I want to burn the box. What box, you wonder? Our new house? Well, yes, some days. But I’m actually referring to the box that many middle-class Americans live within. The 9-to-5, drive-a-sedan, own-a-home box that beckons us to join the masses that do the same.
We’ve been back in the States for almost two months now. That box is firmly overhead. It feels like we suddenly mounted tricycles and are trying to stay within the lines of a track we can’t quite find. “The Loop,” one friend calls it – a circular, never-ending track of mortgage, groceries, errands, bills, and all the income, smiles and tears that makes the wheels spin.
We broke outta The Loop. Hell, we gleefully smashed it to pieces. The problem is that we didn’t leave much left to pick up when we returned. I look around now at our near-empty cupboards and our way-bigger-than-a-boat living space, and wonder what possessed me to give away my cookie sheet. The paid-off car. The speakers and stereo. The really good job. Our favorite spider plant.
But mostly, I look at what we still have and am overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff we don’t need. Why, for instance, do I have 22 tank tops when I lived in 2 for a year? How could we ever have needed pint glasses and coffee mugs and wine glasses? Sometimes I feel like all the stuff is taunting us as we struggle with merging back into The Loop.
None of the pictures look good on the wall because I don’t like looking at walls instead of horizon. The carpet seems odd because it’s not sand. The nights are too quiet to sleep without hearing roosters calling or wind in the stays. The Loop feels eerily desolate, even as our favorite friends pedal alongside.
Last weekend, I joined a few girlfriends for an overnight in the Rattlesnake National Forest. I packed a pad, a one-person tent, my ukelele and some food. Off I rode from the front yard, belly as my bowsprit. A mere six miles later, I stopped at a divine creekside camp spot. I rejoiced at how lucky we are to live so close to these familiar mountains. I felt light again. Free. Like Bri. It felt safer to have only the belongings on my back. To look at a panorama of sky instead of a landscape of unsatisfying walls.
When I turned home the next day, I felt stronger and more inspired than ever to trash the tricycle and burn down the box. The problem is that I don’t quite know what to replace them with. At seven months pregnant, I can’t exactly wander into the sunset with a backpack. Supposedly, that fabled “nesting” instinct is going to kick in soon. But right now, I long to be a gypsy still. To be the family that never has going-away or welcome-home parties because you never know if we are coming or going.
Rob and I are learning our way back home through a thicket of expectations, new and old. We prop each other up. On good days, we find morels in river bottoms and sheep skulls beneath pine logs. We appreciate the wildflowers and have dinner with friends who listen well and hug us hard.
On bad days, we try to stagger which one of us wobbles on this new track. We alternate between who wants to burn down the house and who can deal with the daily chores. We dwell too often on “should haves,” even though we know full well that “can dos” will serve us better.
Would we take our sailing trip again? Of course. Would we have done things a bit differently? No question. Hindsight is the clearest vision of all. Now we’re working on not letting it blind our way forward.