a still verdictless life…

Heyyyyy, Kaaaaatie. (this time, imagine my voice sounding like Eeyore’s.) You know when I’m quoting John Mayer’s lyrics, I’m in a contemplative mood. A few things have come up around here that have me thinking about our move to Cali lately and, more specifically, the “big-picture” for our family life.

You know, when we lived in a mid-sized town in the Midwest, Chris and I both felt a little ansty. (I just looked up the correct spelling for that. According to urban-dictionary, the spelling really stems from the sensation of having ants-in-your-pants. Can that be right?!)

Anyway, for the most part, we had both lived in the Midwest for all our lives. When we first met, we talked about moving a lot, just to check things out. Then, we had kids and decided to stay near our families. (Highly recommend this.) Then, the kids got a little older and we got more comfortable as parents, and decided to try a move after all. So, here we are in what I sincerely describe as one of the most exciting places in the country (seriously, the excitement in the air is tangible, all over the Bay Area) yet the feeling is creeping up on me again. Is this where we want to settle down? Should we want to settle down?

Thanks to facebook, I got in touch recently with an old friend. She and her husband left their established, high-paced careers in a major city to take over her parents’ small-business in the small-town (pop. 3200) where we went to high school. I was quite shocked, actually, as this sounds absolutely miserable to me, but she said they’re so much happier now.  She said, for the first time, she isn’t searching for her place in the world.

What am I gonna say? Everyone’s different. There are pros and cons to living anywhere. I just wonder what makes a person content in a place. Weather? Relationships? The view? And, of course, the more people that constitute your immediate family, the more people’s contentedness you have to consider. Our kids are at an age (and disposition?) where they seem happy no matter where they are. But I also don’t want to yank them around all over while I’m trying to figure it out for myself.

I guess I’m envious of people who are so sure they’re where they’re supposed to be. I don’t only question what part of the country we’re in, I question lifestyle. Sometimes I dream of living in a house we’ve designed and built ourselves, on some substantial property, away from masses of people. Then, I visit San Francisco and think it might be fun to try a condo on a crowded city block, where a public park counts as our yard. Last night, I was just thinking of how both of these ideas, and the reality right now that we are renting a single-family home in a suburb, are all pretty much the same thing. Maybe what I’m missing is that we should be naked head-hunters on an island where people don’t even know what houses are.

Is that possible? I guess I’m realizing, from this move, that it’s all relative. I feel like Palo Alto is a hustling, bustling, exciting-but-harsh city, based on my experience in the Midwest. (And you were right. There’s lots of traffic.) But I’ve made friends with a woman from London who says Palo Alto is incredibly slow-paced, friendly, and AFFORDABLE. (For the record, Palo Alto’s cost of living is 140.90% higher than the U.S. average.)

So, what is it for you? Do you feel content where you are? What might you want to try? Do you ever wonder if EVERYONE has it all wrong? After all, we only get one chance at the human experience and it seems like we’re all functioning on a small spectrum. (I really think the dinosaurs had it figured out. You know the life of a diplodocus was night-and-day different than a gigantosaurus.) (Yes, I live with two 6-year-old boys.)

I guess that’s it for now. Hopefully I shake this all off soon. It’s causing some low-level anxiety,  to be walking around wondering if I need to pull a Henry-David Thoreau on my family’s ass.

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5 thoughts on “a still verdictless life…

  1. While space determines so much about contentedness, comfort in your own skin can make anyplace, everyplace, and no place equally comfortable (although not necessarily make the place feel like home).

    In Rolfing school, we did a meditation every morning in which you successively brought your attention to: your midline, the volume inside your skin, the space right outside your skin, the whole room you’re in, the space outside the building you’re in, the city you’re in, all the way out to the horizon, and then you progressively bring your attention back. As you added a layer, you always maintained attention on the previous layers.

    Fundamentally, your orientation to the world is always grounded and centered in the middle of your own body, your vessel. Then you cultivate awareness and knowledge of all the nooks and crannies of your being. You discover all of the sensations, knowledge, and thoughts that the entirety of your body possesses, and you learn to use that information to guide your choices. Does this idea make me wholly comfortable in my body? If not, what is niggling at me and what does it mean?

    Natural extroverts tend to orient themselves more to the external environment. But the benefit of knowing what your natural tendencies are, is to know what parts of you need more cultivation. Introverting attention allows us to learn things about ourselves, our perceptions, and our responses previously overlooked.

    When we take our attention to the outside world, we still use our internal perceptions to judge its qualities (hence the value of being able to fully perceive our internal responses). The energy of the external world enters us through our senses and either resonates or creates dissonance. The more contented and at peace your internal world is, the less disruptive any external circumstances are . . . and the more sensitive you are to the subtleties of the external and internal world. Is the rush of traffic truly disruptive; is it disruptive because you’re feeling agitated from another thought; or can you allow the noise and vibrations of the traffic to pass through you?

    Now what about the significance of space, because obviously it is important too. I was in Boulder, CO, for Rolfing school, so whenever we did our morning meditation, I imagined the mountains on the horizon. But not until I did the meditation and imagined Kansas prairie on the horizon did I truly feel that the meditation grounded me, not only in my own body, but in the entirety of the space around me. It was so clearly home, a feeling I’d grown with, the earth my bones were rooted in. We are physically inclined to be rooted in certain types of spaces — mountains for some, desert for others, and near water for still others. So discovering your inclination helps ground you.

    But also finding your capacity to be grounded in your space allows you to root yourself, with time and attention, wherever you are. (When I visited California last year, I was very aware that the earth under my feet and the water nearby felt different, unfamiliar, and slightly unsettling, but I focused on feeling that difference and allowing myself to be there comfortably, even though it didn’t resonate as strongly.)

    We root to the earth through our bones, our legs, and feet. By sensing a connection to the earth, we can cultivate that connection wherever we are. But we also connect to people through our hearts . . . and to the sky and universe through our heads. The sky and universe connection exists wherever we go (hence the reason that people’s feeling of connectedness to God is such a powerfully orienting feeling regardless of where they are).

    So our connection to people, much like our connection to a specific part of the earth, grows stronger with time, and the connections established earlier in life are stronger. We can also cultivate new ones, but I suspect that the older connections are always the strongest and always the ones that feel the most like home.

    So what does this all mean? Cultivate your connection to yourself as the strongest connection you possess. It will center and orient you through the hurricanes and oases of your life. Find your capacity to connect to all of the external things that orient you as well — the earth you live on, the sky that surrounds you, and the people you love. And in all that, you will find home.

    • Thanks for taking the time to write this all out, Holly! It’s beautiful, and I especially love your ideas about how we’re rooted to the earth and how our bodies also help us find connections to God. Maybe you should be a guest blogger? 😉 -ks

    • Thanks, Holly, for the thought and time you put into this response. I’ve thought a lot about it. I admire your ability to feel so rooted in your body and surrounding environment. This is the sort of awareness I’m working to cultivate.

      I wonder how moving around often during our formative years affects a person. This was my experience growing up and I’ve wondered if it’s part of why I feel so restless. That being said, I’m inexplicably drawn to large bodies of water: lakes, bays, oceans. I feel very “at home” near water, especially the ocean, even though my first time to one was when I was 16.

      I also had a discussion once with someone (Katie, i think) on how strange it is that people feel more at home in certain cities than others. For example, I’ve felt very comfortable in San Fran, Boston, Amsterdam, and Rome. I’ve felt totally out of my element in L.A., Chicago, London, and Paris. I’ve felt at home in Mexico. I’ve felt like taking the first flight out of India.

      What’s that all about?

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