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Tag Archive for ‘Louise DeSalvo’

Home is where the guest blogger post is

“There is no place like home” or so they say. They also say that “Home is where the heart is”. And, while many believe that “home is a man’s castle” for me the idea of home has been feeling more like a prison. I, as you may remember, was looking for a home and then decided to quit looking because every time I looked I broke out in metaphorical hives. Even as Igor, my savvy psychoanalyst, told me having a home of my own would be good for me and how much I needed my own space—the idea left me needing more therapy. But, I really tried to find a home; I did. I got a realtor and everything but I would have mild to severe anxiety attacks every time the realtor called. It seems that I have major commitment issues in regards to home and that is why we are still in our 750 square foot condo on a month to month rental basis that requires no lease or commitment. I want to know that any moment I could fly the coop and move—-even though I am not looking and broke up with my realtor using the much loved, “It’s not you; It’s me” line.

For all of us, whether if we were raised by wolves, perfect parents or neglectful narcissists, our first home was our mother. For nine months or so we had a womb with no view and I imagine that first home has an impact on our sense of house and home. As I was born 12 pounds and something ounces I spent the bulk of my time in Chez Mama kicking and screaming. There just wasn’t enough room for me as demonstrated by the formidable black and blue marks I left on my first home(One might compare my small and uncomfortable apartment that we are living in now, that I am desperate to get out and kicking and screaming about, to this first home). My childhood homes were places of formality, chaos, anxiety, alcoholism and a complete lack of personal space or boundaries. Ever since then each home I have left an impact on me and on who I am home—-and even my resistance to home.

During my house hunting days the author of Halfway to France who is in the midst of a move of her own, told me about about Louise DeSalvo’s fantastic book “On Moving”. This brilliant book made me aware of how loaded with meaning houses and moving are psychologically. A new house it is not just a new house it is promise of a new self. Each time I would walk into an open house, thanks to DeSalvo, I would quickly become aware of the me that I imagined I would be in each house.

In the Tudor house on Rose street I would be a modern day Jane Austen who needle-pointed by the fireplace, sipped Earl Grey tea and waited for Mr. Darcy-Weasel to come home. In the ultra modern house in the Glendale Hills I would be as laconic and terse in my prose and persona as someone in a Raymond Carver story. And, the ranch house in the middle of horse country I was sure I would live a Ralph Lauren like lifestyle that involved horses, vintage cowboy boots, turquoise belt buckles and prairie skirts In each house I did not find myself but some other self that I imagined I could be. In each house and identity I did not feel at home. No house, not even the 5000 square foot house we accidentally walked through, was large enough to hold the many aspects of my self—and would hence require me to rent a storage space to hold the parts of me that the house didn’t have room for.

As Igor and I seem to be getting no closer to getting me through my home issue and I still start to sweat each time I see He-weasel house hunting on Realtor.com, I thought I would turn to other writers who have managed to find or make a home for themselves to see how they managed it. I wanted to know their secrets so I asked them the following questions:

Where is home for you?
What is the difference between home and house for you?
Are you at home now?
Have you always felt at home?
What makes a place a home for you?
How has where you lived impacted you? Have the homes you lived in changed you in any way?
Do you think you can go home again?
How did you find your home?
What is your ideal home?
What do you wish you had noticed about your home before you moved in?
How many homes have you had?
What is the style of home that you feel most at home in( even if you have never had such a home)?

And, happily they answered my questions. Throughout the month of August these writers will be sharing their homes with us. We will be getting eight home tours of writers’ homes in places such as Provence, France; India; London; New York City; and places in between. They not only answered my questions but they also shared pictures, drawings and insights I never imagined. Please make them feel at home here on my blog and let them know how much you like the peak into their homes. When touring others homes I find that it is a good idea to wipe your shoes on the doormat, don’t eat their potpourri and not to put your feet on the coffee table—but as none of you were born in a barn or raised in a cave I am sure I don’t need to remind you of that. Oh, and no need to bring a house warming gift. Me casa es su casa or, actually, me bloga es su bloga.

Please come back tomorrow to see Vicki Archer’s home( which I would happily move into). Vicki is an Australian who lives between London and Provence and she is the author of the gorgeous book, dp/0670018775">“My French Life” which tells the story in pictures and prose of her seventeenth-century property in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. You can visit Vicki’s on-line home here.

Things other than my blog that you need to read

1. Please go see Wendy B’s fantastic new blog Francis: The Blog. Let me have Wendy explain it: “I’ve created this blog for my designing friend Christian Francis Roth and his Francis clothing line. But it won’t be all clothes all the time. I’ll also take you behind the scenes at the studio and out on the town. It will be just like the fly-on-the-wall Valentino documentary, but online and without the savage tan. (Didn’t see the movie? Do it! It’s great.)”

2. If like me you dream of having an agent and publishing and you fear it may never happen for you please go and read Shelli at Market My Word’s incredibly inspiring success story and congratulate her, she got an agent!! I have read her success story three times and I will reread it again and again when I once again give up hope that it will ever happen for me. Congratulations, Shelli, and thank you for the inspiration!

3. The first chapter of my favorite book of the moment, “On Moving” by Louise DeSalvo. I cannot recommend this book enough even if you aren’t planning to move anytime soon.

4. Not to toot my own horn ( toot-toot) but the nice people at GazeboNews: News and Stuff About Lake Forest and Lake Bluff have written a post called, “California Dreamin” about one ex-Lake Bluff resident. Any idea who they are talking about? Thanks to them I now have readers from Forest and Bluff. Please, don’t be shy, Forest and Bluffers, leave a comment and say hello.

A house made of Kleenex

First I need to tell you that when I say I am mad, irritated or otherwise perturbed with Igor, my psychoanalyst, it is often code for me telling you that he has brought unconscious material up to consciousness that I would have been very happy to have locked away in the back in the part of my mind that I can’t reach without his assistance. With that said, last week I was mad, irritated and annoyed with Igor.

The session started out well, I think, and after we got through some stuff of not much consequence he asked me if we had been looking at any houses. My first impulse was to tell him to do something which some might consider a highly pleasurable act that involves another and may or may not involve cigarettes afterwards. I resisted my impulse and instead told him about how we had seen house one and two and why neither of them were right and how I had really not liked our realtor and how we needed to find another one and how hard it is. Then, in an ode to Sybil, my personality changed and I turned into a whiny teenager. “But, I don’t want to look for a house. I don’t want to live here. Have I mentioned to you how much I hate L.A.?” He laughed. I assure you that if you heard the way I said it you would have laughed both at and with me. I wouldn’t blame you and I don’t blame him.

I then shared with him my plan. My plan de jour, as you may know, is to find 365 things to like about L.A. and that once I get to a tipping point of liking things about L.A. it is my belief that we will get kicked out of here. So, I am trying to speed up the process and find a lot of things to like as quick as I can. My scheme was too much for him to grasp. He began his response with “Let me get this straight” and then he spoke as slowly and clearly as he can with his Omar Sharif accent “You are saying that if you like it here you will be kicked out?”

“Yep, and I think it will work.” I, for a delusional moment, thought I had convinced him of the merits of my magical thinking.

“It won’t work because you are not really liking things here.”

“No,” I interrupted, “I really do like the Getty.”

“The Getty is not enough,” he said unironically, “What you are trying to do is rush through the life and death cycle that exists in everything. You are looking for things to like, not to be in life and or to live it but, rather, so your grief will end and you can get to a place where you will never know loss again.”

“Uh-huh” I grunted at him like an adolescent with her arms crossed just moments away from rolling my eyes and hitting him with a wounding ‘whatever’.

“We liked Chicago. Maybe I liked it too much. I said everyday how much I liked it. I said it out loud. Maybe if I hadn’t done that we wouldn’t have been kicked out.”

“No, you didn’t make it happen. It just happened that your belief system and your outer circumstances happened to meet up,” Igor explained.

I ignored his answer, “It was like I was punished for liking it. I was punished for being happy somewhere. “

“By whom?”he asked.

“By a deity that I don’t believe in”, I offered weakly.

Igor said nothing. I didn’t give him time.”It’s not fair” I said continuing my adolescent whine that turned ‘fair’ into a four syllable word. “You don’t get kicked out.” I accused him, not expecting he would defend himself “You want to be here and you are here and you aren’t being kicked out. You get to be where you want.”

Igor laughed, “That’s not true. I am kicked out all the time. Just this morning the roads were blocked and I couldn’t get to my office. I get kicked out all the time. The difference between you and me is that I don’t believe that there is someplace that exists that will be free of that and you do.” Again I was wanting to recommend that he do something that the birds and bees and even educated fleas do. I also wanted to explain to him that his being late for work was not the same thing as having your husband’s work bring you back to the one place you never wanted to return to.

“You believe,” he said, “that if you like something it will be taken from you and that is the real issue, not the house buying in L.A. You will have this issue wherever you go and now you are here so lets deal with it here.”

My petulance continued, only I sounded even younger and more whiny, “I don’t want to. I don’t want to buy a house. If we have a house I will be trapped.”

“You think a house is like this.” Igor grabbed a tissue and put it over his hand. He pulled the tissue tight around his hand until he couldn’t move it. I could feel myself constrict and my breath tighten as I looked at my two-ply makeshift metaphor of a home.

He continued, “This is like your mother. If you connect with her you have no space and you feel stuck and you can’t move and you can’t breath. Mother equals home, hence home equals trapped.”

He was right.

I tried to hide any hint of affect on my face that I agreed with him so I could stick with my story. “Can’t it be that I just hate L.A.? People do hate places. It is done. Can’t it just be about that?”

I was in a total snit and I was mad and I was feeling stuck….really stuck. I was filled with an “I’ll show you”attitude that I hadn’t had felt so strongly since the dark days when I was dating Danny, donning Dittos, eating Dorritos and discovering that if I waited until my mother passed out I could sneak out my bedroom window. I wanted to leave Igor’s office and go straight to the airport and buy a ticket and go somewhere and call him at our appointment time next week and tell him that I am not there and that I don’t have to be and that I left and that I got out and that I would never-ever-ever come back again ever, only I didn’t.

It is a week later and I am still here and we have another realtor and we looked at another house that we don’t want and we found another house that we might have liked if it hadn’t been sold out from under us. The funny thing is that I don’t want to tell Igor any of this. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that we looked. What I want to do is tell him that I don’t want him to ask me about houses anymore. Even if I managed it and even if he agreed, the damn Kleenex would be there sitting between us and silently reminding me.

The many faces of move

Saturday night it seems I talked in my sleep. I said only one word.

He-weasel asked me, when I woke, “where would you like me to move?”.

“Huh?” I asked dreamily.

“You said, “move”.”

“Move? When did I say move?”

“When you were sleeping.”

“Did I say it like I was angry?”

“No.”

“Did I say it like an order?”

“Uh-uh.”

“How did I say it?”

“You just said “move”….Were you dreaming?”

“No. At least I don’t think so.” I scoured my memory for some dream or nightmare or story to pin the word to. For reasons unclear, I wanted ‘move’ to belong to something or someone and not to be a verbal orphan.

The word ‘move’ started quietly enough when He-weasel initially said it. Move. I had said ‘move’ as I slept. No other word. Just move. But then this simple words power amplified and began to grow and move and gain steam and power until it was running and circling and surrounding. It was like a room full of children who had eaten too much birthday cake and candy and drank too much punch. Move would not be told to sit quietly in a chair with its hands on its lap. It was ‘move’ as a verb, meaning to set or keep in motion and that is what this word was doing.

Even though I was awake ‘move’ impacted me like an alarm clock only not the high pitch whiny insistent kind but rather like a Chinese gong being hit over and over, building and building until nothing but the noise could be noticed. The kind of gong they hit in a Kundalini class I used to go to where I overheard a new class member’s overreaction “It’s like the gong is raping my ears.” “Move: provoke, incite, raise, stirr (up), whip (up),set off, trigger, inflame, and rouse” with no option of a snooze button.

And as the little word became a BIG word that would not be ignored it filled me with a dread and ‘move’ moved into another meaning. Move became more of an internal movement as I saw it happen I began to
fidget, jiggle, squirm, twitch, wiggle, and writhe. Even as it seemed I was sitting still I was moved by move.

But then the meaning moved into a noun and it took form and shape and it was a thing and not a suggestion, instruction or an imperative and while a noun cannot move without a verb it can just sit there unmoving, unyielding and demanding to be seen. When move became a noun is when I felt the most miserable. “Move (noun): a change of residence or location.”

It seems my subconscious is more aware of the calendar than I am. Tomorrow is the first of June and that means in 30 days are lease is up and we can move.

Igor wants us to buy a six bedroom house. Care to move in?

I am always mindful of how Igor will find me when I am sitting in his waiting room and waiting for him to finish whatever he does before I arrive. My usual waiting activities are: check my lip gloss; check my email; look at his ugly assortment of artwork and wonder what he was thinking; peruse his magazines and tell myself I should read one of his Time Magazines as it will make him think I am smarter but instead I pick up his August 2008 copy of Travel and Leisure that I have flipped through over 20 times. When the time is getting close for my appointment I get in place. I turn my cell phone off. I put my handbag in my right hand and I prepare to jump up on his arrival. I always hope and never manage to hop up before he enters the room. I should give up this goal but each and every session I try and fail to beat him in this one sided game that he always wins.

Last Thursday I did not do any of those things and I feel sure he noticed. When I arrived I took out the book I was reading, “On Moving” by Louise DeSalvo and I was so engrossed that I did none of my usual activities. I even forgot to turn my cell phone off and so a message came in and when Igor came in the room to invite me into his inner sanctum I was on the phone with a book on my lap and my handbag nowhere ready for easy access.

When I was seated on his big leather couch that has deteriorated from holding heavy issues, the weight of denial and decay that comes from being sat on for 30 hours a week, Igor did not ask me how I was or how the traffic was or even why I was not in my usual state of ready in his waiting room but instead he asked me what book I was reading. I told him the title and the subtitle, A Writer’s Meditation on New Houses, Old Haunts, and Finding Home Again, because I wanted him to know that this was not a how-to book on moving.

“Right now I am reading about Freud’s move from Vienna to London.” I told him so he didn’t think it was a book filled with charming antidotes about the moves of Danielle Steele, Dan Brown and James Patterson. The message I was trying to send was, ‘I am smart and deep. And, even Freud suffered because of his move from Vienna to London, i.e. take my suffering seriously.’

“So, are you preparing to move?” Igor asked oozing with hope.

“No.” I said firmly in a moment of momentary sadism. “Why, do you think I should?”

We quickly moved on and went through a dream about my half-brother’s half-brother. No surprise, Igor thought the dream was all about my mother. We did other work but we ended up back talking about home and my mother

“I think you need a house, a large space. A home with space is one of the best defenses against your mother, that and living.”

“Do you have a side business? Are you a realtor? Do you have a home that you think I should see?”

Igor laughed his laugh. It is a laugh filled with an accent from a country I am not even sure exists anymore and with an abandonment that comes from having enormous self-confidence and a genuine joie de vivre.

“No, but I wish I did.” More laughter.

Igor composed himself, “But you do need space”.

“How big?….six bedrooms?” I joked.

“If you can afford it.” He said completely devoid of hyperbole.

“But, we had four bedrooms, two baths, and about 2000 square feet in Chicago and that felt too much. It made the house seem empty and made the absence of a child feel even greater.”

“That,” Igor said with out a hint of irony, “was then and this is now.”

He has said this before. It is not a new theme. Igor and He-weasel both think that my living in such a small condo is not good for me. Igor argues that the nature of my relationship with my mother is not to have my own internal or external space. He-weasel thinks that being in such a small place makes me feel like I am back home in my childhood room. I sometimes feel they are in cahoots on this issue( I love it when I can use the word cahoots. It is one of my favorite ‘c’ words along with cattywampus and chicanery).

Igor has made this argument before with less directness and less effect. Strangely, for reasons totally unclear to me, I decided he was right and that we need to get really serious about looking for a house. Igor, He-weasel and likely even you know that I don’t plan on living in L.A. forever but our lease is up in two months and we are going to have to move again. Wherever we will move will not be forever but just because it won’t be forever doesn’t mean that it can’t be okay for now. Do you like my unbridled enthusiasm about my search for a home in L.A.?

It has been four days since seeing Igor and three and a half days since I finished the book and I am still feeling like he may be right. Perhaps he is wrong about needing six bedrooms but he is right about the space. With DeSalvo’s book in hand I feel like I can survive another move, make sense of the last ones and maybe even get clear of what I really want in our new home instead of going into house hunting unconsciously( I will be writing a lot more about her brilliant book. This may be my favorite book of 2009 and I feel absolutely certain that DeSalvo wrote it just for me. La Francamericaine who told me about my favorite book of 2008 told me about this book and she too is quite convinced it was written just for her. I assure you, I will be writing about DeSalvo and her fantastic book and how it has moved me and what it has unearthed in me).

51 days until our lease is up and I am only slightly panicking. I would feel better if Igor was my realtor. I could look at houses while I lie on his couch. We could figure out what my resistance to houses with wood paneling is really about.

About Me

My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .
These blog posts are informational only and not meant to replace individual psychotherapy, counseling or medical advice. If you are in need of help, reaching out to a professional may help you decide how to proceed or how to find the care you need. For a referral, contact

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