Every now and then, a holding pattern becomes a rut, and you stop churning for long enough to realize that a lot of the things that drew you to something are just not there anymore. Maybe it's a workplace, or a relationship, or a hobby that's lost its shine. You realize you've changed, thus you've grown apart from whatever it may be, and you begin to wonder whether keeping that thing is worth it anymore.
My husband and I are in that sort of holding pattern rut. It's been almost a year now since our lives got tossed on their small, smarting ears, and we've been treading water and trying different strokes and occasionally resorting to the dead man's float, and we find ourselves talking about chucking it all and just leaving. Going to the country. Hanging up the citified, suburban lifestyle for the other. It's not as if we ever entirely bought into that picture. We don't have a mini-van, we live in a house that's under 1000 square feet, we don't have tickets to the theater or the the professional sports teams venues.
When I ran to the spice store recently to get pepper (yes, pepper,) I realized it was the first time I'd been to the Strip District in months. The very place I swore I'd visit frequently. I live 10 minutes from it, and I never go there. How often does one need good curry? And even my beloved PennMac—I bought some dried tortellini at ALDI a few days ago, and I felt just a twinge of guilt. I know, it's cheaper at PennMac, but this bag was right there and I was in a hurry and God knows when I'll get down to Penn Avenue again...
It's not just food. When did I last attend a concert? The symphony on my last big, awful birthday was lovely, but it was the first time in a long time, and I'd likely have nixed the spending of that major coin if it hadn't been a happy surprise that was sprung upon me. Even free concerts go unattended by us because, honestly, I have a kid now and I don't have free babysitters living next door. All those fun city activities, art festivals, outdoor movies, rails-to-trails hikes—all of them go largely unexplored by me, by my family. And if having a kid didn't kill the ability to do this stuff easily and without planning, throw in a job and you'll understand my situation. We're living by the city, close to the city, enjoying the nearness of the city...but not really benefiting from the city. Our church remains my only regularly visited bastion of "city." It's a slice of real, varied life in every way, and that I do enjoy. Most of the time. But it stands pretty much alone in the ongoing-city-exposure category.
Seriously, if ever we were to drop the ball and sell it all, this is the time. There's no great, full-time job with incredible benefits for either of us to walk away from. We're not taking advantage of urban proximity anyway. Why not vacate? Our house is so small, affordable, and convenient to town, in a pretty good school district, that I suspect it would go without much trouble. I really do. We've made it more cute and more modern, and maybe I'm fooling myself, but I truly believe we'd sell pretty easily in the right season.
Yet. There are two of us to consider, and even if we're both on board with the departure, we're prone to wonder: do we have what it takes? Leaving it all behind means more work, a different kind of work. We don't enjoy hard work now; what will change? I love manageable amounts of weeding and cleaning and the like, but a little goes a long way. My husband? The same. I don't feel confident we'd succeed at any of our country notions. The alpaca farm? Mucking out stables, cleaning hooves, feeding and watering twice daily in cold months. The lettuce and herbs farm? Ceaseless garden chores, paperwork in order to sell legally, inspections in order to be classified as organic. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is simple anymore.
And, just as getting married complicated major decisions, made them suddenly complex and sticky, having a child has made decisions exponentially more difficult. What is best for my little boy? If I move to a tiny town, buy a dilapidated farm (the only kind we'd be able to swing), and raise free-range chickens who lay free-range eggs, then must I home-school? Cyber school? Will my only child despise the isolation? Will he become a loner, an awkward kid who can't face a roomful of strangers without shortness of breath? Or would it be the best gift we could give him?
Is it more important that we keep the proximity to population so that someday, when we hopefully have a more predictable and more comfortable lifestyle, we'll be able to soak up all that our fair city has to offer? Or will we likely spend our days endlessly running from pointless practice to pointless practice, wondering why we never see the neighbors or family, trying desperately to make sense and meaning out of the whirlwind of stupid busy-ness? Is it worth it to offer my little boy diversity that he rarely tastes? Is it worth the taxes, the traffic, the pollution? Will we look back someday and wonder why we stuck around and spent our lives with all these folks breathing down our necks? Or will my sweet kid change the world because he saw much, and learned much, and understood much about the world through the eyes of a place that he couldn't conquer and master with ease?
I honestly don't know what's best. I know in my heart that this is the time to cut and run. And I also know that, as sung so wisely by Neil Young, there comes a time when a person must decide whether he's "old enough to repaint" or "young enough to sell." I'm not sure which one fits me, or us, best. But I feel increasingly certain that, pretty soon, the decision will be made for us.