There’s been a change in my dreams. Not the dreams that occur while I sleep, but the ones that are running constantly through my mind. My non-stop reel of wants and hopes and wishes and what ifs.
I want to live there. No, there. I want a house with a black door. I want a house in an old neighborhood. I want a house with land. I want to live on a commune. I want to live in a sleepy foggy beach town. I want to live in San Francisco. I would like to have a yard big enough for a pool. I want to live somewhere with more privacy. I want to live somewhere more alternative. I’d like to live in New York City. I’d like to live in a bus. If I moved here, life would be better. I want to live somewhere with community. I need something with character! I need something brand new that I design. I need a bigger house with a wrap around porch! I want to live somewhere I can ride my bike on errands. I want to live in the middle of the desert. I want to move to Washington. I want to live in another country. Maybe San Diego…
Daydream, wanderlust, grass is greener.
I do not by any means live in my dream home. I live in a small tract home. My neighbors’ identical windows loom into my backyard. I can practically touch their house from my back door. We are on top of each other. We are in one of those useless gated communities that pepper southern California. The gate adds nothing except thirty seconds to every trip you take. Teenagers scale it, easily, to get into our pool. Our community has visitor parking, which feels like a bad word after living in apartments for so long. We moved here eight years ago, planning to leave three years later. Then the economy tanked, our house lost a lot of value, and our plans flew out the window. I’ve been a little bitter about it. This is not where I pictured raising my family.
THE MOVING TALK is one we had over and over and over. I would beg and plead, Jeff would remind me of the facts. I would let it go. The longing would return, I would demand we find another way, Jeff would remind me of the facts. I would let it go. For five years this went on. Last summer, a deadline loomed before us. Two of our children were heading into high school, and we felt that if we did move, it had to be before they started. Once and for all, we had THE MOVING TALK to end all MOVING TALKS. In the end I realized that I was the only person who really wanted it. The other people had little complaints about our house, but nothing worth ripping apart our life to change. Moving was simply a fantasy for me, a selfish desire that I longed to fulfill. Perhaps a habit left over from all the moving I did in childhood. My wandering had been bred into me.
Once the decision to stay was made, I had to let the bitterness go. I started looking around me at the truth. This is the home my children know. My children are rooted, why would I change anything for them at all? It is beautiful here, often breathtakingly so. My drive to the beach is fifteen minutes. We are surrounded, literally, by California State Parks to explore. My business thrives in this location. The weather where we live is the stuff I dreamed of my entire life while I sweated the summers away inland. We have found local support in many ways – from alternative health to caregivers for our children – people I would have a hard time replacing. We are an hour from LA, an hour from San Diego, two hours from mountains, two hours from desert. We have limitless options at our fingertips for schooling, health, shopping, food, and entertainment.
I don’t live in my dream house. That’s it. So……WHAT? After the decision I spent a lot of time thinking. I wondered why it even mattered. Why my identity was so tied into what my house looked like, what kind of neighborhood I lived in. I couldn’t believe how shallow and disgusting and ungrateful I had been. How long I had let things go broken or cluttered or unkempt. I may not have my dream house but I have my HOME. And it is sweet, and it protects us, and we live each day inside of it. That is what is meaningful for me, what will be the legacy I leave my family.
Once again I learned that I had been so wrapped up in everything I so desperately coveted, that I hadn’t been caring for what was in front of me. This is a common theme for many of us, in all aspects of our lives. It stretches across sex, religion, age, race, and status. We are all living with blinders on.
A lot of you commented or emailed me after this post, asking “How?”. There are many layers in that answer, and this is just one of them.
I started by looking at my life honestly, without the protective veil of fantasy. In this instance, I actually let go of something that I had always fantasized about – having a dream home in a dream neighborhood, (whatever that meant, the specifics changed daily). I changed my attitude. When I was divided about where I lived, I focused on the future, and how a dream home would fix everything. No longer divided, living in the present moment, I was able to focus on my home. As soon as that happened, external change started to occur. Internal change always has to come first, starting with attitude. It is shocking actually, what can happen when you stop hiding from the present moment. Instead of just living with things the way they were, I began to perfect them. I had a list miles long of things I wanted to fix in my house, but limited budget and time to do them. Little by little I figure out how to do it.
I started paying attention to my surroundings. I am still an explorer, a wanderer. Being rooted in one place won’t change that. I crave newness and adapting and learning. I crave seeing new things for the first time. So I shifted. I explore. I drive and find places to jump out and look at. I am constantly on the hunt for a new place to take my family and simply be there in that place. The coast is a treasure trove of beauty to soak in. The hills littered with trails for us to embark on. With no plans and nowhere to be, my favorite thing is to get in my car and get lost somewhere new. Our outings have taken on new meaning. We are all learning how to go out without a plan. How to just breathe it in and be together. I take such delight in it. I appreciate the simplicity of it. I want nothing more than to be out there doing it.
I don’t know how long I will live here. I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. There could be a natural disaster or a death or a job change. I can never know what is coming next.
I don’t want to waste one more second living in my fantasy of what if’s and what should be’s. I simply want to explore what is.
While we are here and healthy and alive I will soak up everything our little house has to offer, everything the sun and the Pacific and the night soaked jasmine wafting in my windows can teach me.