit, with or without my house in tow. I realized on some level that while I’d have made the house work in Errington, it wasn’t ideal and if I’d placed it in the US, it wouldn’t have had the same appeal. I knew what I really wanted—a Tumbleweed with the 26-foot Equator floor plan; the stretch Escalade of tiny houses. That was simply out of reach. I steeled myself to remain stuck in Condoville. For the first time since my crash, the heap of injustices weighed me down and I became bitter. I skipped the annual holiday party with my friends because I felt too distanced from them. That party didn’t need an Eeyore with access to the punch bowl.
Then last Wednesday I got a text from Tumbleweed. They had a model in inventory that they wanted to unload for end-of-year clearance, and they were cold-calling their workshop participants. The text asked politely, “May we call you?” I said, “Yes. Yes, you may.” The phone rang minutes later and Jessica of Tumbleweed described my dream model. She emailed photos. It was exactly what I wanted, Equator floor plan and all, but it was still way out of reach. “Well, what would be the harm in applying then?” Jessica asked. None; there wasn’t much left of my heart to break. I was absolutely stunned when she called the next day to say two banks had pre-approved me. I still waited a few days to tell anyone; it was like a butterfly in my cupped hands. I was afraid the powder would rub off its wings and it would fall to the ground with the rest of my recent dreams.
Part of me thought, I can’t make a change like this instantly in midwinter, that’s nuts. The other part of me, the part that attended my physical therapy sessions and the part that was kicked into high gear by the mere suggestion of the word no, said “You’ve been training for this moment since you rode your bike to Eugene in 2007 (my first unsupported bike tour).” The crash and subsequent physical issues made it harder, but also more necessary. I can’t work enough to make the condo sustainable. At some point I have to stop the financial bleeding; my IRA is ischemic. I live as frugally as I can in this body, and it isn’t enough.
I wanted a hand in finishing my tiny, but you know what? Making curtains will be enough. I’ll build a “catio” with the help of a less-carpentry-challenged friend. It’s still a victory. This feels like the first time I rode my bike around the condo drive after the crash, tentatively gripping the handlebar with my reattached hand and leaning on my metal-reinforced arm—exhilarating and terrifying.
Over the next few weeks, you’ll hear more about this process. There are many facets to explore. My book, On Silver Wings: A Life Reconstructed, ends with the sentence, “I knew what I was made of and I looked forward to knowing who I was going to become, flying on Silver Wings.” Last night I asked my Facebook friends, “Who will I be when I’m not constantly complaining about my upstairs neighbors?” I look forward to knowing that too. As we say in my Seinfeld-obsessed family, “It’s a Festivus miracle!”