Thursday, November 4, 2010

Looking back

For the first time since the pay cuts, the layoffs, and the gradual downsizing of our lifestyle I went through and looked at some of our family pictures from the last several years.  I really didn't think much of it but when I started going through I realized just how far we've come from where we were. I don't necessarily mean that in a warm, fuzzy way either. I realized last night that when things went down and what I mean by that is that when it became evident that Riki's career was at imminent threat, I just started walking forward. I didn't wallow in the present. I didn't look back. It would be too painful. I didn't give myself a chance to process those emotions. Instead it was kind of like survival mode and figuring out what to do next while keeping our chin up so to speak. I looked for the positive in everything. Moving into a much smaller house meant cheaper rent and utility bills, even if it wasn't exactly what we wanted. Getting rid of everything and moving into the rv meant new adventures and standing by a much lost value of minimalism in our society. Nevertheless I have to admit that I'm human. Sometimes I know what is right but that doesn't mean I always feel good about it or that I don't long for certain luxuries. So it sort of blindsided me when I went through these pictures and felt a tremendous sense of loss. I saw pictures of beautiful homes we lived in, nothing extravagant mind isn't like we were ever in any upper class, but just places that were cozy, stylish, and had a lot of character. I remember having a warm fireplace to sit at in the evenings, a bright bathroom with many luxurious bubble baths, a large bedroom where I could retreat to read a book or a magazine with a glass of wine. I was much thinner and didn't look like I walked out of a barn. I had a stylish wardrobe. There were many music festivals and weekends at the beach. Ellery went to school and I had a quite taken for granted luxury of many hours in a day when I was child free, nevermind homeschooling.

I realize all of this sounds contradictory to the sort of values I am usually talking about. However, I also think it is important to show that we are all human with flaws, with insecurities, indecision, and sometimes we do miss luxuries, even if we know we don't need them or in some cases they may be at the exploit of another group of people. I'm no exception. Here is the kicker though, the moral of the story if there ever was one. I never, ever during any of those moments felt privileged or content or actually appreciated any of the things I had. None of it. Not for one second. We still complained about not having enough money, not having a house as nice as somebody else's, or another car, etc. In some ways it is as if a cruel joke of karma has been played upon me...or has it? Before I play the victim card which was super easy for me to do in past years I want to consider the choices I have made to get where I am now.

I once remember my brother asking me why we drove around beat up cars all the time? I mean, how disgraceful, right? How deplorable and unworthy of me as a human being to lower myself to not have a new car. I simply explained that this was not a priority of mine. Life is about choices and tradeoffs. The fact that I didn't have a car payment enabled me to use that money in other ways, like traveling or buying clothes if I wanted to. I told him that in a perfect world I would like to have it all, just like anybody else, but that I made a conscious choice that I was not willing to play the game needed to have those things. I always joke that while most people are striving to make as much money to have as many things as possible that I have a reverse mentality. What is the least amount of money I can make to get by and not be rushing around all the time so I can have quality family time? I guess that is my "game." Sometimes I'm not enthusiastic about it either. That doesn't mean I'm less stressed out I suppose. I'm just stressed out about different things.

So naturally as I sit here looking back at old photos I'm going to feel some pangs of loss. I never envisioned having a bathroom the size of a closet with no bathtub or an itty bitty electric "fireplace" instead of a real hearth or painted concrete floors instead of shiny wood floors. Tradeoff. I no longer live in a beautiful indoor space but have an amazingly breathtaking outdoor space I could never have had in that past. Sometimes it is hard to figure out what we really want. Sometimes in my case you know what the right choice is but you don't necessarily feel good about it. That sort of self discipline has ruled my life in the past year. As much as I miss my gorgeous shiny bleached blonde hair I know that the chemicals are too awful to justify such vanity. I have a hard time accepting that I can no longer pound beers and wine much less martinis without being physically ill for an entire day. I know that big houses and fireplaces and bathtubs don't ultimately make people happy. After all, I wasn't when I had them...but there is that human craving. So that's where I'm at, acknowledging that craving and trying to figure out how to overcome it sometimes.

You must understand that I've long joked about having one foot in Little House in the Prairie and one in Sex and the City. There has always been a duality there that is hard to deny. Integrating the two peacefully and maintaining your set of personal morals and values is tricky. I'm not perfect and I know a lot of folks have a much better iron will than I do when it comes to setting personal boundaries about lifestyle choices.

Homeschooling can be draining when you look at other blogs and feel inadequate or your kids fight all day or you just feel like you are constantly planning. However, I'm not willing to subject my kids to public school and I can't afford private school anymore so this is the choice I've made. I think it's okay to admit that it isn't always rosy and easy.

So for those who read my article on the other blog and felt it was a little too optimistic, here is the honesty of the inner struggles I deal with from time to time. Riki asked me last night if I felt unhappy with our current situation and I said "no, it's just a different set of tradeoffs. It's a matter of which set of tradeoffs you choose and then working with what you got." That's all you can do in life in the present...and deal with what cards are dealt to you, the good and bad. Sometimes it's bliss and enlightenment. Sometimes it's suffering and guilt and craving. That's just how it goes in this earthly form and we try to learn what we are supposed to while we are here I suppose.


Tammy said...

Oh my gosh...I am sooooooooo far behind on blog reading. Forgive me, my dear. :) Seeing how far behind I am with your family adventures made me realize I don't have your blog in my blog feed, which explains why I'm so far behind. I have good intentions on catching up...but as you know, lol, my life is falling apart right now, so I probably won't catch up in all reality. :( But I am off to my blog to get you added to my blog feed which is where you were always supposed to be anyway (no clue what set me off on another tangent THAT day, lol). I have to say though, after my ramblings here that I loved this post of yours. I wish happiness for you and your family with a foot in Little House on the Prairie and a foot in Sex and the City. LOVED reading that by the way!!! ;)

liz said...

its ok to just be you... i wish i could blink my eyes and magically appear for you a big bathroom with a clawfoot tub filled with bubbles... a glass of your favorite wine and book nearby and a flaming fireplace in the same room.. ah, you can dream.. never give up your dream whether its on prairie today or in the city tomorrow.. love ya...

Little House On Wheels said...

Thanks a lot. That means a lot to me...and yes, I would love to have one of those old fashioned log cabins where the bathtub was right in front of the woodstove, haha.

Family of Movers said...

Such is the human condition. We want what we do not have. Even I, a mover think I want stability only to find discontent when I have it. I haven't conquered contentment yet. I do have my days where I more content than I was the day before. The funny part for me is that when we are moving from sticks and bricks to another sticks and bricks I get a feeling of contentment just before I start boxing everything up. Then I want to stay but alas, I have made my choice. Living in the RV is not hunky dory and it doesn't solve life's problems just like moving to a smaller house or getting a better job. Everything is relative. I love your story and your blog because you are real. Maybe I can meet you for real sometime :)

Cage Free Family said...

This is a great post, Amy.

"Sometimes it's bliss and enlightenment. Sometimes it's suffering and guilt and craving. That's just how it goes in this earthly form and we try to learn what we are supposed to while we are here"

Loved that. Well put.

I've been feeling the need to write a post of similar feeling, about how I struggle with where we are, no matter what. How I can spend an hour staring at the picture slideshow on our screensaver and dream about how much more exciting things were when we were traveling, etc. I feel the need to calm the storm that is raging in my belly, heart and head and just be here. It can be so easy to be hard on myself and wonder how I could have slipped so far from grace to this place of bemoaning, desiring and fretting. Ah, well. As you said, it is the ups and the downs that make us human and let us learn.

Monica said...

"Here is the kicker though, the moral of the story if there ever was one. I never, ever during any of those moments felt privileged or content or actually appreciated any of the things I had. None of it. Not for one second."

that's the thing isn't it (hi there!), when we have it we don't appreciate it.
i'm constantly reminding my pessimistic hubby about what we do have.

i used to see it as tradeoffs, which is a good way to see it! that it's a CHOICE to not have the swanky new car because you'd rather have the travels or books.

i've come to view it a little differently. you've got me thinking so i'll probably link to you if that;s alright. :)

Jana @ The Homeschool Jungle said...

I love all that you have to say. I'm putting together a book of "why we homeschool" stories from people all over the world. I would love to include story about your choice to homeschool. Please consider being included in this project.
Jana @ The homeschool jungle
janamiller{at}cox {dot} net