Friday, April 18, 2008

the moving sidewalk is back

Our house is getting close to done. Yesterday, our new countertops were installed; today the carpet was cleaned. Once we get the stove and faucets installed, we will have a mostly functional house back.

Our friends keep asking us: "Are you back in your house yet?" Since it would be so ridiculous not to be.

The answer is no. It will likely be at least another week.

I have mixed feelings about moving back home. Surprising, no? On the plus side of our own home: privacy, a new kitchen, a fenced-in yard, proximity to our friends, and living in a house we love. Oh, and proximity to three good dive taco shops in our area. Mmmmm.
On the negative side, I really cherish some of the simplifying we've done, living in this situation. It's less work, maintaining a shared household. I do more cooking, my mom does more laundry. We all look out for Lucy when we're home. We've had a lot more time with my parents.

And: less stuff. A lot less stuff. Our closet here is small, so we have fewer clothes. Mostly, I haven't noticed the difference. I went home and looked at our real closet, and wondered: what did I need all those clothes for? No Cds of our own. No new condiments. No filing cabinets. No space for extraneous toys. When you have a house, there's a subtle pressure to fill the space with...something. Empty shelves sprout occupants. Storage invites acquisition. I've been trying to step off that moving sidewalk for a while now, and nothing has made it easier than our current living situation.

I think of the moving sidewalk because of our recent trip to Michigan, visiting family. In the Chicago airport, they have these people movers to get you down the terminals faster. Lucy loved them. She's a cautious child, so it was all of the fun of an escalator without the danger. We rode them back and forth while waiting for our flight.

I feel like our consumer culture is kind of a moving sidewalk. The first second you step on it, it seems disorienting, way too fast, and throws off your balance. But a second later, you regain your equilibrium, and it's the new "normal". Only you're moving at a faster clip towards a destination that the sidewalk, not you, controls.

I keep stepping off sidewalks, only to discover four more that subtly control me. Step off the sidewalk of buying everything cheapest (regardless of it's effect on other people or the environment). Then the sidewalk of lots of television watching. Then it's frenetic business, or buying as an entertainment, or needing lots of stuff. What would happen if I got off the sidewalk of thinking money equals security? Or the car culture? Or trying to please other people all the time?

Lucy had trouble getting on and off the sidewalks, so I kept holding her hands and lifting her over the tricky part, the border between movement and stillness. Funny: I think she liked that dangerous part the best: holding my hands and sailing over difficulty.

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