Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Overcoming My Fear of Basements

I used to hate basements but I don't anymore.  I didn't intentionally try to get over my fear of basements.  I didn't see a shrink or a preacher or a hypnotist about this specific problem.  I just avoided basements most of my life and now I don't.

Actually, I know why it is.

Because now I write in one.  I spend most of my free time in our basement, playing around with my brain, tapping out my thoughts on a keyboard.  Writing gives me control.

When I was very young I was sexually abused in the basement of our home.  Many times, not just once.  And not just by one person.  The aggressors were my brother Pat, who died two years ago of liver failure, and his creepy friend, who has dropped from the face of the earth for all I care.  Nightmarish memories.  And yet it's the same brother who inspired me to write this elegy to thank him for inspiring me to live.  It was Pat's death that led me back into the basement, to write.  I was free from the bonds of our secrecy.  

My childhood basement was also where I sat in the warmth of my family and ate popcorn by the fireplace while we watched TV together.  We sometimes toasted marshmallows.  They weren't all bad memories.

But my anxious temperament chose to focus on the worst memories, and so I avoided basements for the most part until a couple of years ago when Will bought me a chair for our anniversary.  A computer chair to sit next to him in our home office.  In the basement.

When we bought this house in 2004, newly married and child-free, we decided to divvy up the housework this way: I was in charge of keeping the main floor clean and Will was in charge of keeping the basement clean.  We called it his man cave.  He decorated it with psychedelic memorabilia and pop culture relics from his childhood.  He set up his jam space with instruments and recording equipment and various gadgets he enjoyed puttering around with in his man cave.

His desktop computer was set up on the other side of his man cave.  I used it occasionally, if someone else was in the basement with me, but never alone.  Mostly I used my laptop upstairs.

When Katie was born our rules went out the window with the baby's bath water.  Well, we do still follow one rule for housework: If it disgusts you, you have to clean it up.

I have mild OCD about germs, but my laziness trumps my obsessive-compulsiveness, so for the most part I sit on my ass blogging while Will spruces up our home.

Along with Katie came less room for me to write upstairs.  She needed a room of her own, even though she mostly ends up sleeping in our bed, and apparently even a second room to fit all the stuffed animals my siblings and our parents and friends give her.  When a relative gave us a spare desk, we didn't have room for it on the main floor, so we set it next to Will's desk in the basement.  Pretty soon, after Katie would fall asleep, I'd follow him down into the cave to sit by him.  I brought my laptop.  We watched videos together on YouTube.  We surfed social media and shared our findings.  We laughed at each other's funny Facebook status updates.  I began to write a blog.

Soon, I wanted to keep writing long past the time Will wanted to go to bed.  So he went to bed.  And I kept writing, unafraid.

Now I find I can focus best huddled away in the basement.  An introvert, I do my best writing in isolation with little background noise or visuals to distract me.  I've considered asking Will to help me build a hobbit hole like this one I found floating around on Facebook:

Image source: Facebook

But for now, I'm really happy in our family cave.  I never would have thought I'd come this far oh so many years ago.