One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

November 28, 2009

Where the eagle’s flyin’ higher and higher

I am exceptionally good at motion. Since I had Ethan, a decade ago, I feel like I have pretty much not slowed down. If I wasn’t having another baby, I was changing my career or buying a bigger house or leaving my husband or something.

Year to year, I feel like my life at any given point in time bears little resemblance to what it was a year before or what it becomes a year later. I recall that when I celebrated my 29th Birthday, I said to myself, “I should celebrate my 30th Birthday this year. I’ve done and changed SO MUCH in the last year that I can celebrate my 30th Birthday feeling really accomplished.” I had just quit my job at Wonderland and was planning on starting my own business. Ian and I were newly living together and he had just started working at his exciting new job. We were settling in to my little character house and had done some a bunch of fixing it up.

But by the time I turned 30, I had, instead of starting a business, taken a job at the Menagerie, I was starting my maternity leave with a brand new baby and I was living in a big new house in the suburbs and had sold my little house for enough money to pay off all our debts. BAM! I didn’t expect any of that.

Those were bigger years for change than many of the other years. But it remains that I am good at setting goals, and I am consistently making plans for the improvement of our situation – whether what we need is to put the kids in swim lessons so they’ll be less rammy or what we need is to rearrange our livingroom for better space or what we need is to sell everything and move to Greece (okay, not this year, but one of these years). But basically, I have developed a habit of paying attention whenever I catch myself in dissatisfaction with my life, and turning that dissatisfaction into a goal. I’ve probably set hundreds upon hundreds of goals over the last decade. And I’ve probably only accomplished a fraction of them, because many of them were outlandish or revised or discarded as circumstances changed. But every dissatisfaction has been answered. I might have set five different goals to deal with a problem and then only achieved one, but I did achieve something to fix it.

This year’s big change was moving to our new neighbourhood. We spent two years in the house in the suburbs and I kinda hated it. I tried making plans to improve it, and I tried walking around our street appreciating all the nods to victorian architecture in the rows of pastel two-story houses. But then we had Hannah and Ethan had to move into the basement to make room for her and it was so frustrating to be so far away from everything. We began talking about how we inevitably did want to move back closer to the core. We began deferring household projects because we weren’t sure we’d recoup the cost if we sold. I think the ultimate catalyst was visiting Meredith in Toronto. Her neighbourhood was so lovely and eclectic and close to everything you could ever need. I blogged about how nearly her lifestyle matched the lifestyle I’d once envisioned for my young-bachelor self. And so, within a couple months of coming back, I said to Ian, “I know the market’s bad and so maybe we couldn’t even sell it or get a good price for it but let’s just fix up the house and see if it sells and then if it did, because the market’s bad, we should pretty much be able to have our pick of houses.” Well, anyhow, that pretty much is what happened. And furthermore, we lucked into the house that seemed out of our reach because it was too perfect for us (and that made it also too expensive for us). And, although we were looking at three neighbourhoods, we ended up in the neighbourhood that I’ve pictured myself in since I was about 8 and my mom’s friend lived around here.

Anyhow, I’m going somewhere with this. Last weekend, I used Facebook to get in touch with a childhood friend. She has a story that would be interesting to disseminate on a number of levels, but I’m reluctant to, since it is her story and not mine and since, even though I use nicknames, I’m aware that my internet anonymity is a comfortable construct, not a reality. At some point I do intend to come back and disseminate my thoughts on her stay-at-home-motherhood – but that is a topic for later. The point is that she has ended up with a life which, when put down to facts looks quite enviable. The husband is in one of those professions which society considers desirable in a husband. Their house is on one of the original streets of the city that I have spent many a trip purposely walking or driving in order to admire the grand houses. And when I went to visit her, I found that in person her life looked even more enviable. There was a lot of charm in the family and the visit – but those elements are about the stay-at-home-motherhood that I want to discuss another time. The house itself was all kinds of charming, from the yard to the decor to the neighbourhood.

That night, after supper, I went out for a walk and I strolled down her street. It’s not as creepy as it sounds. Her street is a five minute walk from me and I didn’t go as far as her house. I just wanted to look at the neighbourhood again and sort out my thoughts.

See it is a beautiful neighbourhood. And it’s another neighbourhood that I’ve fantasized about living in. And I walked along admiring all the houses and a part of me recognized that envy and said, “well look, this is attainable, you know.”

Every house on that street has so many elements that Ian and I agree are really lovely in a house. Big driveways, brick, mature yards, vines, second floor balconies and decks. I turned down the street to the river and headed there to follow the river back home admiring the view. And when I was back near Broadway and thinking about everything near there, I realized that I don’t care if something grander is attainable. I just want to stay still for a while.

You know, I’m intensely grateful for how far I’ve come in the last ten years. But when I finally set a goal that I didn’t want to achieve, I realized how much of it has been really compulsive. That little voice that started out encouraging me to believe a grand house was attainable, is now disgusted with me for being too self-satisfied to reach for new heights. “Oh really? You’ve worked hard enough? Done enough? Come far enough? You think you’re good enough without this?” I realized how much all this change has been a way of running. If I never stay still, I never have to confront that none of my accomplishments have materially affected my sense of self worth. Some of them have made me happier; some tremendously happier. But none of them, no matter how hard-won, have made me feel that I deserved them.

The angry internal voice asking me how dare I think I might be good enough to stop is missing that I still have a hundred goals in every other direction. I am still wildly driven by goals for my kids, home improvement, my creative expression, my career. But I guess the difference is that now I’ve said no. I might still have a hundred goals – but if I’ve said no to one, then I’m not running anymore. I’m picking my own pace.

« Previous post
Next post »

One ResponseLeave one →

  1. scheherezhade

     /  2009-12-01

    Now I have St. Elmo’s Fire on my brain. Thanks.


Leave a Reply