I sat looking at the woman’s bright red lipstick as her words poured like a spigot all over the wool carpet in my office. Her barrage was about the shortcomings of her newly refurbished home in Riverland Terrance. Hers was one of Riverland’s larger homes bordering a manicured golf course that followed the Stono River. I knew the area and was sure it was one of the upscale allotments from the late 70’s she purchased and customized with all the best finishes. One by one newcomers, like herself, plucked these well-built homes to bring them into the 21st century. She had no idea I had firsthand knowledge of renovating in this city, but my formal knowledge on that subject was not what this meeting was about. Her riveting anxiety about the golf course that spanned the space between her and the river was the reason she was here.
“Denise, I tell you, I just didn’t think it through. I loved the house and the river. I must say I wanted to live there the moment I drove down the street. So, I leaped into home ownership, closing a month later. After picking my colors and changing out my kitchen, my builder gave me what I wanted. I’ve no complaints about his work or my house and I love my spaces. One day relaxing on my back porch, a ball fell to my flower bed, and then another. I sat in anticipation wondering just how many would land in one afternoon. Three balls total, one right after another into the flower bed with a thud. The more I thought about it, the more upset I became. I had not idea that golfers were so inaccurate and all in one afternoon. All I kept thinking was they could have hit my Tinkerbell!”
“My precious Maltese, she’s my baby, and I couldn’t bear to think she’d be hit by one of these hard balls. If it landed on her head, I shudder to think what might happen. This is her house, too. She should have the right to play in her backyard during the day.”
She grasped her hanky in her hand a little tighter putting it to her lips with her eyes closed.
“You have no legal recourse to keep the golfers out of that area?” I continued to question.
“I combed the covenants. My counsel’s read them. I am afraid not. It’s the risk of living along the course. I blame myself, I just didn’t think it through. I regret it. I regret it is so much.” She was nearly in tears.
“Is this the only thing about your new place you are worried about?” pressing a bit further.
“Yes. While I have met my immediate neighbors, the area is safe and beautifully kept. I worry everyday those balls might fall from the sky at any time of the day.”
“What is your fear underneath all of that worry over Tinkerbell’s harm? And your continual thought about the threat of the golf balls?”
She checked her nails and looked out the window rather pensive. The room was stiffly quiet. I let the quiet work. Something was just below the surface.
Suddenly, her lips parted and she drew in her breath.
“Well, I can’t believe you’d asked me that. I feel alone.” Half crying, half talking, “My husband’s been dead two years and my children have their own families. Oh, they include me here and there, and that is all fine and dandy. But I thought buying this house, sitting out on the porch looking at the river, at the golfers playing their game, life would change for me. Tinkerbell and I would be able to relax and I’d worry less.”
“So, it’s about being alone then? And how the worry plaques you?”
“I suppose it is, Miss Denise. I suppose it is.” Her tears subsiding and her composure returning, “Tinkerbell is all the company I have most days. Bless her, she can’t talk to me, but at least I know she’s there. She feels my emotions and comforts me. I am afraid I might lose her like I did Bill.”
“When we have the tendency to worry, we will find something to fill that worry-gap inside of us. Today, you are sure one of those balls is coming into your yard to take Tinkerbell. Yet, the probability of it is very slim. Have there been any news reports of others being hit or hurt?”
“None that I am aware,” she quickly admitted.
“Let’s try to make peace with the golfers and those pesky balls. Perhaps that was a bad day and a bad golfer, we have to be careful about generalizing it to the point of killing your dog. When those thoughts enter, reframe and move to the logic. Worry can blow things out of proportion and our story grows.”
“I guess you are right about that. Privacy and the river right there in view was all I saw the day I fell in love with the house. I didn’t see golf balls in the flower beds the times I visited, nor did any fall after that day.”
“So, lets focus on finding time for Tinkerbell and you in the backyard early mornings and at dusk after the golfers have turned in for the night until you feel more comfortable. Ease into it. Keep her with you on the porch to play or take her out for walk away from the course during peak playing times. I love your heart for Tinkerbell, I get that she is your companion. But I am far more concerned the worry of losing her has overtaken you, keeping you from enjoying your life. Perhaps tied to the loss of your husband?
“Yes. I am seeing that though I thought I was through most of it until now.”
“I hope you’ll take time on your porch to breathe in the salt air and focus on your gorgeous view. Be present. Relax with some southern sweet tea on these warm days. Your new motto: Breathe more, worry less.”
As session was winding to a close, my mind drifted to my house, drawing my breath inward, hoping she wouldn’t notice my transference. In pushing against her pattern, I was speaking to the choir. If she knew where I woke up this morning, the less than favorable conditions I was living in for the past many months, would she dare seek out my advice? It is all very relative, different setting, same worry-gap. I fell in love with our broken-down heap, but had no idea the struggle I’d face. The cold nights and dusty mess as Greg tore open it’s frame. My inability to truly rest. One day, the house will be done and the streets safer, but I do not doubt I will fill my worry-gap with something new. Choosing to push the anxiety from overtaking me is the muscle I need exercised even after it has been fully restored. It has brought me face to face with what matters, what I need to be whole and happy, especially the needless worry that drains my inner peace.
Excerpt from my upcoming book, A House with Holes, still under construction.
Based on a true story in principle, I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them. In order to maintain their anonymity and confidentiality, I have changed the names of individuals and places, I may have changed some identifying characteristics and details such as physical properties, occupations and places of residence.