Weeping Walls

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

When the walls of my house began to weep, I thought it was a sign that I was doomed. But what happened next was a lesson in courage and faith.

Have you had that moment of clarity when you realize, all at once, you are not in control? For me, this moment came at the end of a long year when I often wondered if it was possible to actually drown in tears.

I had just been through a divorce and was feeling humiliated and filled with self-doubt. I was doggy paddling, barely afloat. The last obstacle that prevented me from moving on with my life was my house. As long as I had to live there, I would remain trapped in a sinking ship. I had purchased it with my ex-husband, I had had my wedding in it, fallen in love with my stepchildren in it, and watched my dreams evaporate in it. Now, it weighed me down like the world's saddest, biggest boat anchor. For months I struggled to cut myself free, but at the crest of the real estate collapse, no one was buying.

I had worked to exhaustion trying to make the house desirable. I kept it meticulously neat, believing that my ritual of turning every mug handle due-north would surely bring an offer. I polished every surface. I fluffed the toss pillows into an inviting cascade. I draped the throw as though a model from Elle Decor had just leaped up from the sofa to answer the call of her perfect destiny. Fresh baked cookies and mathematically rolled towels disguised my sagging hopes during open houses, but as summer dragged into winter, and dozens of couples tracked through the foyer, there were no offers. Down I drifted, feeling hopeless, and helpless.

On an especially long winter night, as I drove back to the dark house in a black ice storm, I was surprised to find my mind preoccupied with renewed hope; earlier that evening, I had taken my first silversmithing class. I had met a group of strong women. They taught me to handle an acetylene torch, power tools, and dangerous chemicals. I felt empowered. Together, I thought, we would heal our artists' hearts by making things in metal. Now, I stood in the silence of the living room and examined the ring that I had made with my own hands. I slipped it onto my finger. For the first time in a year, I allowed a smile and told myself, "You got this."

And that's when I heard it.

A subtle trickling sound seemed to come from everywhere. I wandered through each room, inspecting every sink. No broken pipes, no overflowing tubs. Finally, my eyes fell upon the walls. They were – weeping. Glittering streams of water ran down the walls like a prop in a deranged spa, meandering in lazy threads from the second floor to the basement. Blisters had emerged in the drywall like barnacles. Sodden circles had pooled at the foot of every corner. The house too, it seemed, had given up and settled in for a good, long cry.

Somehow, the entire roof was leaking. I climbed around the balcony in the freezing rain, searching with a flashlight and not the faintest idea what I was looking for. My mind raced. The water was going to ruin the interior of the house. I would have to remove it from the market, mired for months in insurance paperwork and prolonged, costly repairs. Worse, I would be indefinitely moored to this moldering albatross. For all my furious plotting and paddling, I had to admit, there was nothing more I could do. I was going down with this ship.

Soaked and cold to the bone, I plopped onto the wet carpet like a frustrated toddler. I wept with the walls and sobbed, "You win! I get it! I am not in control." I waited for the wave of fear to overwhelm me. But, in an instant, my tears stopped. I could almost hear the thump-thump-thumping of an anchor chain as it slipped loose from its mooring – I had "let go, and let God." When I no longer had to navigate this roiling sea but could simply ride the waves, peace came flooding in. I was free.

Later, I learned that the ice storm had caused damming under the shingles, allowing nearly 24 hours of driving rain to seep inside. Having had my moment of clarity, I was able to bend with the torrent of construction and delays, and in a few months, the house was back on the market. It sold in just weeks. Soon, I moved into an airy new house and set about building a studio, and a new life.


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