[Crossposted in my own journal]
rosefox and I moved into </strong></a> a year ago today, and hopeforyou and sinboy did a week later. This anniversary prompts me to think about the things that have happened here in that time, and to what extent this household has worked for me. I certainly have a lot of homes to compare it to; in one month's time I'll be able to say that I've lived in this house longer than any other place in six years, and there were five places where I lived for less than two months!
As a result of that frequent moving, I quickly appreciated the two year lease and the fact that I can feel more settled here. As far as houses go, though, I was more content in the majority of other places I've lived. I've spent most of my time living in livelier neighbourhoods with better weather more convenient access to the parts of town I like, and above all, in bedrooms with much more natural light. The house certainly has a lot of nice features and I keep finding charming and vaguely interesting things about the area, but overall, I feel I compromised too much.
The thing that makes a house a home, though, is the people. In that respect, this is the best place I've ever lived in! I've never lived with people who I've felt more able to be myself around, for all sorts of reasons. Nobody bats an eyelid when I spend a whole day working in the living room, naked. We seem to have the same cleanliness standards (except, maybe, for the kitchen) and similar ideas about how things should be organised. Important household issues are openly discussed (which is more than I can say for the majority of past places that I've lived in) and the discussions are usually in time to avoid drama, and have minimal misunderstandings. Best of all, House Dreamland is a social house at a level that is optimal for me—I love the way that certain people feel free to drop in, unannounced, without even knocking, but not so much that it drives me nuts. (Dreamland being a social hub was driven home for me over the weekend at Baycon. A "nexus book" was being passed around, with pages headed by the names of social circles and space for people who are in those circles to add their names. There were thousands of names and scores of groups, like the SCA, Burning Man, Disaster House Parties and Baycon itself... and House Dreamland! "Wait a minute," I exclaimed as one of the dozen strangers making a group effort to add their names, "I live at House Dreamland!")
Still, I think all four of us have acknowledged that this hasn't really lived up to being the kind of household we all dreamed of. It's been a tough year, marred by varying degrees of depression, our combined income falling at least US$100,000 short of expectations, and personal growth proving that we might not all be as compatible as cohabitants as we had hoped. Rose, for example, has found that she just doesn't like living in a group, while Hope's and my idea of what living as a family means involves more intimacy.
I've thought a lot about that word lately, the word family. For a long time this didn't really feel like family to me at all. I expected the four of us to be more open with each other emotionally, and that although each of us would ultimately be responsible for our own feelings, the four of us would be more of a support network for each of us as individuals. But this isn't how it turned out. I'm not privy to any of Rose or Sinboy's more intimate emotions or feelings, and when the four of us talk together, it's usually talk about more general household issues and chit chat about the greater community. And even that is rare—Rose says that she's around so many people at work that she prefers to keep to herself when she's home, and Josh tends to get tired soon after our Sunday night dinners and he retires early. None of this causes any bitterness on my part, though, and I acknowledge that in some ways it might be different if I'd made more of an effort to, say, keep up with LiveJournal. But sometimes I feel sad, and maybe a little embarrassed, about the fact that I had so many hopes for the four of us as a relational unit, and some of those hope just haven't been met.
Having said that, I had a very important realisation last week: Dreamland has supported me financially as much as anybody could expect a family to. While my contributions to Dreamland have been the maximum that my own essential bills would allow, this is only a fraction of what would be considered a fair proportion in any other household. This financial leniency made pulling myself out of my depression last year a fairly painless process, and it's allowed me to make a career move that hopefully will be very fruitful for me in the long run.
I've been conscious of the fact that my low income means Hope can't take much much-needed time off from her job. This has made me feel responsible for some of her emotional hardships at times, but every time I mention that, she convinces me that I'm doing just fine and that I should just continue to pursue my job opportunities. I'm glad she says that, because fruits from those opportunities are closer to being in reach than they ever have been before.
But last week I became aware of the extremity of Rose's hardships in this situation, too. She she would've considered taking disability benefits if the household could afford her contributing a third less than she currently is, due to health issues. In some ways I'm not surprised that I overlooked that, because part of what caused my depression was feeling like I was putting other people through what my ex put me through—I covered her rent and grocery costs during her final year of university, and as soon as that was over, she left me. The thing that's weird is that under Dreamland's original plan, it would be me as one of the high income earners, and as a household we'd cover most of Rose's living expenses while she pursued her academic goals—and this was totally okay with me. Funny how I'm harder on myself than I would've been on other people.</p> Anyhow, I think it's crass to spend big money to show how much you care for somebody, so I'm not being too hard on myself for overlooking the fact that this safety net is a function of Hope and Sinboy and Rose caring for me. And while accepting the financial support makes me feel bad sometimes, the care that's behind it makes me very, very happy.</p>
So there's a year to go on the lease, and the people and place I'm living in will more than likely change after that expires. For now, though, I'm content with living here. Thanks, Hope and Sinboy and Rose, for making this a good home, and thanks to everyone else who's supported us making it so. (We never did have that thanks-for-helping-us-move dinner, did we!)