On wanting what you have

Here in Mississippi, spring is on its way. The air is balmy and warm, birds flitter around our feeder, and Chara’s fur gathers in tumbleweeds in the corners of our home.

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The tumbleweed producer herself.

These changes, along with talk of New Year’s resolutions, always turn my thoughts to the future. What’s the outcome I see for myself? What am I willing to sweat and bleed for?

The older I get (at my sage 25 years of life), the more I value simplicity. I want to know the nooks and crannies of my home. I want to enjoy healthy, homemade food, and go for long walks in the country.

Most of all, I want control over my life. I think this is partially a product of being in the midst of my “turbulent twenties”–we haven’t spent more than three years in one place since undergrad, and have had some crummy neighbors along the way–and partially because of our robbery scare last fall.

I want to have the resources to control as much of my surroundings as possible.

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I want to look out of my door and see this.

I want a little house in the woods, with a big garden. I want to be able to walk out my front door and not see another soul–to feel safe getting lost in my thoughts as I stroll down country lanes. I want to sit up on winter nights with Jordan and play chess. To spend my days writing, my mornings with dirt caked under my fingernails, my evenings on the porch with a cup of tea.

I want to have kids–to have an infant to snuggle and soothe, to watch some amalgamation of me and Jordan grow into a little person, with his or her own thoughts and desires and dreams.

These wants are so seductive. With a little hard work, a little luck, they are easily in my grasp. I don’t have big dreams. I don’t want a mansion or vast fortune or fame.

But by focusing on them, even my small desires, I miss out on the things I have now: the homemade bread; the weekends with Jordan; the sweet pleasure of watching Chara snooze in her bed.

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These are our early days. The beginning of our family. We will look back on this damp little house and remember the coziness of our Christmas tree, the afternoon sunlight, the window looking out on the bird feeder.

Our collection of eclectic apartments are chapters in the beginning of our marriage: the place in Burnsville with its empty walls and fake wood flooring. How we used to go to the school next door to let puppy-Chara run around while we watched the sunset.

The maroon-carpeted apartment in Madelia–my favorite yet. The way the cold painted frost swirls on our windows, and Jordan and I took Chara tramping through the wasteland of snow outside our door. Most days in Madelia, it felt like we were the only people in the world–everyone else was ensconced in their cozy little homes.

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Winter treks in Madelia. Jordan wearing my mom’s maternity coat.

East Lee, our first apartment here in the South, with its crooked walls and cracked tiled floors. The fireplace was its one boon; Jordan and I would pull our mattress into the living room to sleep next to the burning embers. My memories from those days are mostly trying to fit cookie trays into the tiny oven, and walking across campus with Chara to pick Jordan up from work.

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During one of our many walks onto campus.

And now here. Our little brick house, with its little backyard.

It is easy for me to romanticize the past and the future, but it is less easy to live in the moment. Right now, the stressors in our lives are real and cumbersome: our neighbors who wake us up at 4 am with their fights, the damp air, the sound of ambulances screaming by at all hours of the day.

It is easy to think: this isn’t ideal. One day, I will have everything under control. There will be no junk drawer. We will have no neighbors. We will never eat TacoBell for dinner (just kidding, I love TacoBell). We’ll live near our families.  One day, things will be perfect.

But that isn’t accounting for the million other ways there are to be dissatisfied. Right now we have jobs we enjoy, people who look out for us. The people in power over us–our bosses, advisor, landlord–are all wonderful. We’re usually healthy, and we have the time and energy to exercise and eat well.

Additionally, I get to work from home. I can write articles and edit from the little white desk in our spare room, which overlooks the backyard and bird feeder. I have enough spare time to pump out a novel per year, and to try to get published.

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Also enough spare time to torture the cat.

Our lives are swell.

The trick is recognizing it, and soaking it in. I manage to do that for short periods–an hour of sipping tea, a day of hiking, a moment as a bird flutters its wings three feet away from me (can you tell I’m super into the birds right now?).

But that sense always seems to slip away.

Any ideas for how to get it to stick around?

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