Another meeting in the wistful longers club, of which I am the only member
September 19, 2006
Preface: this post is long and rambling and is about ME, not you. If you love living in the middle of nowhere I am happy for you, honestly. I wish I were too. This post sounds way more depressing than I really intend it to be, but I don’t feel like going back and changing it to try and make it sound funny or chipper. There are good things about living here, mostly good things for the children and their Norman Rockwell like existence. I feel like I am constantly evaluating my life on a balance and most of the time it equals out. But then there are times when the suddenly the balance seems to have shifted. This is one of those times.
Twelve years ago I was finishing up grad school, living in a college city and pregnant with my first child. We had just gotten married. Rob had just begun his first real post graduate job. There were a lot of things that we liked about living in a city. Being able to walk places, the theater, the fact that things were open past 6:00pm, and that eating at Red Lobster wasn’t the height of sophisticated dining all come to mind.
Six months later, after watching way too many episodes of This Old House, we would move away from the city to a small town. One that is too far away from any neighboring city to be considered a suburb. I really thought that I would like it. I thought it would be like living in a cross between Country Home and Martha Stewart magazines. I thought that once I was surrounded by the great outdoors, fresh air, and dirt that I would grow to like the outdoors, fresh air and dirt.
I imagined a little vegetable garden outside my kitchen door that would be surrounded by a cute white picket fence with the paint peeling in that delighfully shabby chic way. Somehow those beautiful canning jars filled with tasty homegrown produce would just appear on my windowsill through no effort on my part. It would be like magic. And it would be a good thing.
I have come to realize that shabby chic really just looks shabby outside of a magazine photo and canned produce needs to be stored in a dark cool place like a basement, not with sun streaming through it on the kitchen windowsill, no matter how attractive Martha tells you it will look above your sink.
It was a culture shock. I went from an academic environment where people talked about ideas and issues. Suddenly I was in a place where all the women talked about were recipes, coupons, and the business of their neighbors. And they all seemed to have taken their marriage vows to mean that they are now physically grafted to their husbands and unable to go anywhere after dark without them. I can remember saying to my husband at one point that I used to talk about smart things, and that now I couldn’t even find anyone whose idea of good reading extended beyond People Magazine.
I was actually kicked out of the “coupon club” because I couldn’t keep up with all the rules. It was so stressful all the coupon clipping, organizing and trading and knowing to whom the coupons were supposed to go. Being kicked out of that “club” should have been my first indication to get the hell out of dodge. But instead I was incredibly depressed about it. Why couldn’t I find this life fulfilling? Why couldn’t I enjoy going to candle, avon, and crystal home parties?
People kept saying give it time, you will grow to love it. After awhile I just stopped talking about it and resolved to try harder.
My husband loves living away from all civilization, though I think part of his love of it is that he works in a big city. Therefore he has some balance. In fact his dream is to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere when he retires, think Swiss Family Robinson meets LLBean. And he might just end up doing that… with his next wife, because I can’t imagine living there.
There was nothing nearby our little farmhouse. I couldn’t even take the kids for a walk in the stroller because it was far too hilly and there was nowhere to walk to anyway. There really isn’t anywhere to drive to either. But other people talk about this like it is a positive.
Three years ago we sold our tiny 200 year old farmhouse that was on a river and moved to the neighboring town into another historic house. This time we are in town. I thought that this would be better. And in some ways it is. Mostly because we bought this house as an investment and I knew it wasn’t long term. The town has nice well funded library. We can walk there. Hmmm, that is about it for positive things I can say. There isn’t anything awful I could say about it either, it’s just… boring.
I think I would probably enjoy living in a small town like this if it were closer to a big city. If there were opportunities for going to the theater, museums, hell, even a Target that was closer than an hour away.
I have gotten really good at biting my tongue. So much so that I rarely talk anymore. I can now pretend I am listening to a conversation while I discreetly pinch my thigh so that I still know that I am alive and scream inside my head.
At some point I just withdrew and stopped trying to find friends. I accepted that it was just how it was going to be. I’m sure that there are people out there that I would love to be friends with, but I am weary from the process now.
Just yesterday I was talking to someone I have been friendly with for ten years. She was telling me a story about the gym she goes to. WHen I suddenly blurted out, “You have been going to that same gym every single day for ten years, to the same Y every afternoon with your kids, the same grocery store, and interacted with the same handful of people for ten years… does it not bother you at all?” And you know what? it doesn’t bother her at all. She finds it comforting, predictable, familiar. Obviously the problem is with me.
After eleven years I finally have come to the realization that it isn’t going to take more time. I am never going to be happy here. I feel like I am biding my time, waiting for my real life to happen. Eleven years is a really long time to do that. A really long time.
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