Monday, May 10, 2010

Then Again Looking at the Practicalities: Landing, Part 2

Houses, even townhouses, are expensive in the place where I insist on living, and while it would be technically doable to obtain one after several years of herculean effort, laser-focus, and the financial discipline of an Olympian, I don't know if the sacrifice would be worth it. What if I hate losing my freedom—to change jobs, to move somewhere else, to pursue an MFA? I currently enjoy a cash-only existence, and living independently of the credit system is important to me. I would have to enslave myself to it, and I don't want to.

And, what if it turns out that I hate gardening? And what if it just isn't in me, after all, to commit to something as huge and as permanent as a house?

There would be no margin for error. No margin for getting seriously ill, for losing a job, for having to stop working to take care of a family member, for another financial collapse. Everything would have to come together perfectly, and hold that way for years. And of course, nothing ever does.

I think a lot about the messages we get in this culture around ownership of property; how it's drilled in us that home ownership is tantamount to personal happiness and long-term financial “health”. I'm not easily controlled by the threat of unhappiness, since I am already mostly baseline unhappy, (or “vaguely melancholic”, as I prefer), and I'm fairly fatalistic about money, so accumulations of it through such clunky means as buying a house doesn't hold much appeal to me. I've had to think long and hard this week about what property ownership would mean to me.

There is of course the whole question of home; of being tied to land, of having a physical marker for belonging. But what if I achieve this “dream” and I still feel homeless, as I always do? What if I still feel like I don't belong anywhere? Then I would still be as spiritually homeless as always--yet trapped. (And house-poor).

Maybe impermanence; rootlessness, is just woven into who I am at this point, and there's nothing I can do to change it. Maybe the trick is to live with the longing. Maybe the near-impossibility of satisfying this longing is a saving grace in the long run. Or maybe I just need to acknowledge that this is an emotional loss for me, grieve it, and move on. Contrary to prevailing cultural attitudes, no one ever died from not getting what they wanted.

For the terrarium project, my husband bought a handful of Epiphytes—“air plants” that don't root in soil. They derive moisture and nutrients from the air, rain and debris that accumulate in their space. They anchor to whatever is handy in their immediate environment, and scavenge the available resources for their survival. Right now, they are lying patiently in their cardboard palettes, awaiting the next relocation.


Dale said...

For decades it was a financial no-brainer: buying a house was so advantageous that it made sense almost no matter what. I don't think that's true any more: but the cultural associations of home ownership with prudence and security linger, as you say.

It does expose you to a lot of risk, emotional and financial. When the roof unexpectedly starts leaking, there's no one to call: you're just looking at an outlay of $5,000, or taking a $40,000 hit on your net worth. If your neighbor decides to cut down the eighty year old maples next door that shade your house, there's not a thing you can do about it.

The Good Typist said...

Dale--interesting; thanks for the insight, and your good wishes in your comment on my last post. I feel like what you describe would be really stressful. I do like just calling the landlord when something breaks. And pretty much no matter what, I guess you're always going to have to deal with neighbor, be you a renter or a buyer.

Jo-Ann Svensson said...

My life was once summed up by a relation with four signafiers: I had no house, no car, no pension plan and no partner. She seemed to imply it was a disadvantage. Hmmm, now I know that I am really an epiphyte with good friends that root me; a creative response to life that energizes me; and an acceptance of what is that gentle rains upon my soul ... helping me grow.

The Good Typist said...

Jo-Ann, I can so relate. There are certain things that are irrationally associated with being a "grown-up" in this culture, and home ownership is definitely one of them, as is having children. And, I suppose, being anchored at the hip to a "partner". Your description of what it is to be an epiphyte is lovely. I am thinking, too, about what it means to grow up, and I think that knowing who you are and making independent choices, aside from what society dictates about what you need to do/be to be "valid", is a huge part of that. The rest...well, I obviously haven't figured that out yet. ;)