Sometimes it feels like my house is all I talk about. It’s not true, but it feels that way. It’s really hard to describe to people what has happened here over the last seven years. I’ve realized lately that one of my deepest desires is to be understood and sympathized with. Don’t we all want that to a certain extent? No one likes to be misunderstood or treated differently than they actually feel. In the age of social media and technology-relationships it can be hard to feel truly connected because only part of our life is being displayed.
I used to hide my emotions. I used to act like everything was just fine all the time. I was a “closet emotional”. I realized it when I tried to open up to people as a teenager. It seemed what I was thinking in my head was way more intense than they were ready for. I was shut down a few times but thankfully I didn’t let that stop me from opening up. Some people just aren’t safe to open up with. Sometimes we don’t think they will understand, and like I said, I desire to be understood as much as it’s possible.
So why do I continue talking about my living situation? Simply put, it has been my “home” reality for the last 7 years, and what is more important than where you go to relax and escape the world? But I wanted to do something different this time. I wanted to bring to mind the good memories and crazy things we’ve done there in order to not feel completely jaded. Johnny and I have come to some really hard realizations about our life in the last month and my anxiety is very real.
Lately I’ve been feeling put off by people telling us who we are. When people only know you to a certain extent they take whatever details they do know and then peg you as that. It’s frustrating. People change, we change every single year, every single month, every single day. Never assume you know where someone is at, approach life with curiosity instead of absolutes. Some of the things we’ve heard lately:
-You guys like living dirty (not true)
-You guys like living without basic amenities (not true)
-You don't have refined taste (not true)
-You're hippies (huh?)
-I can’t believe you wanted to start a commune (not true)
A lot of people don’t know this but I am very fancy in the way I live, at least I’ve wanted to be. I love luxuries. Not in the typical sense but in the form of rituals. I love a good bath but I’ve never lived in a home with one. I love lighting candles at night. I love a clean, organized home with décor, cozy couches and warmth. I will spend obscene amounts of money on quality local food so I can prepare beautiful meals for my friends and husband. I love hosting people and if I could I would make them a full bed with a little treat on their pillow. I spend a lot of my mornings reading, drinking coffee, doing yoga and relaxing. This is how I like my home life to look.
When Johnny and I got married and moved into a house that was fully ripped apart and non-functioning it sent me into a year of panic attacks and anxiety. Everything I mentioned above was non-existent. When I was a teenager I started down the road of self-care, writing poetry and pursuing whatever I felt was noble in the world. Moving into this house made me feel like I had to put all my desires on hold. Besides that I was also learning to be married. It was a really rough year that I never really talked about openly.
What about the good stuff? Well, take all those desires I mentioned above and try to translate them into this situation. Here is that story.
There was/is a group called Jesus Radicals. This is a group of people who combine Christianity with Anarchy. There was going to be a get together in Portland for this group and Johnny signed our house up on the list of places people could stay. Well, apparently there weren’t that many houses on the list because this is what ensued:
We had about 20 people staying in our small space, which meant some of them were in hammocks out front and in tents out back. The next morning I tip toed over bodies to our make-shift kitchen and made the largest pot of oatmeal. I gathered up random cups and bowls in order to feed everyone. They were all so thankful. This was the beginning of our “hospitality house”. I felt like the space that I hated so much finally had a purpose. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make people nice beds and put little treats on their pillows, instead I could give them a couch, blankets, conversation, oatmeal and large French presses of coffee in the morning.
Over the next 3 years we had a revolving door. Meanwhile we were still re-modeling the house and living without a real kitchen. Our roommate Zach had met a lot of “crusty punks” while traveling and began inviting them to visit. These were the only people who appreciated our space and hospitality. It was all we could give and I was so happy to give it. It filled a hole in me for a while. We met people from all over the country and even some international friends. People would bring their dogs, their instruments, their buses they lived in and their stories. We’d sit on the porch and talk for hours.
We’d also work on projects and talk about all the epic things we could do. One of the projects ended up being our cooking stove, which everyone was really intrigued by. Our electric burners kept breaking and Johnny had heard of this stove design that only used a bundle of twigs to cook a whole meal. Life was never boring, I’ll tell you that. Our porch became our kitchen/living room/guest room. We’d cook on one side and people would sleep and hang out on the other side if we didn’t have room available. This is what it looked like:
We didn’t want to live this way. It just came to us. We were handed lemons and decided to make lemonade. Johnny and I are both people who enjoy really feeling ALIVE. Because we didn’t have an ideal space or a comforting space we decided that sharing it was a way to give it life and meaning. Ultimately we became dirtier people but we also became resourceful, hard working, strong, well-rounded, understanding people. We connected with a group of people who lived a completely different life than us; I think that is always a good thing. It also caused Johnny and I to really learn to communicate well. There were always people around. At some points we had people living in our stairwell right next to our bedroom. I wouldn’t say it was the best idea, but it’s what we did.
Johnny and I didn’t get a lot of privacy. Our most intimate times were spent at coffee shops talking about our dreams and working through the stress of the house together. It was a weird life but we were always trying to make the best of it. At times we had 5 people living in our 2 bedroom, one bathroom, no kitchen house. One time our roommates built their own bunk beds so three of them could fit in one room:
Some of our traveling friends were regulars at our house. One day while sitting on the porch swing our friend was telling us how thankful she was for the house. She said it was incomparable to any other place she had stayed. She felt warm, welcomed and safe, like she could truly relax. This is the opposite of how the space felt to me but the fact that such a chaotic space could create that for someone was a huge success in our minds. It gave us the strength to continue what we had started. Another night we headed out to the main street to busk with our incredible musician friends. We brought the baby goats and set up on the corner near Salt and Straw Ice Cream where a huge line would form. That night we made $40 and spend it on celebratory food and drink with our friends.
Things weren’t always good. People overstayed their welcome, the house was always a mess, most of my things were still in storage, I didn’t feel like I had any space for myself and Johnny was constantly stressed by the re-model. These are the truths, but it doesn’t mean I’m not thankful for all the weird/incredible things that happened here. I’ve learned so much about myself and what I can handle. I’ve learned to set healthy boundaries and stand up for myself. I am grateful for every little ounce of luxury. I’ve also made friends all across the country and world. I’ve shared my space open arms and made lemonade.
For a short while the house looked pretty good, this didn’t last long but I’m glad I have it documented. I can’t wait till I have a space of my own where I can create beauty, organization, cleanliness, light, love, comfort and hospitality. It’s been a long time coming. And while I still struggle with anxiety and panic over our situation I am trying to remember all these good moments when the house was in chaos and we created epic memories regardless. It reminds me to find hope wherever it can be found; to create a home within myself when it is not physically available.
To all our friends and 20+ roommates whom we've shared the space with: thank you! You helped us create something out of nothing. You shared your lives with us and your stories. You are awesome! Once we have a guest house on the property I want to see you all out there!
Our Roommates and Regular Houseguests:
Anna, Bethany, Olivia, Jenny, Zach, Paul, Nate, Brittany, Adam, Hodges, Laura, Nolan, Eve, Carmen, Ben, Blake, Emily, Cory, Rochelle, Mareike, Ashley, Kevin, Kaytee, Christopher, Adam, Neil, Tim, etc.
Bailey Patrice & Jonathan David