Something ought to change. We made this drastic move to the suburbs. They aren’t the same suburbs we were in before, but an entirely new set on the other side of the city. The thing is, when you move into a new house not only do you take all of your possessions with you, but your relationships and emotions. You just remove the bubble wrap and put everything into a newer, shiner box; this one even has an fancy bow on top.
The houses here are prettier, more plastic; it’s not unlike living inside of a model train set or in a catalogue. Everything is perfectly placed and polished. We even have an HOA to tell us where to properly store our trashcans. I keep waiting for a door to open amongst the trees where men in white hazmat suits step off an observation deck into our carefully designed bubble. All the elements here have been calculated to provide an ideal environment. Somewhere there are graphs charting what this does to our internal organs, our inspiration and creativity. The lines on the paper are rather flat. Maybe they forgot to add the necessary ingredients for sustainability.
Where we lived before, things were messy. The guy who lived behind us had a collection of stray mutts he took in and cared for. They were rough and scary Cujo dogs, much like Mr. Spectacles himself. His back yard looked like a junk yard with an old broken down camper and several cars he had taken in just like his dogs, hoping one day to refurbish them to running condition.
The mess and noise didn’t seem to bother Mr. Spectacles much. He went about things, content with life until mowing the lawn every day got the best of him and he cussed at himself pacing up and down the same straight lines. Those dogs drove him crazy groveling at his feet, but he loved them like his children; he did have a actual child, but I only saw him a few times.
Those damn dogs, they barked all of the time, sometimes waking us up out of sleep and pissing us off. At times, I would have loved an HOA to keep those dogs and their owner in place. We called the police a few times when we had had enough of them, but they couldn’t do much about those dogs either. Eventually I would learn to live with their barking and his cussing, enjoying his conversation and the observation of his presence.
The difference in our new suburban town is that, here, the messes are kept on the inside, out of sight and out of mind, within hearts and souls covered heavily in beautiful clothing and surrounded by pretty possessions with wreaths hanging on the front doors. It’s magical, really, like walking through Disney World never having to look behind the scenes. It’s a little maddening for me because I like seeing all of the parts working together, but at least the people are real. I have met a few characters. They provide a sense of hope that I’m still living in reality.
Moving anywhere new is unsettling at first. I keep wondering how we end up in these same kinds of places, this time landing in the most suburban of all suburban towns. It’s a little suffocating, but I fit in nicely; I’m a pregnant suburban housewife with a husband who brings home a hefty paycheck. It’s quite ideal to the expectations of the outside world. A good sitcom could come of it. It might even run for a few seasons and win an honorable award of some sort.
I suppose I’m ungrateful not to want to lay down roots in a place like this, but realistically none of us can. These villages are temporary; the houses are bought and sold like groceries. It’s understandable. Underneath the surface there is too much rock and clay. Nothing here grows naturally. I have to water the goddamn plants every single day, even when it rains; otherwise, the leaves start to look droopy and the blooms wilt and die, falling to the ground like corpses.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a mom again, even if this baby came at a terribly inconvenient time in my life. I was getting it together, ya know; starting to do my thing with an ounce of success starting to build; it wasn’t a lot, but it meant the world to me.
I was being open with myself for the first time in my life instead of letting others define me. I am done seeking approval. That’s bullshit.
My honesty was unsettling for a lot of people I knew. Still, there were others; I still cling to the memory of them as tightly as I can, but I’m already starting to forget them; even if in my mind I’m writing new stories, they are merely preconceived notions of what might have been.
I have to hang onto the pieces of myself that had finally burst through the plastered walls, the force blowing off of my path people and thought processes that didn’t serve me well. My God, I have to be strong but my knees want to buckle. The million dollar mansions sprinkling the rolling hills of our new surroundings like wildflowers are taunting, but what’s on the exterior will never change who I am at my core.
Lifestyles don’t inspire me. Life does. One is full of possessions and titles. The other is full of purpose, meaning and gorgeous love.
When I close my eyes long enough, closing off the distractions, I feel brilliant and strong. Within that place in the deepest folds of my mind, I breathe in the freshest air full of the desire to be seen and heard, awakened and inspired. I know I can’t feasibly stay inside of this hamster wheel, running as fast as I can, exhausting myself only to look around and see that I haven’t moved an inch. Still, I get right back in there, throwing my arm out every once in a while to make another peanut butter and jelly sandwich or to switch the laundry over to the dryer one more time. To keep everything running like clockwork while meeting my own needs is an impossible task. I simply can’t do it all.
At my core, there is truth and value. On the outside things may look idyllic with cracks carefully concealed. My clothes may be finely pressed, my hair nicely done, my lips supple from covering them in balm to deliver the softest kisses. But on the inside, the ground is tough. I have to keep watering and pruning so the roots can set up a strong foundation in the soil with arms above ground shooting off in all directions.
I don’t want to be meek, simply moving through life filling the pantry and the needs of others. I don’t subscribe to the HOA’s of the world, and definitely not to the one suburban housewives have constructed. It’s called the AWA: the Acceptable Women’s Association. The list of their requirements is pretty extensive.
The AWA isn’t my thing. I never buy into those bullshit stories. It’s just another facade to keep things looking nice and tidy instead of seeing life for what it really is:
full of anger and frustration, laughter and light, a mess of confusion,
The thing is, behind the tapestry those elected women stitch together, things look better and more productive; people are nicer and happier; their smiles and personalities are authentic.
For now, I’ll be content with where I am. The schools are good. That’s the decent thing about living in the suburbs.
But I still dream of a little house in the city with a little garden in the backyard. The neighbors there might be a little insane, but they are never dull. They color the landscape with culture and diversity; they fill plain brick walls with graffiti and artwork. On the side of the street a homeless man covered in yesterday’s news sleeps on a bench. A gentleman walks by and throws loose change into his hat.
There are signs lining the streets advertising this politician and that one; they all stand for something different but still occupy the same dense spaces. Nothing is orderly and one day never looks the same as the one before.
The cool thing about being a writer is that it doesn’t matter where we reside. It doesn’t matter if we are in the belly of the city or in a perfect little village in the middle of the suburbs.
Our passion isn’t in our surroundings; it’s in our soul; in the words we come by; within the stories we tell.
If I can’t live in that little house during this season of my life, I suppose I can dream of and write about it instead. Within my mind at any given time, I can take the first train right out of town, arriving on time exactly where I desire to be.
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