Sometimes I feel that a bit more space in our little house is the answer. To that end I truck things off to storage and good will, pare down my possessions, try to convince my spouse and kids to let go of a few more items from the dozens of boxes there, condense, find creative storage solutions. I actually enjoy the sense of movement, of change and renewal, as well as the physical work and creativity of designing and creating solutions for a small space, in contrast to the cultural pressure to upgrade. I want to be content, want to embrace simplicity, want to prove that what we have is enough. Do you know we get three “neighborhood magazines” now—three, all spawned within a year of one another, featuring happy local families in their apparently showpiece houses with their apparently showpiece lifestyles. More than half of the “featured families”—far more than half—are in real estate or financial planning, attested by the same faces showing up on the ads in the later pages. When I posted a comment to the neighborhood website calling the first rag I received “silly” and mentioned the real estate connection, I was reprimanded from various quarters for my lack of community spirit, since after all the publisher actually lived nearby and was doing this project “out of pocket.” The publisher, mildly affronted, said my family could be featured as well, though I shuddered at the thought of what a production that would be. Everyone dressing up, acting just so, posing for a family style fun activity that we all typically do together (pillow fight taken, bike rides too–maybe a family chore day, half watching a football game and half working on laptops, or going to a swim meet?). So I withdrew from attacking that particular veneer with my coarse grade sandpaper. The next three featured families were in other professions–one was even a public school teacher–who could think any advertising revenue could come from that? Then I saw his financial planner spouse featured a few pages on…
Still, there is a real community here. It’s not primarily about social media posts, nor advertising revenue. And I can’t say I feel I’ve contributed much to it, other than chatting a bit with folks walking their dogs, helping neighbors with recycling day, trying to get some ride sharing going, and an attempt at a women’s tea years ago. And generating some private enjoyment for folks that agree with my “antisocial” views but are too diplomatic to air them publicly.
Back to the house, though, and I’m hoping that the topic has some relevance for others out there: There’s still a mismatch between the space, and the stuff we want to fit in it. We don’t want to let go of our specialty tools and supplies, our books, games, clothes for all seasons, bulk food storage, clippings and photos and artwork eventually to be organized and put on display. I bring up the open discussion of whether we should add on, trade up, rent a little office/project space. I want, I want, I don’t want to want more. But anyway the savings aren’t there yet, college expenses are coming up, our jobs aren’t secure, and the kind of place we want has never shown up in the right area at the right price, especially considering the 6% real estate fee. And after all, half of our kids will be launched to other domains in the next two years. There will be a bedroom for each of the rest then, and we’ll get the garage back for storage and projects. The discipline of waiting, of contentment, of letting go. Embracing what positive changes really are within my sphere of influence.
Maybe it’s help with the housework I need. I know it was a huge relief in the past, changed my demeanor, took such a burden off. At about what I’d earn per hour as a substitute teacher, I see it as a good trade. On cleaning days I’d come home and just bask in the beauty of a clean, orderly home, and a surge of creative energy–the kind that results in a lot of the messes, in fact–would wash over my soul. I’d put on some Bach, start some muffins, take out my sewing stuff and sew away until it was time to feed the kids, or go shopping, or organize the bills.
Now the main reason the house feels too small is that the tube is on in the heart of the house every weekend for at least half of the day. No civil cure for that now, though years of resistance kept it at bay. I can keep my frustration at bay with exercise, productive work, and leaving for chunks of each networks dominated day. Right now I can hear the muffled sounds of the three hour pre-game show over the music pumping our of my ear buds as I write. I was going to go to church, see if I could lure some of the family out since some old homeschool friends’ are the string quartet for the service. The pastor is a football fan, which elevates him in my eyes as a guy willing to forgo for higher goals. Though occasionally a parishioner will share an update from a smart phone. But it’s half time already, I’m still here writing, and my husband is rallying the kids to clean up from breakfast.
As for the positively trite ending that I still am tempted to make, I can only say that there must be more required of me than to form my days out of complaints about my perceived constraints. I know from looking back on my life that I too often live timidly, in reaction rather in proactivity, and deceive myself into believing that I am trapped by the choices of others, that my life would be better if only I either rebelled completely and rejected all efforts to make me compromise (which out of patient tolerance and loyalty I do not do), or convinced those others to adopt all my values and plans (an impossible task). I look for higher values by which to live my life, as a free agent without divine powers, and the courage and confidence to live, in the words of a guy whose books I’m too proud to read, my best life now.