Typically, that expression means putting in all your effort and risking everything you have to achieve something great. In my case, “going for broke” is in reference to everything in and around my house seeming to break down at the same time and my resulting finances. It started a couple months ago with me noticing that the wooden patio cover in my back yard was starting to go sideways. My contractor informed me that the support posts were rotting and the whole thing would have to come down and be re-built at the low low price of $2800. I took a deep breath, wrote a check, and went on a delightful trip to Europe that I’d been planning (and saving for) for quite some time.
When I got home, I had a brand new and upright patio cover, and in spite of the hit to my savings, I felt quite lucky to have left with a broken one and come home to a new one. Easy peasy! Or so I thought. A couple days later, as I was closing the window in the guest bathroom, I noticed several of what appeared to be ants. Then I took a closer look and realized they had wings. The termite guy came out, inspected the entire house, and informed me that I had several infested areas but he could treat all of them for the low low price of $1600. Another check written, some more deep breaths, and I ventured to think, “Okay, that wasn’t great, but things are good overall, right?” Wrong.
When I was a small child, my parents planted a bazillion (okay, maybe 30 or so) hibiscus plants around the border of our entire back yard, so about 80 feet of hibiscus bushes line the white brick wall behind them. For the last three or four years, I have been at war with the white flies that have infested them, and even though I’ve sprayed those parasitic bastards with everything but magic fairy dust (which is not available at Home Depot, apparently), they’ve taken over. I finally decided last week that it was time to admit defeat. So all the hibiscus bushes are coming out at the low low price of $600, and it has yet to be determined how much it will cost to replace them with some other, hopefully less-attractive-to-whiteflies plant.
You’d think that would be enough to deal with in one summer, but no, it’s not. Two days after giving the gardener the go-ahead on the hibiscus removal, my oven died–soot, smoke, weird smell, and a broken heating coil or whatnot at the bottom. It completely came apart as if to say, “Don’t even try to fix me, lady.” Yesterday, after stepping into a puddle in my kitchen, I discovered a leak under the sink that’s been soaking into and warping the bottom and side of the cabinet for who-knows-how-long. So I have a few more calls to make and checks to write. What’s strange is that I should also have to be doing enough deep breathing to require a paper bag, but instead I’ve entered a strange kind of Zen calm about all of this. Two or three things going wrong would be just enough for me to feel really stressed, but for some reason when the number climbs this high, it just starts to get ridiculous. I can’t bother to get upset about everything because there are just too many things at this point and I don’t have the time or energy. I’m too busy discovering what else has gone wrong and whether there’s enough in my account to avoid bouncing a check.
So what is the lesson here? (it feels like there should be a lesson so that this isn’t just a long whine in paragraph form) I guess that owning a house is a lot of work and it costs a lot of money. Which is not news to anyone. But I suppose as someone who bought her house primarily out of sentimentality and a need for some stability, it kind of is news to me. I love my house and I bought it because at the time my father was considering selling it, I couldn’t bear the thought of it belonging to someone else–not the house I grew up in, not the house with all the rose bushes my mother planted still in the front yard. But this summer is teaching me that there might come a day when I’ll actually be more glad than sad to pass it along to someone else. That as much comfort as it’s brought me in the past decade, I may eventually want to be free of it. I guess that’s one reason I’m so weirdly calm about how many things need repairing and how rapidly my bank account is being drained–all this brokenness is, in its own strange way, a step towards new possibilities. Or at least that’s what I’m going with when the next thing breaks. It beats hyperventilating.