Sunday, July 23, 2017

My Dream House

I own a mansion. Technically it isn't a mansion because of some arcane rule that says it needs to have a ballroom. But it's a mansion. I'll just put a ball in a room and we'll call it a ballroom.

I own a mansion and I grew up on food stamps.

I sold a house that had rotted out floors in one city and bought a house with six bedrooms in another city.

We were able to buy a beautiful house in the perfect neighborhood because my father-in-law died and left my wife money. Because my wife and I both have jobs. Because my mom let us live in her house rent-free for a year so we could buy our first house. Because our first house tripled in price post-recession. Because we're incredibly lucky.

This house was not bought with our money. It is not through our own grit that we bought a mansion. It was because we were lucky and we were smart with our luck.

I've always wanted a mansion. While other children were playing with barbies, I was dreaming about a house that was so big you could get lost in it. It was a poor person's dream, wondering how the rich lived. I dreamt about hardwood floors and tall ceilings. Later, as an adult, I would dream about front porches and large backyards. I would add crown molding to my dream house, and a sitting area to work and read books. The dream house would have a big kitchen and space to entertain friends and family.

My dream came true, and I'm not sure how. A year ago we struggled to buy a house with three bedrooms. Now we have a house with more than twice that.

I feel guilty for my dream coming true. Every time I invite someone into my home, I cringe at their remarks about the hugeness and beauty. I want to explain that we bought the house so we could give permanency to needy kids. I want to explain that we bought the house for our growing family. But then I feel like I'm profiting off our children, I'm profiting off the pain associated with foster care. So I accept the compliments and feel guilty.

I don't know what to do with this house. It's perfect and too much. It's exactly what I've always wanted, but I don't deserve it. How can I justify this perfect dream house when children are starving? Literally starving. Or when 13 year olds work so their families won't become homeless. How can I justify my perfect dream home when something half as expensive would have housed our family? How can I justify my perfect dream home when that money could have been spent making the world a better place? It's not enough to open our doors to help children in need because I want to have a big family. Building our family through adoption is something I enjoy doing, and now I get to also enjoy this beautiful home. It's too much wonderful things and I feel guilty about all of it.

I grew up on food stamps and constantly worrying about money. I grew up smart and I grew up fast. And I grew up fighting for my own survival.

I don't need to fight to survive anymore, but I eat like I do. Eating was my coping mechanism. It's now my addiction. I haven't binged or starved myself in years, but still I eat in excess. It's hard to have an addiction to food. Food is something I need to survive, but it's also what keeps my body from moving in the ways I want. Eating is what I do when I'm stressed or emotional or bored or happy. I've done it for so long, I don't know how to stop eating too much. Even in my perfect house, that I feel guilty to own.

If only I could live in my perfect mansion and be happy to be here. If only I could look around and see that I don't need to fight to survive anymore. If only I could orient myself to my new surroundings. But they feel so impermanent, and I fear that one day I'll lose my dream home, one day I will need to survive again. I feel guilty, and fearful, and excited, and overwhelmed. In my dream house I eat less, but I eat more than I need to. I love my dream house. One day maybe I'll love myself too.