The Green House Series | Finding Home

Recently, I have been teaching the word "home," to my Chinese students. First, we draw a picture. I always choose the green crayon, because it was a green house that made me feel at home. Then we continue with the definition: a place where you rest and feel loved. It is simple and easy for them to understand. At first I have this huge desire to yell, "but this is a developing definition. It changes with age." I feel like I am misguiding them, by not sharing this secret. But I ease my mind, knowing eventually they will understand that I gave them such a simple definition for something so complex. When I was twenty, the only place that felt like home was Cambodia. When I was twenty-one it was the classroom, full of middle schoolers who knew more than I did, but I still stood up front of them acting like I knew something. At twenty-two it was his arms, in the green house. It was his bed with the burgundy sheets, and the mismatched chairs in the backyard from past roommates. On my twenty-third birthday, we spent the entire night clearing out that house -- leaving home to be only be me.

For the next several weeks, I will be publishing short stories about that green house. 

In leaving and coming, unpacking and overstaying I have come to know this -- sometimes our homes burn to the ground, for various reasons. Perhaps they are like Eucalyptus trees, waiting to catch itself on fire, only to rebuild. Other times, all that remains is the ash and smoke, as we sift through the memories. 

Following the smoke, we fight between watching it burn with anticipation of what happens next and braving the smoke to save what is left.

This is finding home ...



The Darkness Where Healing Begins

I slept 34 minutes, this morning. After a restless night of trying to force myself asleep, I complied to my body’s awakeness. Instead of dreaming I thought about the Rosemary Carmel latte I would indulge in at a local coffee shop here in town. As 11 o’clock and midnight rolled around, tears started to fall down my face.

“Not again,” I said to myself. It was like this dark monster had filled my room and was about to wrap its hands around my neck. Insomnia. I have been here before. Last summer, I went without sleep for about two weeks and nearly killed myself. Before tucking myself into bed I asked my friend about holistic approaches for depression and insomnia, she gave me great suggestions that required too much energy for my desperate want to go to sleep right then, but I promised to give them a go the next night. As midnight rolled around I began regretting my lackluster attitude on trying her tricks.

I sat up in bed, massaging essential oils in absorption spots.


I cracked and took my sleeping medication. It was my last resort, but I knew it would help.

When three-thirty rolled around and my alarm went off, I felt like a drug addict falling off of the wagon with no good coming out of it.

No sleep.

As I tossed and turned I wanted to call my best friend crying. I became scared by the fact that another year would be taken hostage by this depression and insomnia that lingered all of 2016. When I get into fits like this my mind likes to play the blame game; often I am the one to blame. “If you weren’t a bitch maybe your roommate wouldn’t have assaulted you.” “Maybe if you had your shit together, the man wouldn’t have assaulted you, giving your rib cage a stress fracture.” (Which reminds me I need another follow up appointment.) To detract from this game, I go somewhere else. I began to travel in my mind.

At first this substitute game would give me anxiety. I use to be the girl who traveled, but no more. What if I am too scared to ever leave my home again? But last night, it felt safe to travel. I asked myself, “where does healing take place?” Years ago, it would have been a foreign place where I knew no one. But last night, it was Idaho. With no rhyme or reason, Idaho just sounded peaceful. I began to wonder if sunsets were as scenic as the ones in Kentucky that I have been longing for. Truthfully, I don’t know much about Idaho except for the fact that my ex-boyfriend’s family lives there and I have seen some pretty beautiful pictures on Instagram. But I take comfort it not knowing; it allows me not to have any expectations. And it must be quiet enough if we aren’t always hearing about it.

All morning I was debating if the nausea was from not sleeping, the medication I took on an empty stomach or if the flu was settling into my system. Part of me was hopeful it was the latter, at least it would buy me a few days of rest. After negotiating with myself that the day was going to be okay and everything was alright, I was alright I found myself at work ready for the day.

A woman came in, earlier this morning. She works in the same school district I once worked at. We swapped stories and she mentioned her children. At first she looked at me with those sympathetic eyes that I have seen time and time before, “there is nothing for you here in this town, you need to leave.” Now of days, our tiny town has become so large, that the sympathetic eyes aren’t really comforting. They are more of a sign suggesting, “college is over, time for you to move on.” I began to feel defensive. What was up with all of these people suggesting I leave suddenly?

“I’ve thought about Oregon,” I admitted. Straight away she told me there wasn't enough job opportunity there and people go to Seattle anyway. My heart hunched inside, "hey lady, I am trying okay!" 

“I am waiting for him to make his move, I don’t want to decide,” I sheepishly joked it off. I felt the need to validate why I was staying. Embarrassed to explain any further, I felt her judgement. Only stupid girls put everything into the hands of a man. She didn't have to tell me that, I already knew and it made me feel little. But ... I wanted to tell her why. Again validating why. His hands seemed stable. They held my own many times. I trust him, in ways I have never trusted another human. If he decided, if he just pushes me along, then I will be okay.  I am too tired and too weak to do it myself.

She began to tell me about her kids growing up in Littleton, and how they were students when Columbine took place. Later she would suggest that her daughter didn’t begin healing until after she moved to Seattle, a few years ago.

“Recently I traveled to Idaho, and found the best town.” She said it in a way that was more of a suggestion than it was an offering of conversational exchange. “It is like from (this street) to (that street), a real nice homey feeling, with a beautiful scene.”

My heart leapt a little bit, Idaho.

This must have been a sign!

I confessed that I was up all night thinking about Idaho and how perfect it was she came in today. For the first time in a while, her suggestion of traveling felt comforting. Safe. So I asked her to write down as many details as she could, which included what airport to fly into.

We must have lost track of time talking, because she remembered she needed to get to the grocery store as she looked at her watch. Motioning towards the door I wanted to reach out and ask her to please stay, I was afraid I wouldn’t be brave enough to book the plane ticket if she left.

She looked at me one last time, “don’t settle. Remember there is so much to explore. Healing can be found anywhere. And you can always come back. You can always come back.”

Idaho, I am excited to meet you soon.

Detours in the Canyon

"It doesn't have running water. Or internet for that matter," she looked at me apologetically.

It sounded perfect. "That is completely fine," I tried to reassure her. "How much do you charge a night?" 

"Oh it is not an Air BNB yet, but by the summer I will have her fixed up."

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"Let me at least pay half of what you will be charging," I pleaded. "I want to know I can do this on my own; no more hand outs from strangers, please."

Ignoring me, she opened the refrigerator where gallon jugs of water waited to be use. Grabbing one, she grabbed a kettle and put it on the oven, pouring in the water gently. Returning to me she sat down at a warn down kitchen table, motioning to do the same. As I sat down, I smirked at the table, carefully running my hands across the small curve I sat at. This table was worn in such a beautiful way. I began to wonder if this was a family house for this woman back in the sixties. I pictured the sun beaming in the small windows off to the side, as two little children danced and ran around the one room that the kitchen and living room occupied. Looking back at the peppered hair woman I felt embarrassed by my daydreaming. As if I imposed on her history. 

"Why do you need to prove yourself?"

"Last year just sucked. I absolutely was a suck fest, and I get that sometimes that happens," my voice started to become louder the more frustrated with myself I got. I always imagined that when I had this conversation with strangers, I would be a little more eloquent.

"You know, I had plans. Ever since I was a second-semester freshmen at university I always thought Georgetown Law would be where I was at by now. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be Alma Clooney before I even know Alma Clooney existed. There are girls and education and widows and gentle boys to fight for out there. And I am here!"

The kettle began to whistle, prompting the woman to get up. I felt exposed. All of my words laid out in front of me, mismanaged on the table. In between I could see the regrets and times I didn't take for my life to be on a different path. I became anxious waiting for her response. This has been happening to me a lot lately- needed to get it all out there and for someone to validate me right away. My best friend Lauren does this so well, she gives a thoughtful pause and begins with, "You're allowed to feel that way," before giving a home for my words. 

As she continued prepping the tea, not a peep came out of her. What was I doing? I am taking up this woman's time. Should I continue why she made tea? Should I offer to help make the tea? How could one feel so ill-prepared for simple, every day life.

She turn around with a smile on her face. Setting the two cups of tea down, it was almost as if her ears perked up, "Please continue. So why are you here?"

"Instead of transferring to Georgetown, I decided to stay. It made sense, and I am so happy that I did. Then before my semester of student teaching, I met him. It was a lot of fun between him and I. Probably the most fun that I have ever had with someone. What made it even better was that he was leaving to travel; so once he left I would never have to see him again. It was like I could trust myself to have fun with someone, and not be confused by all of these relationship expectations. I was free, but someone was free with me."

Cupping my tea with both hands, my throat began to feel tight. This is when the anxiety sets in, it is almost routine for me. Fighting back the tears I took a sip. I read somewhere that if you grin and push your cheeks up really high, it keeps from the tears coming out. So I did that, I gave her a half hearted smile.

"I'm sorry, I am taking your time."

"No keep going!" Her demand almost startled me. It was as if I was giving her a play by play of her favorite soap opera. "It doesn't sound like too many people know about how you are feeling. Am I right? Is that why you are trying to spend the weekend in the canyon so that you don't accidentally spill out?"

I took another sip of tea as she quietly waited for me to continue.

"You know while he was gone, he would message me. I thought it was so thoughtful and nice. I went to my grandparents while he was away and even though I tried not to let myself go there, I imagined what would it look like if one day he came to visit too, with me? When he came back I was really nervous. I didn't expect him to. Knowing there was an expression date was easier. Honestly I was kind of pissed when he came back, it just wasn't part of the deal."

I tried to lay out the plan like life could be a series of bullet points: have fun, be free with someone the last year of college, graduate, go to law school, always keep your heart centered and safe. But if life was a series of bullet lists, we would be handed our list with our birth certificate. 

"Now things aren't fun. They're messy and I am not a lawyer. I see girls in my non-profit cohort posting pictures of law school and I get so envious. That could have been me if I didn't meet him."

That struck a chord with her, instantly I could see her demeanor shift. I wanted to apologize and take it back. Didn't she know that I didn't really mean that? Every day I feel like it is an honor having someone like him in my life. It is this experience I never planned for. It has been hard and challenging, which I would take over boring and easy any day. But lately I have been wondering if I threw away all of my potential, waiting to catch a free bird. 

Her peppered hair allowed me to trust the wisdom and experiences she had inside of her. I wanted to ask, are there some seasons where our potential doesn't show up in full effect? Are we to rest and practice self preservation, so that they next time we can jump entirely? I started to remember this talk I once heard how we each have a path. No matter which detour we take, we are all still on the same path to our destiny, it just might take longer and be more challenging in the face of those detours. Is he my detour? I felt my heart sink a little bit. As contradicting as it sounded I didn't want him to be a detour, he is so much more than that. He was like the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man all rolled up into once teaching me things along the way. 

She leaned in towards me, "Are you scared or are you over him? What do you want to do? By the sounds of it you are scared."

"It is just hard," I sighed. Yet again I began to feel defeated. Never could I properly explain myself well enough for people to fully understand the gravity of it all. Then again maybe that too is part of self preservation. Maybe only then is that when we are truly exposed. 

"So what, you aren't a lawyer. You don't seem like the lawyerly type to me." At least she was honest. "But you write don't you?"

I took another sip of my tea, confirming for her again.

"The world needs writers too. The world needs more writers. You were meant to meet him, so he could show you that you are a writer, not a lawyer. And you got to have some fun along the way. How beautiful is that."

I sat in silence trying to let her words and affirmations sink into me. I adjusted myself in my seat, trying to settle into the idea that I am a writer. 

"So how many nights do you want to stay?"


You don’t want to forget this loneliness, I said to myself in the car.

This past year, I have formed a habit of crying in grocery stores – I have no idea why. There have been plenty of times where I I have let my fruit basket and refrigerator become bare because I know inevitably I will end up crying in a grocery store, somewhere in this town, so I opt out not to go.

Ushering myself out of the cold I looked around my tiny apartment with a frown on my face. The Carriage House seems so delightful this year with all of the Christmas decorations this year, and I have shared it with hardly anyone. No gingerbread house constructing over wine with the girls. No Christmas movie marathons. Or getting so dizzy drunk off of hot cocoa this year.

It felt so lonely in that moment, I wanted to run.
Which if you know anything about me, none of this is normal.

No holiday is left uncelebrated in the form of cramped dinner parties.
And running, never felt so terrifying.

When I wake up in the morning crying, after a night of falling asleep with my phone tucked inside of my hand safely, my anxiety tells me it is going to be a helluva day – good luck. After feeling the immense sadness of how different this year was compared to the others, it felt imperative to fight back. Mostly for the sake of another Sunday not being claimed by my anxiety.

So, I gathered all of the pillows in the Carriage House. All 43 of them. Then I lit all eleven of my holiday candles. With a nest of coziness around me, I find myself trying to accept this loneliness that surrounds me on my living room floor.

As Frosty the Snowman plays in front of me, I can’t muster up any questions to reflect on. Perhaps the whole idea of it all. We aren’t always meant to question things. Sometimes, we just have to lie in it. And there is no harm in making it as cozy and warm as possible, because the truth is, you are going to need it. You are going to need all of the warmth you can make for yourself because sometimes it hurts so goddamn much. And it makes absolutely no sense to you what so ever.

Since writing I have found three silent tears fall down my cheek. One on the left, two on the right. I am sure there is some science behind it. But I also know it is my body purely and magically acknowledging the emptiness that surrounds me, and sometimes sits idle inside of me. And how freaking beautiful is it that my body can convey that it is feeling this emotion.

Last night, I had a dream. It was a dream that Kate, Kevin and Randall from This Is Us, were children of my own. I was getting ready to leave them, so I was trying to write them a manual on life. In my notes for them, I emphasized the importance of communication – after all isn’t that truly the one thing that saves us. It was so important for me to teach them about communicating and how to communicate, because I didn’t want them to be alone. Mostly because I didn’t want them to be afraid.

I have to find a little bit of humorous that my need to write down life lessons for my future children have snuck into my dreams.

In lieu of communicating I want to add, but appreciate the loneliness.

Appreciate how softly a tear seems to roll down the cheeks. Even though it is frustrating that crying comes so easily acknowledge that your body is purely and magically processing all of chemistry and emotions that have planted and grown in your soul. When you wake up on Sunday, crying – again – take that as a sign that you don’t have to be Super Woman today. You get to practice surviving in the simplest way. You get to just be. And when it feels like the loneliness is taunting you, making a mockery of the fact that no one is here, grab all of the pillows you can find, and be engulfed in their warmth.

It does not last forever, nor will it.

You already know this to be true, because isn’t half of the reason why you are crying is because “it has never been like this before?”