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my secret garden

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A few months ago, as I was scanning Craigslist postings for a place to live, my eyes suddenly met with an intriguing caption: “In-town Apartment in Grand Queen Anne Victorian… private garden-like grounds… bamboo forest… rooms with 13′ ceilings… original woodwork… vintage fireplaces… too unique to fully describe.” My heart leapt! And then the dreaded (all too familiar), “cats are welcome.” My heart sank. Needless to say, my beloved 14 year old shih-tzu companion and I are a package deal. I’d rather live in a shoebox with him than without him, which we actually did in Texas… a 450 sq. ft. box to be exact, and we were blissfully content.

Oh well, who wants to pay rent to dog haters anyway? It was also a tad out of my price range… and I swore I’d never live in an apartment again, especially not one without a washer and dryer. But at the same time, I knew this place would go fast, it was less than a mile from my new job, and on one of the most beautiful, historic avenues in town. And it did make my heart leap… I try never to ignore that feeling. Before I knew it I was typing a polite plea, explaining that my darling furry friend was in fact more like a cat than a dog (true story), one that doesn’t even shed. The posting had also indicated a subtle aversion to college students, so I made a point to explain my status as a quiet, responsible working professional.

Two weeks passed with no response, during which time I felt forced to look into some other possibilities. I found an immaculate loft space in a gorgeous historic home, much smaller than the Victorian apartment but slightly less expensive, and so artistically renovated it could easily grace a magazine cover. The owner was an architect; we quickly hit it off and it seemed like a sure thing, until I mentioned my little buddy. Nope, no go, no exceptions. What the hell is wrong with people?! I had to strain so hard to keep the hot tears hidden, my eyeballs almost popped out. Defeat.

The next place I checked out was also an old home with a crooked front porch and peeling, shabby chic paint. In the words of my practical mother, “People in Athens sure do pay a lot to live in crappy old houses.” So true. “It’s all about character,” I told her… she rolled her eyes. But this house happened to be right on the greenbelt… a six mile running path to a nature center. I started to feel a little spark returning, but when I excitedly told a friend the location, she made a face. “Is that area safe?” she asked. I knew it wasn’t entirely, but I was getting desperate. We decided to go for a run on the running path by the house before my appointment to scope out the area. The run was a disaster. I was sure we were going to get mugged or kidnapped in broad daylight. I cancelled the viewing immediately after, in tears again, wondering why I’d left Texas.

Time was running out, and I was starting to feel the strain from a number of factors. For one, my new job was off to a crawling start and therefore only part-time, with a promise but no guarantee of when it would become full-time. I was subleasing a tiny house (it was old, minus the character) for the short duration of two months, so I didn’t bother unpacking or decorating. It basically felt like camping indoors with a bathroom. I had decided that within those two months, I could find another more permanent place, or jump ship altogether and move somewhere else if I didn’t want to be in GA after all… I was scanning job postings in every corner of the country daily.

I knew that leaving room for this major indecision would keep me suspended in a very unsettled state (it has), but I’ve grown accustomed to feeling this way over the past few years. It seems strange, but I’ve learned to find comfort in the discomfort. Feeling insecure in the direction my life is going forces me to practice patience, especially when faced with the inherent pressures of this life stage. At a time when most of my friends have planted permanent roots and started having babies, I chose to start over. But I’ve never regretted my decision. I’ve felt stronger and more like myself each day since the moment I realized there was something better for me… I just didn’t know what. And truly, there’s tremendous power in the unknown… not knowing has taught me more about opening my heart and faith-based living than I could ever dream.

But, I can tell I’m growing weary, which means a turning point is approaching. I feel such an intense mixture of desires and longings… wanting to ground and establish myself in a good place, to feel secure, like I belong somewhere… coupled with an anxious urgency to never settle for less than I want, to make the most of this time in my life, to continue exploring and seeking. My feet are stepping in two different directions, unwilling to commit to either. While I enjoy the excitement of new possibility, at some point I must make a choice. I know I’m here for a reason, to learn more lessons, so I’ve decided to quiet my adventurous spirit (for now) and work on committing to being here. I’ve also gotten very far off topic…

In one last ditch effort, I sent a second email to the “Grand Victorian,” and this attempt met with success. I could tell by the response the owners were actually in no hurry to rent the place; they were waiting for the right fit. I met with the owner’s wife and instantly felt a unique connection. Within a few words, we were openly sharing far more than you typically would with a stranger. I felt the same casual, relaxed energy all around and throughout the house. She said the house was very special to them, like a secret garden. I was sold.

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I’ve moved seven times in the past three years, since I was 28, and never in my life have I felt more at peace. I’ve fallen in love with my new home, and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else right now. The beauty of this place speaks to me, telling me I’m right where I need to be. For the first time, I find myself taking the time and care to fill each room with objects that hold special meaning, so that I’m always surrounded with love and protection. I’m creating an environment around me that reflects my soul, that touches my heart.

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001005 I can’t say that both feet are decidedly planted, I still feel homesick for a place I have yet to discover, but being here brings some security while I continue to allow life to unfold. In all of this, somehow I still have no doubt I will find what I’m seeking, and I’ll look back on this time with wistful, dreamy remembrance. I’ll know the years of uncertainty were all worth it, to get me to this place. I can’t see it yet, but my heart knows where I’m going. I’ll get there in time, and have gratitude for each moment along the way.

“At some point in the journey, we may become tired, weary, and confused. Homesick. All the mountains, the scenery, the food, the people, the experiences just don’t do it for us anymore. We want to go home. What am I doing here? we wonder. Nothing worthwhile is happening. Yet another part of us knows the truth and whispers, Yes, something is happening, something worthwhile

Feeling homesick is part of the journey. It can mean we’ve reached a turning point. When we get to that place, it means the journey has really begun.” – Melody Beattie

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