Before the summer began, my wife and I found a house we fell in love with. It was perfect, it had everything we ever wanted or needed in a home. It had beautiful open spaces for entertaining, a pool, a built-in outdoor kitchen, detached mother-in-law suite and was in a beautiful friendly neighborhood with bars, shopping and restaurants – all within walking distance.
We put in an offer and it was accepted. We were getting our dream home. We listed our current house and it sold very quickly. We would be moving in the first week of June while our kids were on summer break. We were beaming. We visualized the colors we would paint the walls, the decorations we would use, the new furniture we would buy, we even purchased beautiful modern wood flooring in advance. We took our kids to see it, took pictures outside and drove past it regularly. We even started frequenting the restaurants in the area.
Visualizing the end result? Done. Imagining all of the details? Done. Acting as if? Done.
No doubts, no fears. It was ours.
But then, it wasn’t. Through a series of mishaps including an appraisal on the home coming in way too low for the sellers to accept, we lost the house. We lost – what we thought was our dream home – a week before moving into it.
“Then there must be something better out there for you guys.” Everyone told us. We couldn’t imagine what that could possibly be.
We were broken-hearted, shocked and in disbelief.
My wife’s father and step-mother were compassionate and gracious to let us stay with them while we started the housesearch all over again. With no house to move in to, we loaded every room in our office to the ceiling with boxes and furniture, then packed a few suitcases with clothes for us and the kids and took them to my in-laws. Since most of the kids toys were boxed up, we bought them each Lego sets at least once a week to keep them occupied. This very well may be remembered by them as “The Summer of Lego”.
We scrambled to look at every home in the area that met our criteria and was still close to the kids school. Within two weeks, we must have seen 100 homes online and forty in person. There were times that we saw six or seven houses on the same day.
We eventually agreed on a house we saw that was on a golf course with a lake view, and after a few weeks began to let go of the pain of the lost dream house and allow excitement to build for the golf course home.
The unthinkable happened….. again.
Another series of mishaps including another low appraisal and sellers being unwilling to bend – and boom, we lost that house as well.
Again, everyone told us: “There must be something better for you guys out there.” Hearing this for a second time after living out of suitcases for nearly two months offered little to no comfort, even though we desperately wanted to believe it.
With heavy hearts and with an attitude at times that I’m less-than-proud-of, the search started over – again.
Maybe one of the hardest parts was being asked by our children why we don’t have our own place to live, as well as pointing out random apartments and communities as we drove past them saying “That one will do Daddy, we can just live there, can’t we?”
What happened next was amazing. We came across a house that is vastly more beautiful than any of the others, even the original “dream house” pails in comparison. As a matter of fact, it is like a conglomeration of all of the greatest features we saw in the many of the nicest homes on our search.
It is, dare I say, perfect?
We don’t yet have the keys, however many lessons were learned over this “homeless summer”.
And here they are:
1. We are not the sum of our “things.” Not having any of your own space, and living daily without the personal belongings that make you comfortable is challenging. Think about it. The things on your bedside table, your routines. Eating, cooking, exercise. The art on your walls and not having to put clothes on to walk through the house or use the bathroom at 2 am. These things provide a sense of comfort. A sense of home.
After a few weeks I didn’t feel like myself. We can often allow ourselves to be defined by our things as they reflect our unique personalities. Who was I without my things?
Do they define us? For the first few weeks, I thought so – at least a little – but as more time passed living without all the things around that were uniquely “me” I realized they didn’t. I define me. I was me before “things” and I am me without them. I just am.
It took being without, to have a deeper understanding of what was within.
Which brings me to lesson number two.
6. You find out how loved and supported you really are. At times of stress or challenge, friends and family have an opportunity to show you how much you mean to them. People came out of the woodwork and went above and beyond to help us, love us, support us and generally try to make our lives easier. Gifts of love came in all forms. A place to stay, cooking us dinner, inviting us to game nights, and sleepovers, to watching our kids and offering up their homes and garages to store our belongings. Through this process we have become closer to so many as well as gained a deeper understanding of what being a friend truly means, from our closest friends.
A heartfelt thank you to all who contributed. You know who you are.