Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dreams: Non-Transferable but Exchangeable

Our last house was The House. Our son, who was 2 when we bought it, called it "Da Beeg House." He wasn't wrong; it was big. At least by our standards. We had 4 rooms, a 2 car garage, a pool, a huge family room and a living and dining. The master bathroom had a sliding glass door wall in the shower and double sinks and a door that led out to the pool. My friend referred to it as "the spa." And of course, it sat on a corner lot in a perfectly manicured and highly desirable neighborhood. Even at the great price we snagged it, we had to scramble often to manage it financially. We decided, then, that it was what we wanted. We gave up a lot to have it, but we had other things: granite counters, a fancy kitchen faucet, a house that held parties of over 50 people with no problems. We had a plan, too: stay in The House until the boys grew up and left.

And then, only four years later, I found myself posting this:


we had always had a plan

so sure of what we wanted

to live life, together, out loud

be as free as commitment allowed

untethered to the things Everyone Else

used to measure their grand arrival

at the finish line of life

keep it small and live simply

so we could live Life large

travel, dance, laugh, sleep at night

without the stresses Everyone Else chose:

a lawn man, the corner lot

we planned life with bare feet

spontaneity, experiences, whimsy, free of cares

we were so sure back then

until something shifted, wishes got swapped

and we suddenly found ourselves dreaming

of a grown up life, settled

a home that was spacious enough

to welcome Just One More baby

(and a lawn man to cut

the grass on the corner lot)

we swapped one dream for another

found ourselves with a new life

new joys, different desires, wishes granted

but with it all sometimes comes

the subtle, quiet unease of wonder:

was this the life we intended

one we will look back on

with satisfaction of a life fulfilled

or a life exchanged for one

that is just like Everyone Else's?

That poem haunted me. Even  now, as I reread it, I don't really remember writing it. It was one of those "writer's moments" where stuff just comes out of you and you don't even recognize it afterwards. But it was perfect. Somehow, I was able to put into words the unease I was feeling; the unease of which I wasn't even fully aware at the time. I just knew something was gnawing at me: I wasn't sure this is what I had really signed up for. Did we sell out? And why don't I feel fully realized, if I had, supposedly, everything I wanted?

Of course, it wasn't just about the size and cost of the house. I had some sort of discomfort with Suburbia. And yet, when the time came to move, I was probably most concerned with leaving the 39 chain restaurant options I had nearby. Because, I learned, that with Suburbia comes not only perfectly landscaped lawns, but also ease, availability, and the masses. The longing for a different day-to-day routine, however, won out--thanks to some gentle prodding from Hubby the Risk-Taker--and I gave up the corner Starbucks (multiple ones on multiple corners) for some eccentric local joints that have been discovered by trial and error and neighborly assurances. 

We are having our first party in the new house today; I only picked the date because it was practical. I had no idea until just yesterday that it was the exact one year anniversary from our closing date. One year ago today, we left our lawyer's office with the key, bought a six pack of Heineken at the gas station, and toasted our new house as we took a million pictures of what we knew would be "The Before's." The months that followed were exhausting and exhilarating: we lived with my parents and then in our RV in the backyard as we completely remodeled the inside ourselves.

When we were finished, we had swapped 2300 square feet for 1600, a 2-car garage for a small room used for storage, and a "spa" bathroom for one with a counter that is so small I literally can not place more than one bottle on it without something falling into the sink. When I went grocery shopping the other day, I found myself standing in line behind an incredibly wealthy-looking and fit older couple buying mainly organic food and fancy wine, and standing in front of a homeless-looking man buying a 6-pack of Budweiser. Suburbia, it is not.

We ride our bikes to the beach, the boys shirtless and in flip flops, Hubby with skim boards attached to the back of his bike with a MacGyver-like contraption, and I with a backpack with the SPF and towels. When we need to clean the house, it takes less than half the time it used to. When we have to pay the bills, we have enough left over to afford the longed-for RV that used to be a dream and the house in Hawaii we have already rented for Summer 2016.

I do not miss the granite or even (gasp) the chandelier hanging in my former walk-in closet (although I definitely have to figure something out about the bathroom counter). Eight years ago, we took a chance on a dream we thought was ours. Fortunately, we were smart enough to listen to each other--and our instincts--and take an even bigger chance. It wasn't easy. I had many, many moments of doubt and even panic. But today, as we welcome our friends into our home, I'll know we did the right thing for our family, and I'll be celebrating another exchanging of dreams.

One year ago today...
Happy One Year Anniversary to our Hale Ma 'Alahi