Friday, January 30, 2009

On Living Without

Lately, I wake up in the middle of the night and lie in bedding thinking about a variety of things. Often these fall into boring categories: things to be done, things done poorly, things to be said, things said poorly, what's for dinner. The more interesting category is: Thing I Don't Want to Forget.

I don't want to forget how great it is to live without. To not have much. And I'm not talking about this point in life. Although there is much we live without, it is often a conscious choice. However, shortly after college I was poor. I was poor and often hungry and riding my bike around to early morning jobs in the dark, rainy Seattle winter. And yet, those were some of my richest days.

I made a friend during that time that I continue to correspond with. Although our relationship has changed since I've married and had children, she is still a favorite. I credit much of our closeness then and our ability to remain curious about one another's life trajectories to the fact that we were poor together. We took turns buying Coffee Mate flavored creamer from week to week. It made our life rich. We would sit at our ktichen table and drink flavored coffee. This was an event back then.

We would also go on bike rides to Discovery Park in Seattle. This is a park of unrivaled memory in my mind. You could ride your bike along a bluff and look out over the Puget Sound. You could also go all the way down to the water and look into tidepools. These activities were free and invigorating. As winter turned to spring in Seattle we had more daylight on our hands. This meant for longer rides. It really was bliss. We would chug and churn our way over or under the Ballard bridge around around the streets of Magnolia, past the place where, supposedly, Ted Bundy used to live and enter the park. We'd ride by some old military housing and onto these little trails with new, tall grasses just beginning to sprout. We'd stop and look out over the water and generally enjoy that free feeling of being alive.

I'm sure there was much we were stressed about or unsatisfied with, but I don't remember. I had a job at a bakery. I had to be there at 4am. I would frequently ride home with a garbage bag full of day-old bread. Free bread! What a boon. We ate potatoes, bread and spaghetti. Lots of cheap food. We had fires in our fireplace and had friends over. We got a free couch in our front yard. I was an aimless college grad with three jobs. (I don't recall the other jobs as they were not as much fun as the bakery job.) Life was good.

Nowadays we live without things, too. Most of the stuff we don't have I don't want, I've accepted or it's just silly stuff. Much, too, is deliberate. We don't have a television because of the havoc it wreaks on little Stella's ability to cope with not watching it. We tried out cable in our home for about four months before we did away with it. Life is better without. I've made a purse and baked some bread. Jamie walks on the treadmill and listens to Mars Hill Audio. The girls look at books, play in their kitchen, chase each other around and fight. There are times when I want to turn it on to squash some whining, but I'm thankful I don't have to deal with turning it off. That was the worst.

There is just as much to be judged and determined from outsiders by what you have and almost moreso by what you don't have. Especially when the not-having is a conscious choice. I assume to some we are boring weirdos and to others we are cultural elitists. But it makes me think of Valentines Day. Why all the shit? Because it's just always been that way?

2 comments:

Stacy Barrett said...

Thanks, A. I really appreciate the thought here ... it is a really good reminder for me. Glad we're friends.

jmgb said...

we gave up our cable three months ago and it has been the most refreshing breath...surprised by how much i relish the silence, how little i miss the clamor.

i don't think of you as a cultural elitist or boring weirdo...i think of you more like friend.