I am beginning to think this time of year is hurricane season in my life. Almost two years ago exactly, I sat for hours in a dark, bolted-down shipping container behind a waterfront resort in Fiji. My heart raced and throat caught as I spent that time wondering if I would survive what turned out to be the strongest hurricane in the history of the Southern Hemisphere, Cyclone Winston. As I heard water that shouldn’t have been there thrashing against the sides of the container—the only thing standing between me and the Category 5 winds that sounded like a locomotive barreling down upon us—everything seemed uncertain.
This time around, the hurricane was figurative. It started on New Years Eve, as, once again, the water crept in where it wasn’t supposed to be. Sure, this time the water was limited to my laundry room, and was much less foreboding in the literal will-I-live-or-die sense—but, in some ways, it seemed only a couple of degrees less so emotionally.
Just a month after my daughter’s birth, the two of us unexpectedly found ourselves alone when her father and I broke up. What has followed over the course of the past six months has, in many ways, been the happiest and most fulfilling period of my life. But the stresses of life have become something entirely different than they were before, because it’s not just me. It’s Izzy, too.
In November, the heat in our rental broke. It stayed off for an entire month, as Izzy and I slept downstairs on the couch. Despite the fact that it was a pretty horrible experience (not to mention a very cold experience because, as it turns out, the house also has no insulation), I tried to remain as cool and understanding as possible in my dealings with the property manager. The rental market in this town is really jammed, and I was scared of causing problems that would result in the lease not being renewed.
It wasn’t just the heat being out, though. The property manager is a disaster, and, as a result, I literally had one heating guy yell at me on the phone because he was sick of them trying to fix something that was unfixable, and just needed to be replaced.
Then, on New Year’s Eve, less than a month after the heater was replaced, the sewer line went out. “Well, they’ll fix this quickly after the whole heating fiasco,” I thought. Nope. Not the case at all. Another month went by as I lived in a literal shit show.
This time I was infuriated, not just because of an incessantly broken house (which I continued to pay full rent for), but also because my property manager was incredibly rude. Like, incredibly. I am a creature of comfort. I need a home that feels welcoming, and cozy, like a safe haven. This home was not that. Not even close.
I reached my limit when, after a month of a broken sewer line, my property manager made me cry. I have been renting for twenty-two years, and have never once run into a situation remotely like this. Why is this happening? I couldn't help but wonder. Haven't we been through enough in the past few months?! In a real state, I logged on to Craigslist, where I had by then already memorized every house for rent in the greater Sacramento area.
But there it was … right at the top. Literally, my dream flat. Too good to be true, in fact. I immediately sent a text message to the owner, figuring the place was already gone. To my surprise, I heard back immediately, with an offer to show me the place the next day.
I walked in and the flat was even better than I had imagined. A 1900s house with soaring vaulted ceilings, windows all over the place so that it felt like a tree house, fresh renovations, and the perfect living and office space. Not only that, but it’s in my favorite area of town, right by yoga studios, and coffee shops, and bookstores. Immediately, this sunny, vacant place felt way more like home than the house I was actually living in did. “I have to live here,” I told the kindly landlord.
Flash forward less than three weeks later, and I do live here.
It’s been an insane first couple months of the year with breakdowns (both literal and figurative), business trips away from Izzy, spur-of-the-moment moves, and an insane workload to facilitate the move. But it’s all been worth it, because I feel happy, and safe, and home. This is where Izzy and I belong. Our previous house, in addition to all of the things physically wrong with it, had a lot of ghosts from the past. This place? It’s ours. It’s home.
The day after Hurricane Winston ripped through Fiji, taking the resort I was staying with it and transforming the tropical landscape into what looked like a desert, I stood in front of a kitchen sink looking out of a blown out window. I stood there for hours, washing dishes in buckets for the nearly twenty people taking refuge there. In any other scenario, I would have been hating life. But, in that moment, I felt such a deep and abiding sense of peace. Moreso than I had ever felt before. I looked out at the sun, and heard the sound of everyone chattering away outside as we all did our own little tasks to help rebuild. I was acutely aware of the fact that I was alive. I had survived.
Although the island I was on seemed overwhelmingly damaged when I left four days after the hurricane, I'm told that, just two years later, it is regrown and thriving. All of that salt that rose up and spread to nooks and crannies of the land where it was never supposed to be thanks to the 32-foot waves, actually served to refertilize the land. The seeds of rebirth were planted by the disaster itself.
I feel similarly right now. Izzy and I have survived. In fact, we’ve prospered. And now, we’ve come home.