The great thing about living alone was that I could sit in my own funk and stew in it unapologetically. I had the space to wallow in my misery without ruining someone else’s day. I could drink too much and too early without fear of judgement. I could Facebook stalk my EX without fear of being caught. I could put Keyshia Cole’s “I Remember” on repeat and sing emotively at the top of my lungs without shame or inhibition. I had space to nurture my depression which I would artfully mask in the real world under the guise of happy, well-adjusted mover-on-er. Although my newly renovated West Harlem studio was a mere 400 square feet, I was drowning in space because, my only worldly possessions included my new bed and my laptop which was on its last megabit. What a sucky and unwelcome reminder that my failed marriage had literally reduced me to nothing. It stripped me of my identity, my family and the material possessions that made me feel purposeful, loved and successful respectively.
Gone was the 1400 square foot starter home filled with stuff from our bridal registry that no newlywed couple could ever afford after shelling out all that cash for a 1 day celebration of holy matrimony. Gone was that dark, rustic, imported furniture from Indonesia that we purchased together like our 6-seat dining room table that never got used unless we were entertaining friends for potluck Thanksgiving dinners or “orphan” Christmases. Yeah, we were that couple. Gone were the mornings spent in bed eating my specialty french toast followed by sticky, syrupy love making. And gone were the nights spent in bed of me whooping his ass at Scrabble and him rubbing, groping and massaging mine. (He was such an ass man.) All the tangible things I left behind in LA were now locked away in a Van Nuys storage unit while the intangible-- the happy memories and life-building experiences together-- remain locked in my viscera.
It all started with dizzying happiness. There was never a moment of doubt that he was the love of my life, my soul-mate and my destiny. And we were so excited about building our lives together. He was making his transition from dancer to actor with the goal of becoming a consistently working character actor. What made me love him even more was the fact that his ambition wasn't fueled by a lust for fame or fortune; simply a passion for his craft. And he mocked my not-so-secret fantasy about red carpet moments; where I'd make a conscious effort to stand demurely by his side while he entertained the press. Meanwhile I'd be hoping the cameras were catching my best angles in my stunning designer gown and Pilates-toned body. Perhaps I'd somehow make the pages of magazines; even if only by default. As for me, I was committed to supporting (and living vicariously through) his dreams, making the choice to quit performing and start a brand new, more "practical" career. So, I launched a successful out-call massage therapy & Pilates practice; with clients ranging from professional dancers, choreographers, singers and musicians to entertainment industry execs. Yes, I missed performing. But supporting his aspirations seemed more realistic because I felt in my gut he was a sure success. He was such a natural and gifted performer and I didn't have that same faith in myself or my talent. And although it didn't match my passion for performing, I was 100% committed to the health and well-being of my clients, I loved entrepreneurship and was proud of my success. We were on our way to creating the life we envisioned for ourselves.
Newly married and ridiculously in love, it felt beyond exciting and grown up to merge our finances and be in a position to buy our first home. And it felt all fancy-like to be driven around by our realtor to view homes that met our “must-have” criteria: 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, washer/dryer, a fireplace (yes, even sunny LA gets cold enough to warrant a cozy fire) and a 2-car garage (side-by-side, not tandem parking). Of course we would've loved hardwood floors, brand new stainless steel appliances and granite countertops but we knew this would only be our starter home and were willing to take baby steps until we made it big and could move into our Santa Monica dream-home by the beach.
Hand-in-hand we’d explore potential homes like wide-eyed little school children on a science museum field trip. We’d dream aloud about our vision for each space, from potential wall colors to the perfect position for the sofa and TV with surround sound. We got excited about becoming do-it-yourselfers as seen on HGTV; ripping out nasty carpet and outdated tile countertops and replacing them with eco-friendly bamboo and concrete. Our new home would be a joint project and a labor of love, representing the merging of our lives together.
I remember getting the excited call from my love, declaring he had found “it”. He had found our new home! But we had to move quickly because it had just entered the market with a really affordable asking price and lots of potential.
He grabbed my hand as we approached the front door; reminding me to have an open mind. I did. And he was right. It was perfect, despite the white walls that had turned a dingy gray with 17 years of cigarette smoke from the current owner. And despite the worn, grungy light blue pile carpeting that ran throughout the 2 main floors and shared the same remnants of 2nd hand smoke. And despite the outdated appliances that gave us flashbacks to the 70s. Like him, I could see past all of it. I could see its potential and our future there together. We could make it our own. It had everything on our list plus an eat-in kitchen, separate dining room, a patio off the 1st floor living room, a balcony off the upstairs master bedroom and even a basement that we could convert into a home gym. We were both gym rats and bonded over flexing in the mirror for one other. Well, maybe that was just me flexing and showing off but he thought it was cute that I thought of myself as a "hardcore bitch". Besides the 3 floors of extreme potential, there was a dog park within the complex and my love had been wanting a dog as badly as most women my age wanted kids. Plus, it was under a mile away from Lake Balboa where we could rollerblade hand-in-hand around the manmade lake or snuggle on a blanket for a romantic picnic, nauseating others with our romantic bliss.
We bought and renovated that townhome making it a tangible version of our love and partnership. Life felt so full and complete. It had purpose, direction, companionship and joint dreams.
On the contrary, my life couldn’t have felt any more empty or lonely in my 400sq ft studio. I was forced to make the best of 4 white walls, a bed and a laptop. Thank god for Brooklyn who didn’t notice the emptiness in my heart or our apartment. My companionship was enough. She was content as long as there was food in her dish at regular intervals and she got to take long walks along the Hudson River at West Harlem Piers Park. I swear she’d prance her way home with a smile on her little face after the opportunity to run in circles and roll around in grass; as if that was the most sublime diversion one could ask for. Jumping excitedly onto my lap and devouring my face with kisses was her thank you. At night, she’d cuddle in bed with me and my bottle of red wine while watching Netflix movies on my crappy laptop. I struggled to learn the lesson of abundance from her. Her needs were so simple.