As I stepped off the Eurostar that summer afternoon in Paris, I thought to myself, “I honestly don’t think I’m going to make it.”
Freshly divorced after 25 years of a marriage that lasted a decade too long, I should have felt elated, or at the very least, relieved.
But I was reeling. I had just sold my beautiful house with its magical garden, the house that had been my home and my refuge, even during the worst years of my marriage. I had gone to London to visit my daughter in hopes of finding some solace, but that had only left me feeling more exhausted than ever as I struggled to keep up with her on walks around the neighbourhood and spent huge amounts of money I didn’t have on cabs to get around the city. And now, instead of coming back to a gorgeous, well-decorated house, I was coming back to my new house: one that was run down, dingy, and bleak.
I struggled down the platform, aching and out of breath by the time I reached the exit gates, and in that moment, I felt the full weight of everything come crashing down on my shoulders. The shame, grief, and howling rage at the wasted time — and the waste of myself — poured over me, threatening to melt me down onto the platform and leave me in pieces among the discarded cigarette butts and empty crisp packages.
I was looking for a new start. I ended up finding it in the most unlikely of places: that ugly old house.
After my divorce, finding a new home was my top priority. Your house is a reflection of yourself, after all. It was the first time in my life I would own a home that was totally mine, and I wanted it to be completely to my liking.
Shortly into my search, I realised just what a big ask that actually is. My three non-negotiable criteria for a home that seemed very reasonable to me — it had to be free standing and calm, not too far away from public transportation, with 3 bedrooms and a bit of a garden — were actually nearly impossible to find.
Every home I came across had something wrong with it. Then I came across one that had everything wrong with it … and I bought it.
I still don’t know how I managed to be drawn to the house to begin with. It had everything I hate in a home; it was beat up and dirty.
The bathroom looked like someone had been living in it, and for whatever reason, the builders had decided to run every possible pipe right through it at a weird angle.
When you flushed the toilet, there was an ominous silence, and exactly 65 seconds later a noise of something between the woof of a whale and the scream of a harpy.
The few windows on the first floor weren’t sized appropriately for their rooms, and they were all placed at weird angles.
The un-railed staircase had steps so narrow you could only climb it sideways, and the floors wobbled and squeaked underneath your feet when you walked across them.
But there was something about this seemingly hopeless house that told me there were possibilities.
I somehow knew that it was waiting to be brought back to life, to shine, to be loved and to show what it was capable of. (The extraordinarily obvious parallel to my own life took me years to realise.) We shared a type of logical madness, this house and I — just as I had gotten a divorce after 25 years, this house which, according to all reason, should have been torn down years ago, was still hanging on, waiting for its next chapter.
So I bought it, and renovated it, and in the process, renovated myself.
The very first thing I did was to throw out the dingy toilet brush and the battered old trash can.
I took that absolute disaster of a bathroom and changed it into a feminine, beautiful oasis that saw my own femininity bloom again.
I put in new windows that actually fit the space and let in the light, and in doing so shined a healing light on my own life.
I fixed the staircase and wobbly floors, and at the same time learned to stand on my own two feet again.
I saw this home slowly, tangibly start to heal, and the more that happened, the more I was able to feel my own healing too. When we first started out together, I had totally lost my read on myself. I couldn’t read my own clues or create my own healing. But I could read the hidden clues of this house, and give it what it needed to live again.
She’s still not finished. But she’s a far cry from where she was.
The house definitely has some room for transformation. It’s still not all the way there. But I love it all the same — just like my new life. I know that we’ll continue to heal together, and grow together, because that’s built into the very nature of our relationship.
The same thing goes for you.
Your home both reflects and influences your mindset, and the more you cultivate a relationship with it, the better off you’ll both be. You don’t have to be coming off an ugly divorce or going through a big move, the magic of transforming your house to a home works universally, on big things and small ones.
So that’s my invitation to you: the next time you walk over your threshold, stop and take a deep breath. What do you feel? If it’s anything less than feeling truly at home and deeply supported in your sanctuary from the world, there’s room to change there.
It can start with something as small as throwing out a dingy toilet brush and a battered old trash can and the results are always, inevitably life-changing.