The Mustard Yellow House is on the market. There it is on TradeMe, quickly gathering views, watchlist adds, and questions that the listing already answers. How did we get to this point?
A short answer to that question might be “2020”. Yes, it’s all about this stinker of a year — if I’m allowed to add to calendar-2020 the final three months of 2019, which I might as well do to make it a full 12 months.
Here is a longer answer.
Eleven months ago our dogs died, on consecutive days. Only now am I starting to understand the impact of that.
Tom and I drove away from the grief for a while but came back to it. Wanting to take some sort of action, we ripped up the neat fences that had kept Phoebe and Connor safe, intending to tidy up the yard and perhaps eventually reinstate the fence as a gesture of hope that we’d get another dog.
We never did tidy up, all that much. The fence sections stayed where we lay them, becoming tangled in grass that grew through them. And we’re still without a pet.
In the following months, I got more tense with my life here. Part of this, I realised much later, was that my daily little mood pill — the mild antidepressant that I’ve taken since 2016 — had stopped working. The smallest adversity or pressure — not being able to find my glasses case, receiving a phone call — could paralyse me.
Makahuri co-housing group meetings became a fortnightly mountain to climb. In that group I felt more and more isolated and baffled about what I was doing. It’s hard to untangle how much of this was due to the group or to my already-thinning resilience.
Then came lockdown. Those weeks of distance from other villagers added to my sense of isolation. Our cheerful gatherings stopped. Cheese-making was shifted to the shared chapel kitchen and thus became an isolated pastime for me, without people to chat to and without little dogs running around me.
I also felt in a minority of one over how strictly to social-distance; ironically for someone who dreads isolation, I was the voice for more distance in a group that mostly itched to get back together.
Then I fell out of the group completely, and into the worst depressive episode for many years. A stressful meeting was followed by a fractious exchange on Messenger, and I was gone.
The simile that strikes me is that of riding on the bed of a truck going along a bumpy road. One by one a series of bumps shifted me to the edge, and then suddenly I was face-first in the gravel while the truck carried on, getting more distant. No one had pushed me and I hadn’t jumped, but there I was.
Apart from the odd hour or afternoon of relative cheerfulness, the next six weeks were blackness. A breakdown is how we would once have described it, sotto voce.
I tried to do the right things. I exercised. I started meeting with friends. I took on a busy role in the club I’m a member of. My doctor upped the antidepressant dose by 50 per cent and after six weeks the effect was enormous. The blackness lightened into a manageable blue-grey.
Eventually I went back to the co-housing group meetings.
It’s not my place to speak of Tom’s feeling during this time. All I’ll say is that we discovered something that hadn’t been true a year earlier: we were ready to leave.
Once at this point, it wasn’t hard to get interested in possible different ways of living: buying land and shifting the tiny house on to it; or getting an inner-city apartment and, like the song says, going cafe to cabaret; or buying a terrestrial, unwheeled house; or doing several of these, but according to a plan of action.
Here’s what we did: we bought a house in a small town not far away. The sale became unconditional last Friday, the third anniversary of our moving into the Mustard Yellow House. We take possession this coming Friday.
Hence the headline: Tiny House For Sale.
Someone will fall in love with our tiny house the way we did. They’ll tow it away and start their own adventure, as we did. They’ll take a piece of my heart when they do.
Mixed feelings? For sure. I still love this house and “tiny living”. I never again want a huge space. I never again want to accumulate stuff.
But I do want to live in different ways, not just one way for the rest of my life. I want to live in the inner city; I want to live overseas; I’d like to live again with lots of grass around me, as I have done in Paddock World.
So, on with the journey!
Tom and I have a new town to get to know. I have an e-book to write about our time in the Mustard Yellow House.
And on September 27, we get our new puppy.