On February 17th – in the middle of nine days with no electricity due to an ice storm – we had the foundation’s contractor to re-inspect our house. We saw some settlements last fall and I was concerned that this might indicate deeper problems.
The contractor explored the crawl space for thirty minutes while I sat in the living room and was annoyed. When he finished, he came to tell me what he had found.
“Look,” he said, “my assessment is the same as three years ago when you had me out here. Your foundation is fine. It doesn’t fail. The house doesn’t fall down. “
I felt a wave of relief wash over me.
“That means,” he continued, “I think you would feel better if you joined part of the foundation.” It looks to me like you are seeing a slight expansion and contraction of the soil which is causing your settlement problems. It would cost about $ 9,000 to fix that. “
That evening, as Kim and I huddled together in our powerless living room, bundled up in coats and jackets and holding flashlights to read, I made a confession.
“I want to move,” I said. “I know we both love this house and yard, but it is a drain on my sanity.”
“I know,” said Kim. “I know you fought. Since we moved in, I’ve seen you become increasingly depressed and anxious. I will do everything I can to make you happy, but I think maybe you should give up your dream of owning an old home. “
She is right. I love old houses, but my personality doesn’t suit them. You burden me. (My ex-wife and I also owned an old house – she still lives there – and it caused me endless stress too.)
Over the next few weeks, Kim and I spent many hours discussing our best course of action. Then, a month ago today, we made a decision: we would sell the house ASAP (to take advantage of the crazy Portland real estate market) and then rent a space for a while while we make a careful, calculated decision about it where to live next.
March was a mad rush. From the moment we decided to sell, Kim and I worked almost continuously to get the house ready for the market.
- We’ve done almost all of the repairs we know need to be done. We have a few more planned. (And we’re moving the foundation rebar. We’ll share this inspection and estimate with the buyers and let them make the decision.)
- We rented a storage unit and methodically packed and moved our unnecessary things. I also moved out of my rented office space and stored all of these things too.
- As we pack, we try to thoroughly clean every corner of the house: scrubbing walls, washing windows, wiping out cabinets, and so on.
- We also clean the yard. During our four years in this country house, we collected a variety of items – spare wood, old fence boards, excavated stones – that we piled in different piles. We’re clearing this pile.
In all honesty, the house looks better now than it has any time we’ve owned it.
As we prepare, we are torn. We love this house and this yard. The farm in particular is almost perfect for us. But there is absolutely no doubt that this house, for whatever reason, is causing me mental agony. I can’t live here.
In fact, I spent the entire first half of March in a deep, dark place. I was frightened as I thought about the house. Whenever it was possible to catastrophize, I would catastrophic: “What if the house doesn’t sell? What if the contractors we call find more bugs? What if we can’t sell it for what we put in it? “
I was a mess. And it put a huge strain on my relationship with Kim.
I find myself again
Fortunately, the past two weeks have been better for a variety of reasons.
First, the contractors that came out found no more problems with the house. In fact, they all say similar things, “Yes, what I’m fixing is a problem, but it’s not as bad as you think and I don’t see anything else wrong.”
Second, I tried to practice mindfulness. When new fears arise, I acknowledge them and move on. “Oh yes, I’m worried about the gutters again. But we fixed the problem in the first place and the contractor said there was nothing else wrong so I just don’t worry about anything. “
In connection with this, I asked myself, “What is the worst that can happen?” We bought this place for $ 442,000. We spent an additional $ 150,000 on repairs and remodeling. (I’ll have an exact number by the end of today.) So our cost base for this location is around $ 600,000.
“The land itself is worth $ 300,000,” I tell myself as I browse Zillow to see what others are selling houses for. “With the house we shouldn’t have a problem getting $ 442,000. And with all of the upgrades we’ve made, it should fetch $ 500,000. Maybe even $ 550,000. Even if I lose money on the house, I probably won’t lose much. “Basically, I am doing my best to dissuade myself from the disaster.
Finally – and perhaps most importantly – I started taking my ADHD medication a little over two weeks ago.
When I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2012, my therapist and doctor prescribed Vyvanse, a mild stimulant. I took this stuff briefly but stopped after a few days because I hated the way it made me feel. While there is no question that it calms my mind, the Vyvanse makes me tense physically. My mind calms down, but my body spins like a feather for eight hours. So I’ve only used this stuff occasionally when I know I need to get something done.
Then Kim and I read this article on ADHD from our friend David Cain. “David’s article might be about you,” said Kim. She was right. Everything he wrote was as if it came from my own mind and experience.
At the same time, I read an article that described the relationship between ADHD and depression / anxiety. Suddenly everything clicked. “Holy shit,” I thought. “What if my depression and anxiety are made worse or even caused by ADHD?”
At Kim’s urging (and at the urging of my business partner Tom), I took my ADHD medication every day. I’ve been taking them every day for almost three weeks now. And you know what? The depression and anxiety are (mostly) gone. I’m serious. No, I don’t like the side effects of Vyvanse, but these side effects can be worth it considering the benefits.
I still notice various flaws in the house, but they no longer put me on a mental tailspin. Everything in my head seems somehow calmer and more organized. My short-term memory has improved significantly. (Both Kim and Kris have long told me that I have a terrible short-term memory. I now see that this could be related to ADHD.)
Plus, as expected, the Vyvanse keeps me focused. I can work like a normal person! I wake up in the morning, take my pill, drink my coffee, and then tackle my to-do list, one task at a time. I don’t jump everywhere and go from one task to the next. I just pick one job and work on it until it’s done.
As an example, I sat down about 45 minutes ago to write this article. I wrote non-stop without distraction the whole time. More exciting (for me), I wrote this piece in a linear fashion instead of hopping everywhere from start to finish to middle to finish to start to middle to finish. I started at the beginning, am now in the middle and nearing the end. To write like this is enlightening!
An uncertain future
Our future is bleak.
Right now, Kim and I have no idea where we’ll be living in a month, let alone a year. But we agree with that.
If everything goes according to plan, our house will be ready for use in about ten days. As in many other parts of the country, Portland currently has a low housing inventory and homes are selling fast – even quirky homes like ours. It is very likely that the place will be sold on the first weekend it is in the market.
Once we have accepted an offer and the house has passed the inspection, we start looking for a rental property. (This is the only thing that causes Kim stress, by the way. She fears we won’t find a place where all of our beasts live: three cats and a dog.) While we rent, we take time to look for another Place to live.
It is possible that we will stay in the Portland area, probably in a small town further from town. But it is also possible that we will settle on the southern coast of Oregon. Or maybe somewhere in Washington. Or maybe in Omaha. (I spend way too much time browsing homes on Zillow. You can get smoking deals on nice homes in Omaha. Wouldn’t it be fun to live just a few blocks from Warren Buffett?)
Yesterday my friend Castle came out with her husband to take away old fence boards. (Castle and Jim are artists. They turn old fence boards into cool handicrafts that they sell at the Portland Saturday market.) They told us about the place they bought a few years ago.
“We live about an hour north of Portland on the Washington side of the river,” said Castle. “We have a couple of mornings, which gives us a buffer between ourselves and our neighbors. It also gives us space for farming and gardening. We bought a prefabricated house, but it’s great. It’s so beautiful and a lot cheaper. “
Kim’s eyes lit up. “I love this idea. I could live in a prefabricated house, ”she said. Then she looked at me. “I don’t know if JD can do that, though. He grew up in one. He doesn’t have good memories of it. “
I shrugged. At this point I am not ruling anything out. I grew up in a battered mobile home, that’s true, and for a long time I felt it was a stamp of how poor we were.
Since then I have lived in a normal ranch house. Twice I’ve lived in quirky old houses with large yards. I was traveling in a motor home for fifteen months. And for four years I owned a penthouse with a river view. I realized that a house is just a house. At the moment I feel like I could live almost anywhere – just not here.
This article highlights some of the psychological and emotional reasons for moving. I am working on preparing another article that will examine the financial side of the decision.