Saturday, April 5, 2014

THAT House on the Block

The yard is badly in need of mowing right now - not only has spring finally arrived, but we've had a great deal of rain, so (where Penelope hasn't worn it out running along the fence - which will save me some weed-eating!) it's a bit thick.  I won't say "lush", because what's really thick right now is the early-spring growth of rubbery purple weed flowers, which tend to be clumpy and fail to live up to the suburban ideal of pure green grass.  My neighbors' homes have a lovely growth of Easter grass right now, but my place is not the beauty of the block.

It wouldn't take much work, nor much time - but since Wednesday I've had a fairly severe case of instant allergies, and mowing the grass, no matter how community-minded it may be, just is not on my list, even though in actuality I'd kind of like the time outside in a wonderful breeze, and the exercise.  Note to intrepid suburban kids anywhere:  if you showed up at my door right now, I'd gladly pay you to take care of this for me, providing gas and mower personally.  Just sayin' - if you want a buck, the scruffy house on the block might be for you.

Today is the first day I've had open windows, and I did start the meds on Wednesday night.  I think it's helped, at least as far as beginning to fight the overarching symptoms of seasonal allergies - itchy eyes, SNEEZING - but the more immediate symptoms - sore throat, congestion, laryngitis - are tenacious.  They spawn further symptoms of their own - mouth-breathing, for instance, which then leads to chapped lips and feeling dehydrated, which leads to constant water-drinking, which leads to feeling bloated.  I'm almost fascinated at the daisy-chain of cause, effect, and annoyance - but, honestly, I don't actually feel as rotten as, for instance, I sounded this morning at nearly ELEVEN a.m. when my mom called and I was still half-zonked on nighttime cold/allergy pills.  Oops.

A bit of high-cacao chocolate being my preferred caffeine delivery method, I induced Godiva therapy after talking with her, and have done a lot at least upstairs.  On the main floor, I need to shove enough furniture out of the way to remove The Winter Rug - yes, it's a stupid idea; dusty and heavy-breathing-inducing (and if I can't mow the grass, how can I move a 200-pound rug?), but it's my idea and I'm all into it.

And here we have the point of this post.  I've written here many times about what it's like living alone, but the underlying issue is almost cultural.  The nuclear family ideal, and its analogue, Living Independently, make "going out on your own" sound like the way we're all supposed to structure our lives.  Living Independently, of course - that thing where we're expected to leave the nest at eighteen and live on our own until we create our own nuclear family with McMansion, starter-spouse, 2.38 children, and 2.38 cars - is the shaming device we use against such adults as have to go home to mom and dad for one reason or another.  I internalized Living Independently really early, and am not ready to give it up (the idea of living with my mom if, G-d forbid, she were ever widowed again, for instance, is beyond my ability to tolerate).  But it comes with its price.  And its fears.

It's not just the daily inconveniences, when I have to do EVERY last thing in the world that needs to be done, and perpetually fall short, by the estimation of an awful lot of people who see fit to have ideas about what needs to be done in my house, personal life, etc.  My finances, far from being my own as an Independent Woman, are the subject of MANY people's speculation and advice - and not just people I consider to be close family or friends.  "You should buy a such-and-such car" is the easy expectation of people I hardly know with whom I casually mention I have been looking.  Of course, mentioning such a thing is guaranteed to bring that on, but I don't even have a wife I can hide behind to demur on the more insistent suggestions of people who apparently know my needs better than I do ...

So it's an odd thing.  The more independent we are in the society I happen to have grown up in, the LESS autonomy people ascribe to my way of living.  People give advice to any and all, of course, but it *feels* like the advice to a single woman has a special insistence.

We've created a world in which "failing" to live independently is shamed and unnatural (natural as multi-generational living was for thousands of years before the 20th century), but doing so carries not only its own judgments, but also the fears and perils that go with ageing with no partner, no family, nobody in the home.  It's not a minor price to pay for the pride and accomplishment of living on our own terms, and it's something I wrestle with all the time.  The responsibility is both a matter of pride and chagrin - and, while I think I may be unable ever to be the person who'd blend again with my mom, or a geriatric roommate situation a'la The Golden Girls, I'm hardly gratified by the prospect of the next twenty or forty years of what it *really* means to be on my own.

Pride wins, with me (... apparently ...), but it's not because I never think about whether I could be wrong.  I've fulfilled some of the expectations of my upbringing, and it's beyond me to honestly imagine anything I'd change.  But that doesn't mean I think I've done everything just right.  Life *shouldn't* feel like it's gone exactly right, I think in a way.  If we felt completely righteous and satisfied - what would there be to work on in ourselves, or for others?

And who's going to do the dusting, with me here blogging?  A good question.  And I'm off ...

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