Saturday, November 5, 2011

On Name Calling, Karma, House Buying (and falling in love)

So what if I call him a jerk (or something slightly more colorful)? He doesn’t know and will never know. We’ve never met; will most likely never meet. The nature of our relationship is based on anonymity, ensured by each of us employing an agent to conduct our transactions for us. Our agent, who is just about the sweetest person one could ever meet, calls him a jerk—not in so many words, but still. His agent has begun implying that he feels his client is acting in a jerkish manner. I have confirmation and validation. Dude is being way uncool. Being in agreement that the price was fair, we offered what Seller was asking without attempting to negotiate a lower price. The contract, as is usual, stated that Seller would pay closing costs. Seller refused. Seller refused to pay for termite treatment. Seller tried to force inspections to be done within one week and then, after we capitulated on all the standard contract stipulations he refused, when he finally agreed to the other terms, he is now demanding that the closing take place within 3 weeks. You can imagine that I’d love nothing more than to be in my new home within 3 weeks after having been homeless since May but the mortgage company has everything to do with it at this point.

Hmmm…background, background and perhaps a little more background is in order. Where to start?

I’m buying a house. With Mark Wutka, who has become my beloved and my betrothed (but about whom there is so much to say it should be, and I’m sure will frequently be, subject for other blogposts). The house we are buying is in Nashville and Mark will be moving here to be with me after Christmas.




I’ve been looking at houses for YEARS. Dreaming, hoping, escaping, wishing, longing-plenty of pocketa-pocketa-pocketa Walter Mitty stuff-but also lots and lots and lots of research about neighborhoods and cost-per-square-foot and schools and energy efficiency and structural integrity and real estate as investment and so much more.

Being unable to afford private school tuition and realizing the need to commit to living in the area with the good public schools so we don’t have to go through the stress and rigmarole of figuring out which school will best meet Finn’s needs each year, I decided to put down roots in Sylvan Park (ironically, we’ve just begun homeschooling again, but that’s grist for yet another post).

This house we are buying, which we are calling The Burrow, has been on the market since 2008. It is big-4,000 square feet big-and ugly: it was originally a nice little house that a contractor added a 3,000 square foot box onto the back of in 2006. It was built as a triplex but is legally zoned for single family occupancy so can’t be used as an investment property and will require a lot of work to remodel into a single family dwelling. It is also a weird property, with a very random and illogical floor plan (hence The Burrow, for we Harry Potter fans). It’d been on the market for almost 3 years and then was sold in April of this year and then almost immediately put back on the market. The price was reduced a couple of times and when I called the listing agent to look at it in August, he said the buyer bought it to flip, turned down an offer shortly after it was listed and hadn’t gotten a nibble since then. The price was again lowered a couple of times when Mark and I began to talk seriously about buying a house together so we got a recommendation for a marvelous realtor, Angela, from our friends J&C and The Burrow was the first of 2 places we looked at. It has 9 or 10 bedrooms, 6 & ½ baths and 3 kitchens. It’s huge and odd and quirky but it seemed to fit us and our needs very well. Mark and I both feel a powerful call to center our lives in God and to make our home a continuation of our spiritual community by living near people who share our faith and also through hospitality. We would like to live independent of cars as much as possible and The Burrow is within walking distance of much of what we need and want to do, including Nashville Friends Meeting (we can’t wait to walk to meeting for worship every week!).

Our soon-to-be home is big enough to rent out the front 2-3 bedroom section to someone, preferably a single parent with a couple of children who wants to live in community or a single Quaker.

Removing the front third of The Burrow from consideration, we will still have 3,000 sf of living space which includes 7 bedrooms, 4&½ baths and 2 kitchens. Mark and I will share an office and bedroom and Zan and Finn will each have their own bedrooms. In addition to that, we will have a room for Mark’s granddaughters, a music room and a library, all of which will also act as guest rooms. The upstairs kitchen/dining area will be rec room/laundry room. We will be able to comfortably and easily welcome friends, visitors, travelers and host lots of parties, gatherings, worship groups and potlucks. We are excited that we will be able to practice hospitality in our home.

Back to the jerk, er…Seller. Mark, kind man that he is, does not call Seller rude names. To do so, he explained, would be to make assumptions that may color our behavior toward him. My argument was that we will never meet Seller and so how we refer to him in our private conversations will have no bearing on him. But now I think of this in terms of hospitality.

Hospitality to me means welcome, generosity, warmth, sharing, acceptance. I don’t know Seller’s story or anything about him. He made a very foolish business investment hoping to make a quick profit and it seems that he is digging his heels in and stubbornly insisting on squeezing every last cent out of it rather than being grateful to be out from under it. One could make assumptions about his character based on that but when I think about my definition of hospitality, my perspective shifts.

Mark and I became acquainted as unmarried people in April and began dating in May. It was pretty clear to both of us that we fell in love shortly thereafter. Since our initial conversation, it has seemed we stepped into The Slipstream and are being carried by God. Way has opened for us every step of our growing relationship. I could go on and on about how perfect we are together but I’ll spare you that (for now). What I will say is that I hadn’t really believed there was anyone in the world I would ever find perfect.

I accept, up to a point, the idea of karma, in that I accept that you get back the kind of energy you put out. I don’t have any connection to the idea of past lives or creating karma that is yours at your next birth, hardwiring conditions of your life. I have felt, however, that I must have accrued some seriously good karma to have been blessed with the gift of Mark. Whatever the circumstances, whether it was karma or, as I feel is more true, that God has brought us together for a purpose because we belong together as partners while we serve God, I know we should have hospitality in mind.

And in thinking about Seller in the context of karma or of hospitality, referring to him as “The Jerk” does not feel right. He may not be the most lovable person but Jesus didn’t tell us to love only the people who make our lives easy. I wouldn’t call Seller my enemy but it is an easy step to go from calling him The Jerk to thinking of him as an adversary and what does that do? When I call Seller a jerk, I’m not affecting his karma nor changing him in any way but I am creating negativity and an inhospitable mindset. Out of bad experiences we learn and grow and carry with us the potential for transformative purpose. Although Seller seems to have given us a hard time for no good reason, who is to say that Seller isn’t giving us an opportunity for good? Maybe, instead of calling him The Jerk, I should be praising him? This is life and we have no way to know what will come. I spend my life trusting that what I’m learning will have meaning and a use one day. Maybe the lesson right now is to not call people names even when they seem to be deliberately unpleasant, a lesson I should have learned at my mother’s knee but which I obviously did not heed. Maybe the lesson is further patience; maybe it is something about which I currently have no inkling. Whatever the case, I am trying to let go of negativity and assume the best. My life has love aplenty to share and I needn’t be so narrow minded as to think it should only be shared with those who will return it. Blessings for Seller with no stipulations like hope for a softening of his heart: simply blessings for him.