Today, I had some new furniture delivered – fantastic bargains in a local furniture charity shop. (The large number of charity shops round here is a particular blessing for those of us on a tight budget and possibly more creativity than money 🙂 .) So I spent the best part of the day re-arranging and cleaning and installing the items.
I have been in my flat several months now and it is my first place of my own, as opposed to renting a single room as lodger. I am thankful beyond words to finally have a housing association flat. Without this I would never have been able to afford to rent a whole flat as rents are incredibly high here. I cannot believe this place should be mine and thank the Lord for it every day.
I was a lodger in a family home before moving here. The family could not have been nicer and gave me privacy but I was struggling a lot, just as I had been in all my previous properties. That was probably one reason I moved around so much. Apart from financial issues or having to move when jobs ended and new jobs started, getting to a new place sometimes provided a temporary illusion of escape. When the illusion came crashing down it would just be worse than ever.
Anyhow, at the last place my OCD and obsessional thoughts were very hard to cope with and hide and my anxiety was increased because there was a young baby in the household, which seemed to increase my fears that I would cause people harm. At my worst times, which was becoming most of the time, I would dread bumping into anyone in the shared kitchen and having to speak, so I just stopped preparing food. The close proximity to others made me want to run and hide. So hide I did, in my room, which was the only place to spend time anyway, since there was not a shared lounge, only a kitchen (and bathroom, but that’s not exactly the place for small talk or hanging out). Then once I was in my room for any length of time, I felt trapped. The panic attacks, flashbacks and terrifying thoughts would come and there was literally nowhere to run. There was not anywhere to go to get a breathing space or a different environment or to be in a different place for a while to help me step out of what was happening in my head. I’d lie on the bed or sit on the chair and do my best to employ the distraction or self-soothing techniques the clinicians told me but feel I was just suffocating in the world inside my head.
I can’t say how helpful it now is to have more space. It turns out that it really is true that you rest better when the bedroom is set apart as a relaxing place. I have the space I need in the kitchen to cook when I am able to. It is rare that I am able to at the moment, for many reasons, but the fact that I have my own kitchen does at least increase the likelihood that I will prepare food. My lounge is cosy and I’m even so fortunate as to have a view out to the communal garden. I have a very tiny garden and a flowerbed and although I do not enjoy gardening, I do like to keep it tidy and there is a certain satisfaction in pulling the weeds from the earth to let the little plants breathe.
In some way, I can begin to make this flat my own. Having a place where I can start to feel safe in the space, make some choices about how to lay it out, use my creativity to make it the way that I enjoy and even bring other people into it, makes it a home. Caring for it (cleaning, tidying, doing the little flower bed outside, feeling thankful for what I have) gives a constructive focus.
Much as I was longing for a home for a long time, I am still surprised at the difference that it makes to have one. Often I do not realise the value of doing something quite simple towards making it more of a home – such as tidying and choosing how to arrange things, as I did today, or perhaps painting the walls the colour that you like. Even on the very bad days, being in this home makes it slightly better, somehow. Maybe it’s a little bit less scary, a little bit safer, a little less unpredictable, a little more space, or a little bit more of beautiful or positive things around me.
Thank you dear Lord, for HOME.