Camping out with my stuff, waiting for the moving truck once again.
I’d like to preface this with the need to express myself. I wrote this so I could purge myself of the guilt and questioning and come finally to my happy ending. During the months that the following events occurred I questioned myself constantly. Why? Why was this happening again? What was I doing wrong? Why couldn’t I get this right? Again I was in a place that didn’t want me and again I had a job that I hated. Why was I in this loop of failure? I would sit and think of ways that I could make things work with my roommates and even my job. I would go over and over each scenario and try to come up with new ways to keep the peace and make others happy until one day my friend and counsellor said to me, “What about your happiness? Maybe the problem isn’t you.”
It struck a cord. The thought hadn’t occurred to me. I had been bending over backwards to make others happy and the only thing I was accomplishing was making myself miserable.
It’s one thing to help others, to be there for good friends and family, but it’s quite another to be at the end of someone else’s leash. In today’s world I hear a lot of “I” and “Me” and very few “We,” and for years now I’ve been striving to better my relationships with my friends and family. I wasn’t born with a large window, I always had a small one, one that I looked through and saw only what I was doing and what I wanted. I would stare off and into a long tunnel that lead to my dreams. For years now I’ve been broadening it, but this time around I had to learn there is still a place for “I” and “Me.”
Several months ago it became abundantly clear that I was once again in life-trouble. I became all too aware that Faolan and I were no longer welcome in the house. The feeling was sadly familiar. I do not know exactly when the scales-tipped out of our favour in my roommate’s mind and heart, but once they did it was obvious. It was and is a shame. My roommate took me in when no one else would and now I would consider myself blessed if I never heard from her again.
I cannot say for certaint what the exact problem was, but I think I can sum up some key issues:
1) We both have very different ideas about the proper care and safety of animal companions
2) We did not agree on what exactly the amount of rent I was paying her each month entitled me to
3) In her mind, she owned the house, which meant I had little say in it despite the fact I paid to live there
4) In my opinion, her priority in life is gain: what she can gain in work or financially from someone else. The night she wrote a letter asking me to move out, she called my mother and sold skincare products to her. Aside from selling products to my mom, she no longer considered me a financial benefit.
At the start of everything I did my best to put aside the fact that I was not permitted to have too much of my stuff out in the house. The first night in the new place, I started unpacking a box of my stuff that I hadn’t seen in a year and she snapped at me saying. “First we unpack my things and then if we have room for yours, we’ll unpack yours.” We never did have room for mine. My desk lived outside my room, as did my couch and TV only because they couldn’t fit in it. The majority of my belongings sat in boxes in the basement. I slowly pulled out my art supplies as I began working on art and writing again, but I believe the slow increase of my stuff may have been part of the problem. Sadly, what belongings I did have out were being ruined by her cats and the dogs she brought in for sitting. In a way, I guess it was a good thing I didn’t have everything out.
While I am happy to help out with chores and upkeep, I was surprised to come home one day and find a cleaning schedule on a calendar with my name on it. Listed on the calender were days that I was expected to clean and what I was cleaning. I will go ahead and admit that I do not like being told what to do. Had she sat down and talked to me about it and worked a schedule out with me, things would have been completely different, but clearly I was now subject to a dictatorship. I broached her on the subject once when we got a third roommate, saying that I thought sweeping three times a week was a bit much– that was not well received.
My artwork at the time really reflects my struggle. Featured is part of a watercolour scene where a unicorn loses its innocence stabbing a life-sucking vampire, sacrificing a part of itself for the greater good.
I did my best to put these things aside. I did not like them, but I was trying to compromise and in all honesty, I was grateful to her for having taken me in those many months before. I have a sad feeling that part of the reason she was able to control me for so long was because she knew I had nowhere else to go.
The dog sitting is what pushed me over the edge and caused me to speak up, even then, it took me a while. I was caught in this cycle of “she did me a huge favour,” but as my friend said later, “When does it end?”. Originally I was unemployed and at home looking for work full-time, so when she was “dog sitting” that meant I was home with the dogs all day, making sure they ate, had water, and went out while she was at work. I would clean up after their mess and put up with their barking all day and all night. I did not ask her for a penny of the money she was receiving for the dogs I was sitting. When I went to work part-time, I was still home more often than she was and still had to put up with the barking and cleaning up after them. In addition, when she went on trips I watched her dog for free and fed and cleaned up after her cats when she went to her boyfriend’s (they puked and crapped on the floor regularly).
Originally I bit my tongue, but when the dogs she was bringing home posed a threat to my dog, I had to put my foot down. Faolan is my life and my reason for getting up every morning. I was not going to stand by while she put his life in danger. Considering my roommate was incapable of keeping her own dog in the yard (I cannot count the # of times I had to go out and find that dog, upset and terrified she had been hit by a car) and knowing how careless my roommate was with the dogs she was sitting (she took a freshly spayed female Rottweiler two hours away. It got out of her mother’s backyard while she went off with her friends, causing the poor dog’s stitched belly to swell and possibly scar), there was absolutely no way I was going to trust her with Faolan.
If the owners only knew the danger she had put their dogs in. There are times that I wish I had documented everything and presented it to the vet clinic where she worked because she was not only risking the dogs, but jeopardizing herself and the clinic she worked for. I would NEVER take a dog that I was sitting away from the home it was expected to be in. I would also never bring a dog home into a stressful environment where it might be attacked or would get into a fight with another dog.
Faolan is a wonderful dog, but he does not always get along with others. Because of this I take precautions when taking him anywhere. I do not take him to off-leash parks or heavily populated areas. I do my best to be a responsible dog owner. We live in a world where a pregnant female dog, tied up in her own backyard, can be called aggressive and put down because the neighbours let their kid wander into her backyard unattended and was bitten.
Faolan used to love the daycare, but sometimes 20+ dogs was too much.
All these things considered, I asked my roommate to produce a waiver for each dog owner to sign before she brought them into the house. She was none-too-pleased. I never saw this waiver and the first dog she had in the house after our discussion was an intact, male, bulldog-mix. I asked if they signed a waiver and she said no because it’s her friend’s dog. Two intact male dogs under one roof is stupid. I don’t think you have to be a vet tech, trainer, or even an enthusiast to know that. I did my best to keep the dogs separated, but even with both my roommate, myself, and her boyfriend at the house, the dog she was sitting got out and went after Faolan. Luckily, Faolan listened to me while I pulled the smaller dog off of him. If Faolan had responded that little guy didn’t have a chance. I was bitten by the dog multiple times. Do you think my roommate gave a shit? No. Not at all. She and her boyfriend were drunk or high or both. She never told the owner.
When my roommate told me she was bringing a 100lb labour-doodle into the house, I had to act. I sat down with her and politely asked her not to. I explained how this particular dog had attacked Faolan previously and though nothing serious had happened before, it was too much of a risk. She. was. pissed. She told me it was “all about me” and said it was manageable and I was overreacting, but she had demonstrated time and again that I could not trust her.
Having an insecure dog, I am a huge supporter of this initiative
I then suggested she take the dog to her boyfriend’s house for a week, that way she could get the money for sitting and I could go to work without worrying about Faolan. Unfortunately she felt I was telling her to leave her own home, which only made her angrier. She was not hearing me out at all. What mattered was the money and her not having to leave the couch. It’s interesting to note how she didn’t want to inconvenience her boyfriend with the dog at his house all week, but had never given a thought to how it would effect me. Surprisingly she agreed to keep the dog at her boyfriend’s– though she changed her mind at the end of the week. I had no choice but to get Faolan out of the house for a couple of days.
Everything plummeted off a cliff-side after that.
I knew our friendship was over when I messaged her telling her I almost went to the ER. She never messaged back to see what happened or ask how I was. She barely spoke to me after our talk. I remember looking at the kitchen counter every morning, expecting an eviction notice. Eventually she would hand me one herself right beside it.
At this time a third roommate had moved in. My roommate had approached me a couple months earlier asking me if I knew anyone who would be interested in moving in with us. She wanted more help with the mortgage. I tried to get a friend to move in, but I think he was too smart for it. Undeterred, my roommate got on facebook and asked another friend of mine instead. He was a friend from high school and had sadly been picked on most of his life. I was one of the few people who had been nice to him. Later he was diagnosed with various behavioural/mental disorders which helped explain some of his odd behaviour, but that never mattered to me. I always accepted him for who he was. I use to drive him to the store and to the Dr’s to help him out. There was a time when he called me his best friend.
He was living in an apartment complex that catered to his needs and my roommate was asking him to leave that comfort zone. I told them both that I thought it was a bad idea. Considering how things were going with my roommate and I, I did not feel she would be understanding of his disabilities. He moved in anyway and despite the fact that I had been his friend, assisted him when I could, and even helped him move in, I lost his friendship as well.
Sadly, due to jealousy over my new relationship he sided with my original roommate and went out of his way to hurt myself and my boyfriend. He wore headphones whenever my boyfriend was in the house and went as far as sleeping in the backyard when he was over. When no one else was around he took to yelling at me.
As if all this were not enough, throughout these months I had been in and out of Dr’s offices and ERs. I had several chest infections and asthma attacks. While my roommate thought it necessary to sweep three times a week, she did not seem to think that she needed more than one litter box for three cats and only changed it ONCE every SEVEN days. On top of that we lived in a red-zone for air quality. We were literally next to the parking lot of a factory. We shared a fence with it.
Most days I couldn’t get out of bed
I had asked to have the vents and ducts checked or cleaned, but that was a no-go, she didn’t want to spend the money. In addition, she didn’t like paying for the air conditioning. Despite my fixed rate of $500 a month, she would cut corners to save. Keep in mind I didn’t do laundry at the house because the machine would tear my clothes and I didn’t use the cable or PVR or whatever it was. I wasn’t using a lot of what I was paying for and I had offered to help pay to have the air ducts cleaned.
I couldn’t win either way. Air conditioning or no, I was either over-heated, sweating and struggling to breath in my bed at night or having bronchial spasms from whatever crap was circulating in the house on the rare occasion we did turn the AC on.
I remember crying in the dark, wondering if I was going to make it to morning, wondering– of all the stupid things–if I was going to make it to work because I had to feed Faolan… and then one day, a hand reached out for me in the dark. It caressed my cheek and soothed me and told me I wasn’t alone.
I look back now and marvel at how through all of it I found love. Though really, Joshua found me. We met over coffee. He was running late, so I waited at a table for him. Joshua turned the corner and I’ll remember the smile on his face for the rest of my life. As it spread across his lips, it spread across my heart. I had never seen a smile more genuine or beautiful.
Only now I look at this picture and see the storm behind us and the light ahead, lighting up our faces as we took this photo.
I knew that moment was different and significant. I held on to it for as long as I could. From that point on we were inseparable. In all of that misery, fear, and worry, we had stolen moments. Moments where we’d lay in bed and giggle or we’d take off to the beach or forest, stealing ourselves away from the city and taking Faolan with us. Even though I had asthma attacks and even though most of the time I struggled to hike or swim, we did it anyway.
I knew I loved him on our second date. He took me to the drive-in in his truck. He blew up an air mattress, I brought blankets and pillows and we snuggled up to Faolan and watched the big screen under the stars. I fell asleep hugging his chest. When I woke, I knew I would love him forever.
In the following months he would run for my inhaler when I couldn’t get it and take care of Faolan while I was at work. Josh took me to dinner and walked barefoot on the beach with me. He reminded me of how precious and beautiful life is. The day my roommate handed me a letter asking me to leave, he told me I would be all right because I was going to live with him. He told me we were going to have a beautiful life together, full of love and laugher. I cried. I cried because I had never had anyone love or take care of me the way he did and because I couldn’t believe I didn’t have to be afraid any more. I sat quietly in my room a long time afterwards, hugging the pillow where he had slept previously and thanking the Goddess for this incredible person. I thought to myself: Dear great mother, if I get only one thing in life, please let it be him.
The mists in the sunrise this morning
So, here I am. Living in country. I wake up to beautiful sunrises over trees and farm fields instead of rooftops and smoke-stacks. Before we turn in each night, we watch the sunset or the moonrise and no one else is watching us.The only sounds are birds and crickets or maybe the crow of a rooster or the rumble of a tractor engine, but I welcome those sounds over car horns and trains any day.
I had stopped dreaming a long time ago. I shut out visions of farm land, chicken coops, and gardens, I even started to let my thoughts of a second book slip away while I struggled to put food on the table and keep a roof over Faolan and I’s heads. For a long time I was short sighted, only thinking of the day ahead. How? How do I do it? And then Joshua came and he told me to dream again and for the first time in a long time, I did. Thank you, Joshua. I love you. I would do it all over again if it meant I could be with you.