Friday, April 14, 2006

A Bad Day

Last Saturday I started down the path to my next great adventure: buying my first home.

For months I've been looking forward to the house search. I've read books and logged hundreds of hours on websites and blogs. Every day I search new home listings, or at least try to read the real estate section. I've picked the brains of my home-owning friends. Renee and Amy accompanied me on several driving tours of South Philadelphia, and I took a Sunday evening drive in my favorite neighborhood, the Girard Estates. I met with three real estate agents, got my finances in order and even launched a new blog to promote my writing and editing services so I could save more for a down payment. (Spread the word!)

Yet so far my search has been frought with uncharacteristic insecurity. Generally, I'm very goal-oriented: once I make a decision, I tend to move toward the object of my desire with the force of a battering ram. This time, however, I find myself asking: What if I buy a house and later realize I made a huge mistake? What if the house doesn't grow in value or I lose money from the sale? What if I can't figure out how to triple park in South Philly? What if the house is infested with rats that will nibble on my toes?

Last Saturday I had an appointment to see homes with a real estate agent. The night before I was so anxious I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned, listening to the raindrops falling on my window air conditioner. I felt glum from the gray weather, so I decided to get out of bed and treat myself to a $4 coffee. I doctored it with plenty of sugar and headed home. Sitting at my kitchen table with my legs tucked underneath me, I took one long, satisfying sip and stuck my head behind a pile of work papers.

Next thing I know, Nanuq is licking coffee off the top of the lid. "Stop it!" I yelled, to my very deaf cat.

I sighed, thinking how little this particular cat needs artificial stimulation of any kind. I peeled the lid off the cup and ran it under the sink. As I turned to put the lid back, I saw Nanuq tipping the cup, spilling coffee everywhere.

"Nanuq!" I yelled, to my very deaf, very white cat. He was rolling around in the coffee, quite pleased with himself.

Since the coffee was a bust, I took a hot shower and got dressed. I put on my favorite pants with a tailored shirt and some sexy black boots. I kissed goodbye to my coffee-covered cat, took a deep breath and headed into the rain. The sidewalks felt slick, so I treaded carefully. I pushed my hair behind my ears to keep the wind from blowing it astray. Then, just as I reached the car, I fell. No biggie, until I realized I had mud all over me: my boots, my pants, my jacket. It was even on the grown-up looking bag I'd brought along...mostly so I could look grown-up. So back to the apartment I went. I washed the pants and changed again.

I knew then I should not see houses that day. My attitude was too negative; my fears far too close to the surface. I felt superstitious because of the morning's activities. I also felt pretty disgusting because of the mud. I tried to call Amy so she could reassure me, but I couldn't reach her. So I decided to be a grown-up and go.

My agent showed me three houses. All were beautiful, well maintained and "sure to go off the market right away." They also were way out of my price range. By the third house, I felt overwhelmed.

I hit rock bottom when I returned home and found Nanuq had made mayhem in the kitchen. Maybe it was the coffee. He destroyed four saucers, two cereal bowls and a beautiful salad bowl I had bought in Rockport.

For the first time ever, I yelled at him. I felt like a jerk. I spent several hours rearranging the kitchen, stuffing everything I could into my one kitchen cabinet. I took out canned goods, grains and beans and medications and put them in baskets on my bookshelves. I realized I was starting to lose my sense of humor. Maybe I shouldn't look for a house, I thought. Maybe this whole idea is crazy.

That's about the time I turned to see Nanuq on the top shelf with a package of my birth control pills dangling from his paw.

I sat down at the kitchen table and laughed. Oh well, I thought. Maybe this is life. And maybe I'd just better learn to love it, if I'm really going to live it.