On Friday after work, I was taking down the garbage from the Marin house, where J lives and where I’m apparently moving into (!). As I was descending the stairs, a woman a little older than me was parking her car outside and getting her small son out of the car. Many people turn around or park in the cul-de-sac where we live, walking dogs, playing, passing through the pedestrian short-cut, so I didn’t consider it odd, but she kept observing me.
She walked up to the front gate and asked, “Do you live here?”
I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond—since the answer was “sort of”—but I replied, “Yes.”
She told me then that she and her family used to live here when it was a rental property of the former owner and asked if a package had been delivered for her. As it turned out, I was supposed to drop a “return to sender” package we’d received at the post office, but hadn’t done it yet… so YES! I had her package.
She was kind of dancing around the front gate, unsure of where to be while I retrieved it. Her son said something that he meant to approximate, “We used to live here.” I told him that as I was cleaning up the yard the other day, I found a green plastic stegosaurus — was it his? Did he want it?
He said yes (of course), so I invited him and his mom into the backyard to get it from where I’d placed it on the fence post, a reminder of the families who’d lived here.
He snatched it out of my hand, his mom asked me a question about the house, commenting a little shyly on how different the backyard looked now (without any furniture!). I wasn’t quite sure what to say.
I walked them out the front gate and off they drove.
I was struck by the fact that I felt embarrassed. I felt embarrassed and almost ashamed that this woman and her family were kicked out of the home where I now live, where J now lives.
Clearly, that’s absurd, but it’s also how I felt. That I was somehow to blame, as I was party to the choosing of this house, for her family having to vacate and move. (The 2nd bedroom has those glow-in-the-dark stars still on the ceiling in real constellations from where they’d placed them.)
The “fault,” if there is one, clearly doesn’t lie with me. It was a home that was being sold no matter what, and J happened to be the person to buy it. The family was going to be asked to move no matter what.
But I felt embarrassed to tell this woman that I was party to owning this home. That I do, in fact, live here. That this abundance was mine.
This is the piece I’ve been sitting with for several days now: for years, I’ve been talking about abundance, wanting it, working toward it, “attracting” it, visioning it, vision-boarding it.
And now here it is and I feel toe-in-the-dirt shy to say I’m achieving some part of it.
A person could roll their eyes at the woe-is-her struggle to own abundance, but the truth is I think many of us struggle with owning our achievements or our successes or our overflows.
When I was living in San Francisco in a 1bedroom, I had social gatherings and parties regularly because I felt so fortunate with my abundant space that I wanted to and had to share it with others. Those gatherings were one of the most joyful experiences about my time living there.
The wonderful thing about having abundance is getting to share it more widely. If I eschew it, avoid it, don’t have it, or don’t embrace it, then I’m not really getting the full benefit of it at all — and would be better off back in a small life that I can feel embarrassed of for entirely different reasons!
“Owning abundance” was never something I foresaw would be a challenge, but having to shed the smallness and embarrassment that is arising in me will be a journey worthy to undertake.
How can we hold the excellent and wonderful things in our lives with equanimity? How can we honor what we’ve worked for or have been given with gratitude, awe, and celebration? And… are we allowed to?