It's hard because honestly it was hard for me to even admit to myself I felt these things. This was at least a month ago and I had been doing some metacognition- thinking about thinking- involving my feelings on the city. I finally was able to boil it down to three things and the night that I told Peyton I was in tears. Partly, I think I was relieved to be able to finally articulate it in a concise way. But partly I was terrified to be honest with myself about how much I love this place. What did that mean for our future? [That is a whole other post, but I'll briefly touch on it at the end.]
But part of it is hard because I don't want to be disloyal to the South. I love the South so, so very much. It still has, and will always have, a huge chunk of my heart. There relationships there that we could never replace. There are, I've realized recently, experiences there that we could never replicate elsewhere. And there's a culture there that is truly ineffable. Like the city, I so adore the place and the peoples of the South. Kudzu country is a beloved land and I never want to dishonor or demean it.
Anyway, with the disclaimer out of the way, here's why I feel such a strong adoration for this place....
I feel more comfortable here. I know I say it a lot but I love our 800 square foot space. I think two hundred square feet for each of us really must be the magic number =) I like how our clothes fit in the closets because I was careful to bring just my favorites (i.e. the things I actually wear). I like how the kids each have a bowl they eat dry cereal out of in the morning and then they each have a divided plate that they use for lunch. I hand wash it and they use it for dinner. I wash it again after they eat and it's ready for the next day. Like literally, they use two plates and two bowls (and utensils and a few cups when necessary). It's so simple and so nice not to have a cabinet overflowing with sippy cups and plastic plates.
More than that, I love our pared down schedule. We are pretty much only doing things we like to do. I was emailing with a friend this week and it helped me to try to articulate what I like about our pace and our way of living here.
I think a lot of it has to Peyton's schedule more than mine and the kids'. Neither of us thought it would be such a big deal for him not to be a manager at the pharmacy but it's been HUGE. There's just a lot less he's responsible for at his store, so when he leaves he's really done with work- no making schedules, training techs, going in to interview somebody on his day off, ect. And being in charge effected his stress level a lot more than either of us realized. Also, he's not doing Pharmacy Association stuff and picking up extra weekends and that kind of thing up here, which makes a difference.
I think we also just tried really hard here to only do things we care about. When we get home, I'm going to make sure that the volunteer stuff I do are things I'm passionate about, even if it's more inconvenient. Going to the South Bronx once a week showed me that it's worth it.
The last big difference is Peyton's work schedule. I know a lot of people would hate it and I thought I might myself. But for some reason it's easier for me to compartmentalize things. I love that on the days he's off we have a totally different schedule. And honestly, I love my days at home with the kids, mostly. On the days he's off, I don't think about blogging or anything until the kids are in bed for the night. I know I'm probably not going to take a nap or read blogs or whatever else I want to do to relax. And I know we'll probably walk a lot and I'll be really tired. On the days he works, it's a long day by myself with the kids but I try to get ALL of Annie's school done and I get to just relax some during naptime. To me, it's easier splitting it up that way than when he was going into work at eleven. And I love that his schedule is more concrete. It's easier for me to keep up with and it's predictable.
I partly think my perspective has changed, too. I think this experience has sort of helped me to train myself to look for the good in situations (when that is NOT my natural inclination). I just started out doing that and it's become (a little!) more natural. Peyton was saying just today that he feels like I've gotten a lot more laid back, too. Which, we all know I'm SUPER HIGH STRUNG. But it works both ways, I think he's gotten to where he is a lot more appreciative of me and he's more likely to affirm and validate me in things.
All that to say, I'm more comfortable with my home and with my calendar than I think I've ever been.
I feel more safe here. Wait a minute- safer than in the suburbs in the 'Sip? Well, not like you're thinking.
I feel safer to be myself, I guess. Or to explore what that means. Sometimes people mention that it must be hard living in such a different environment. One time a friend asked me if it was hard to live in a more liberal environment, in regards to our faith- like was it hard to not be around more conservative, like-minded Christians? First of all, no doubt it's a largely secular urban environment. But one thing I told my friend- who actually doesn't live in the South- is that in a way, that's sort of refreshing. Because the people that are at church on Sunday? Are there because they want to be. People are just so authentic. Secondly, it's not like everyone here is a raging radical liberal. We've found friends who are faithful believers in orthodox doctrine. We're not all up here worshiping our spirit animals or watching Oprah to get tips on living a faithful life. Lastly, and this is what I was trying to get to, I think I feel safer here to share some of our opinions. Like, we feel more comfortable talking about how for us being pro-life means being against drone warfare. Or how we really feel more passionate about fighting poverty than fighting marriage amendments. I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with us, but I feel more at ease putting those things on the table. Especially with people who are casual friends or acquaintances.
I've seen this in other areas, as well. Someone also asked me about how differently people parent here. And it's interesting to watch. I think because there are SO many different styles- from very strict Orthodox Jewish families to people who don't believe in punitive consequences at all- there's a very live and let live mentality. Nobody cares if Graves is fully potty trained. Several times, at church and other things, I've mentioned it in an embarrassed way. And instead of a good natured scolding and "He is THREE, Mom!" people say it doesn't matter and/or encourage me with stories about their little boys taking forever. Literally no one here cares if my son poops in his pants and it's so refreshing. And nobody gives a damn if he sleeps with his pacifier. The other day we were at the park and I noticed the environment. There was a mom breastfeeding in a very casual way. And half the kids playing in the sprinkler had on their skivies. Now, I'm not going to let my kids run around in their underwear likes it's our backyard, but it was cool to me that there's that kind of freedom and liberty to parent how you see fit.
The last thing is kids' behavior. It's no big secret that I spent some of my earlier parenting days, especially when Graves was newly fresh, way overly self-conscious. So much so that it was really anxiety inducing and almost debilitating at times. That's not everyone in Mississippi's fault at all, a LOT of that is one me, but I do think living in a different culture has helped me immensely. I think people here expect children to be children more. They don't necessarily coddle them, but I think there is more grace for hard days and and such. There's also not so much a "children should be seen and not heard" type thing. I mean we take wild Graves to The Met, for crying out loud. We also take him to church, something I'm not sure I'd be brave enough for at home.
Lastly, I feel more alive here. This is the hardest one to try to pin down and articulate. I'm not sure I even can put words to it. It's not about the big, exciting NEW!YORK!CITY! things. It's really not. It's in the every day.I just feel so much vibrancy all around me. The colors seem brighter, the sounds louder, the smells stronger. And for some reason, this makes me feel alive. I guess when I see and feel and hear and smell humanity more strongly, I feel more human myself. I feel like I'm part of an amazing story that is much, much bigger than myself.
We're moving home. We don't know when exactly, but we are. There's a plethora of reasons and as I said, that's a post for another day. But I'm going to take as much of this comfort, these safe feelings, and this very real experience of knowing I'm alive with me as I can. I'm going to focus on maintaining a home and a lifestyle that is simple and happy. I'm going to surround myself with people who make me feel safe, I'm going to do my best to be honest when people don't, and I'm going to fight the insecurity within myself that is so often my own issue. I'm going to force myself to see a vibrant humanity- even if it's a little harder with vehicles and single family homes and such- and remind myself that I'm part of it, part of an amazing story that is much, much bigger than myself.