Monday, February 03, 2014

giving up on greener pastures

"I am giving up on second chances, and I am giving up on half-empty glasses, and I am giving up on greener pastures... I am giving up, for you." Oh, Ingrid.  Your words are so simple and poignant and true.  I would forgive flaws in your vocal tone on account of such pleasing poetry.  Alas, vocal flaws you have none.  And perhaps a little bit of giving up is what I need right now.

I mean, I try to be thankful.  I think or at least hope that I am.  I would definitely classify myself as a happy individual on any given day, occasional painful moments excepted.  And yet, it's rather difficult to determine my level of gratitude.  I'm surrounded by people that I adore and every human comfort, and I see all this and love my life.  Yet I dream.  I wish, I long, I covet. (gulp.)

Take simplifying, for instance.  Last year I read Simplicity Parenting and the principles resonated with me to my core.  I feel I've been craving simplicity for ages, and practical methods of creating a simple life for my family were wonderfully appreciated.  We purged our belongings, selling nearly half of our toys and packing 90% of what was left high in my closet for limited use.  We sold boxes of books and barrels of clothes and everything that we didn't dearly love and that didn't encourage imagination.  Our garage sale was an incredible success.  I've tried to reduce unnecessary noise, artificial lighting, and screen time.  I've tried to simplify our schedules, to give my children time to be true to themselves.  Perhaps they haven't noticed, but I've noticed they're more content, and the entire experience has been liberating for me.

Still, it's not enough.  I want it simpler.  I want less stuff.  I dream of the kids playing with sticks, stones, and scraps of fabric and never having to vacuum up legos again.  I fantasize of having only seven loads of laundry to wash, for that is all the clothes we own.  I confess I've even entertained a terrible notion, of a tornado whisking up my home and all its contents (we six would be safely elsewhere, of course) and spilling it in such a manner that we must begin again with a clean slate, and would choose to accumulate dramatically less than we currently own.

It's a ridiculous notion, I realize, particularly the tornado because holy traumatizing!  Also, I happen to love stuff.  I sell stuff, I give it away, I'm fairly unattached to almost every material possession, and yet I keep on buying!  I buy it cheap so it's easier to justify, and I try hard not to add anything to our home that I don't love more than most of its contents.  But if I crave clean slates and empty closets, why has my desire to accumulate failed to abate in the slightest?

So many things are beautiful to me, especially when they're unique and cheap, and I just end up wanting them.  (Part of this can be explained by a core tenet of my personality that craves change and newness.)  And yet I realize that stuff should not play a large role in my life's purpose.  I should be perfectly content to own no more than what can be stacked neatly in a modest shack.  I want to be that unattached to things.  I think I want to live in a modest shack, that I'd be happy there.

Could I, though?  Perhaps given the right setting?  Or do I already know too much?  Maybe I've already tasted of material excess to an extent that I'd never feel sated except as a glutton.  Sometimes I think I'd like to try living without stuff.  A rural existence in western Africa perhaps?  It sounds gloriously simple.  I've felt for some time that an American suburban lifestyle doesn't quite fit me right.  The village shack life would be wonderful, but likely only for a time. 

I feel so trapped between conflicting desires, and with no conviction as to which inclination deserves more clout.  

A similar pattern manifests itself in various aspects of my thoughts.  I want to put my children back in public school, yet I want desperately to keep them home.  I want Kyle to make more money, but I want to need much less.  I want to move, to travel, to live anywhere else, and in actuality my heart would break if we were to leave the home, friends and familiarity we've thoroughly enjoyed here.  I want to look pretty and fashionable, while neither caring nor trying to.  I want to feel peace and assurance that I'm doing my best, but what is my best anyway?

Who can confidently say they're doing their best?  Such an elusive standard baffles my conscience.  I could clearly be doing better in virtually every behavior, in very attainable ways, so how could I claim the peace that accompanies a perfect effort?

Is it okay to think these thoughts and feel these feelings?  Is it okay to dream of greener pastures if that sometimes renders my own grass flavorless and dry? 

Do I ask too many questions?

I think I can answer that one.

Fortunately, these musings don't trouble me too terribly much, likely only because I've little quiet time in which to muse.  Still, I honestly can't help but wonder why I can't stop wondering.  Am I being gently tugged toward a destiny vastly different from my current reality?

Or is it time to give up on greener pastures? 


S. said...

I've been meaning to comment on this post for a while because I feel for you, Sis. I think at least a few of our family were born restless by nature. I'm one of them, and from your post it sounds like you are too. Judging by my childhood memories of them, both Nana and Grandpa G. had wanderlust for much of their lives, so it's probably fair to say that there's at least some hereditary component to our desire for new horizons.

On the other hand, it could partly be a function of our stage of life--once you get married, have kids, and start to accumulate obligations and responsibilities, lots of doors seem to shut and that is a hard thing to accept, especially when you still feel young. I take at least some comfort from the folk wisdom that, while adulthood is a narrowing process, it can also be a deepening one. You can set down roots and form rich habits and relationships. I think that is starting to happen to me (not that I haven't resisted every step of the way). Anyway, you're not alone.