So, we are leaving South Carolina. My experiment in southern housewifery is over, and I have to say it is with a great big sigh of relief.
A sense of relief not unlike the shockingly icy temperature of a Maine ocean on a hot summer day. I’ve been longing for that burst of coolness, refreshment from the stagnant. I’m actually looking forward to the fall and a change of scenery.
I miss my family, and we’ve done enough exploring here. The South is a different country from New England, with a different value system and culture from what we prefer. I want to raise my son in a place where being different is not jeered at, a place that values education and alternative takes on life. I’ve met acquaintances with many new variety of tree, plant and human. I recognize the weather, speech and traffic patterns, and I am okay with eliminating the term “y’all” from my vocabulary. Maybe some day I will curse the snow, but I miss those gray winter landscapes, and we all miss poking around in the woods without fear of lurking alligators and snakes. But, I have no remorse haughtily saying see ya to cockroaches. Its been like a year abroad for us, and I hope everyone gets a chance to experience the regional differences in the country, not just overseas.
I have made a list of things I love about South Carolina.
…in no order of importance:
- Meandering the trails at the James Island County Park
- Easy to one of the top ten beaches in America
- Sitting outside on the patio all year long
- This place. And the view from this bar
- Walking along the battery with iced tea on a Sunday morning, and stopping to let our son splash in the pineapple fountain
- The amazing quality of local fruits and vegetables available all year–and my new love affair with okra
- Hearing the trees rustle outside our bedroom windows (never the dull roar of sirens and traffic)
- The general lack of anything even slightly resembling traffic
- My rediscovery of a genuine yoga practice
- How my plants flourished here–my lavender blossomed this year for the first time in 6 years.
It has been a swell year, but I think if I was really honest with myself I knew we weren’t really going to live here for long. It was a fun temporary change, this sojourn in southern living.
I have a question, and I would really love some feedback on this, my dear & sweet readers:
Is there such a thing as too much yoga?
In the last few weeks, I’ve been randomly asked how many hours I practice per day by numerous people. The answer, in case you’re curious, too, is: 3-4 (meditation and physical asanas). I want to meditate more, but right now it is between 20 and 40 minutes each day total (post-wake and pre-sleep sessions). I utilize the day care at the gym–my son enjoys his time there as much as I enjoy my 1.5-2 hours practicing. Then, I usually follow up at home for another hour to an hour and a half with certain poses I want to explore and track progress on while my child naps. In addition, I practice again when he is in bed for the night, often the shortest sessions of 30-45 minutes. Sprinkle in a few classes at local studios, and of course my ubiquitous beach yoga sessions, and I spend the majority of my free time doing yoga.
Is this too much? I still go about my other daily life activities. I don’t put off any essential responsibilities. The way I understand it is, I’m here in this new state with few friends, zero extended family, and a husband who often works long hours. If the option to hang out with people arises, I shorten or skip a session without a second thought. I don’t write as often, though. And I don’t run or play tennis. I haven’t been doing much css study, and I’ve permanently put my nano novel out of my mind.
So readers, I need some advice. Should I be reading more? Studying child rearing? Memorizing recipes? Cleaning the base boards more often? I don’t really know. I want to be a well-rounded person, and I’m either really excited or really afraid that I’m starting to identify as a yoga practitioner and structure my days around it.
I think I need to work on giving back to the world more. When I was working as a librarian, it was gratifying because I was working to further a societal institution. I’ve been volunteering in a library a couple of hours each week, but maybe that is not enough.
Related: I wonder if Betty Friedan would have done yoga if it was as accessible as it is today? I just finished reading this book, and it was fascinating!!
(I have been thinking about writing this post for quite a while.)
There are possibilities everywhere, and it is hard not to let the mind wander toward exciting uncharted territory. There are the possibilities we actively seek out, taking their shape in goals, cover letters, bruised wrists, and brazen moves out of state. Then there are the possibilities that we can only wish and pray into being. We all wished to win the lottery (it helps to buy a ticket though), we wish natural disasters don’t occur, we wish for lovely weather when our far away friends visit; and I wished that I said the right thing in the right conversation that would have landed an offer of employment.
The HR rep greeted me warmly, and reminded me to “just breathe,” which I brashly shrugged off.
I could have used another breath.
I sat down parched, then thankful to see paper cups of water in front of each place. As the deputy director was going over some initial details, I gratefully sipped my cup. It slowly dawned on me that, in fact, there was no paper cup of water for me. I had just touched my lips and tongue to the executive director’s cup. Burning with apologies, I tried to move on from my error as the interview trio politely shrugged it off. There was probably a way I could have recovered from that egregiousness, but whatever it could have been was beyond me. Those interview questions I should have practiced would have come in handy then.
I walked out of that interview more defeated than I’ve felt in a very long time. I wallowed for the evening, and the next day. I perked up here and there, convincing myself my errors really weren’t all that bad. But they were. Oh reader, they were heinous.
This was April 1. For many reasons that I hope to go into with another post, I joined an instagram yoga challenge. So when I finally got that email that said, “thanks, but no thanks,” I had something else to think about. It was a moment of unseen, though very deliberate, creation, and it has re-ignited my buried passion.
I’ve done more yoga in the last two months than I have in many years…maybe ever. It has helped me realize that job was not my dream job, it was just a job. Looking back, I see my hesitations.
Self-sabotage of the best sort.
How did that spark inside me that trained to be a yoga teacher five years ago get so obscured? It is a little strange for me to be on the cusp of the next decade of my life, and still not know precisely what my career will look like. But I’ve been opening to new possibilities that I never would have seen if I got this 9-5 job I lusted after. Teaching yoga. Getting a 2nd Masters. Going to the beach every beautiful day with my son. Volunteering with the troubled local school system. Going to France and to live in a little cottage by the sea. Meeting and celebrating my new niece this summer.
Anyways, I felt like I needed to document this episode of my life, and thank you for reading. It is reassuring to know there is no such thing as a dream job, for me, right now. That position for included zero discussion of creativity. And yoga, definitely no yoga in the job description. So I’m settling in for a summer of possibilities manifesting, and setting the stage for a happy next decade of my life.
Surely Hafiz can’t be wrong:
“This place where you are right now, God circled on a map for you.”
I am confused! I used to love living in Boston, the construction and the sirens were a charming white noise, and the hot stepping industriousness of the masses excited me, even if I was just pretending to be part of the pack on my way to Neimans. I loved living in a 874 square foot apartment stacked neatly above and beside other square living spaces. It was liberating to go to the grocery store and keep my head down, not making eye contact was part of the game (judge people based on their walk and their shoes, not their facial expression, I learned). I rarely got upset by traffic, I began to appreciate public radio and audio books, I walked everywhere I possibly could, and I outsourced all my errands that there was a market for.
Living in the city, we started to hold hands when we crossed the street, not for safety, but to feel a connection among the multitudes of people we were surrounded by all day. I shared tables at the library, knew where all the free dog bags were, sat rubbing elbows with strangers at bars, and discovered the easiest route across Mass Ave during rush hour. I learned to strip my pants off at the gym mere inches away from other women (it is much more efficient to forgo modesty when you’re changing into a bathing suit).
But something about my attitudes towards city dwelling has changed in the last three months. I guess I’ve gone soft in my new state of semi-retirement and stay-at-home motherhood. I have an expectation that people will return phone calls, & emails, especially when one spends 45 minutes composing the latter to a fellow new mother with solicited advice on things already learned. I have little free time, and believe me, I would have preferred to spend it working on my nano project, taking a bath and eating chocolates, bouldering, or playing with my toddler; not recounting my days with the nightmare inducing medela pump, or reliving my first days of returning to work after maternity leave. Sure, we’re all busy, in the city and in the suburbs, but what is it about some people who have such colossal stores of disregard for other people? Boston traffic illuminates this clearly: try driving near the city on I-93 between 3 and 5 in the afternoon, and please, try to find me one example of someone who isn’t entirely offensive and self-interested. The dudes driving the new mercedes or giant SUVs are on the ultimate ego trips, if you ask me.
Anyways, I recently returned from a ten day trip to New England. We flew in and out of Boston in favor of convenient flight times, and though I had moments of awe as I looked up at the skyscrapers, I was mostly disappointed by what I left behind. I spent six years of my life running in the city rat race, though I didn’t really realize it until going back. I joined in on restaurant week fun, tried not to be appalled when a friend’s husband nonchalantly ordered $100 bottles of wine, shopped for cocktail dresses at overpriced boutiques I’ve only ever worn once, attended various bridal and baby showers at over-hyped trendy cafes. I guess I did a fine job of feigning interest, but I have no desire to take part in those activities anymore. Don’t get me wrong, Boston is beautiful, and I loved my time there, but looking back my attitudes were all wrong and much of the time I was helping to perpetuate the Masshole stereotype. I was pregnant during our last seven months of living in our little apartment on Beacon Street, and in that time my husband and I nested, lived quietly, walked the streets and observed small marvels of life existing there; we grew kinder. It was quaint, and I had as much fun in those months as I had when we were regularly meeting people out on the town.
Living in the South, I think I am starting to understand what the Dutch (and Europeans in general) meant when they said that people get colder the further north you go, and friendlier as you travel south. I don’t know if it is the cold weather in Boston that gets people going on the rude train, but it is a lifestyle I am so glad I am no longer perpetuating. I wish I could go back and apologize to all the friends I cancelled on last minute, all the times I snagged a taxi when someone else five feet away was looking at it hopefully. I want to take back the crappy tips I gave to delivery food drivers for being half an hour late with our dinner because of traffic, and I forgive the pedestrians who walked out in front of me when my stoplight changed before they could halt their stride.
I’m not saying that people in the South are superior. I am sure I’ll find their (our?) faults soon enough, but the common sense of decency, gentility, and genuine kindness here is downright intoxicating. Definitely a pay-it-forward kind of society, whereas in Boston, I look back and see all the times kindness stopped because it was more convenient for someone (myself included) to hang on to it to get a leg up.
Whatever happened to a quick chat over tea? Or shows of thankfulness and appreciation? This is the season for gratitude, and I definitely saw very little of it in Boston. It was barely discernible in Maine which was disappointing to me, Massholes be Massholes, but I expected more from my home state. I had a wonderful trip, all the family and friends I did get to see were amazingly kind and generous, and spoiled my son with more love and attention than I ever thought existed.
But I’m not eager to go back. Family and friends have promised visits here over their cold winter, and this way I can avoid the rude stewardesses who gawk at me shuffling down a narrow airplane aisle with 3 bags and 26 pounds of dead weight. I miss the birch trees, but I think palm trees are a great holdover until we go back.
your ever loyal bloggess
P.S. In case you wondered, I’m taking a little social media (read: twitter and facebook) hiatus for the rest of the year. Time to focus on the family I have here, my projects I want to finish, and the new goals I want to get started on.
I’ve had a terrible habit lately of taking things for granted. I make weekly trips to the aquarium, the beach, the pool, and the farmers market with my son, and rarely do I pause to wonder if it is going to be the last time. Last week I interviewed for a job I know would suit me…I might be offered the position and suddenly be a working mother again, facing different adventures and routines.
I was thinking about this today on an afternoon walk. We live in such a beautiful neighborhood, we can walk out the front door and be engulfed in forest and nature moments later. Before we moved I always longed to get out of the house and look at the natural world, but living in the Boston area made it complicated. The parks we lived near were surrounded by highways, and even Boston Common couldn’t offer the serenity I get from forests. Today we easily got to see the real world: deer, squirrels, butterflies, snakes, spiders, flowers, frogs, a great spectrum of earth. I’ve been expecting a phone call all day though, so I had my phone with me. The baby had fallen asleep, and the dog was obediently trotting beside us. My hand seemed magnetized to my phone. Like just because I had it, and just because it was possible, my hand tried to check my email. I caught it, put my phone back in my pocket and took a deep breath of gratitude. I have few responsibilities, and few people rely on me right now. These days are surely numbered, whether I get a job next week, or two years from now, I know I will not get to spend all this time with my son, my dog, and the woods forever. I mustn’t wish for change, when one day I know I’ll be longing for these carefree–and yes, even boring–days of stay at home motherhood.
We ended up taking a very long walk. I fell into a trance, hypontized by the beautiful afternoon sun and clouds, the warm breeze. No mosquitos to chase away. I stared at the treetops for miles, wondering what I could do to have this view forever.
The above encompass three cities and six weeks of busy life and change. I have hardly even had a chance to upload the pictures from my camera, so thank god for instagram and phone cameras!
I left my job about five weeks ago. When I was out on maternity leave this winter, I wrote a blog post about my impressions of visiting other libraries within our consortium. In my new city, I am still ultra observant of the libraries we visit each week. It is part wistful longing to be helping instead of needing, part hyper awareness of the rhythm and flow in case I decide to apply for a job in the system, and part settling into my new role as a patron instead of a librarian.
In any case, I can’t help but use my insider librarian knowledge to compare The Charleston County Public Libraries (CCPL) to the systems I learned in New England. CCPL operates through the county governance rather than network buy-in, which is apparently a common pattern in the South. Now that my boy is sleeping regular naps and 13 hours at night, I am actually checking out books, not frantically stopping by to feed or change a diaper. But, even if I had been checking out books in February, I would have been able to return the items to any member library location then, and it would get checked in and shipped back to home in a three to five day transit turnaround (indeed it would have gotten shipped back to its home no matter where in Massachusetts I returned the book, but not checked in until it reached its home in that case).
Now I still return my books to the most convenient location, but it stays at that branch until it gets checked out by another patron, and again returned anywhere. This develops a sense of a serendipitous collection, no? Technically, in Library World, it is called a Floating Collection, and though I’m sure staff intervenes and sends boxes among the different libraries for purposes of balance, shelf space, displays, patron holds, repairs, processing, story times, and who knows what else, I can only marvel at how it seems to be one of the only things in the South that functions efficiently.
- The plumber came by last Tuesday (nine days ago). He said he needed to run to Lowes to get a part, and the low water pressure problem in the sink would be fixed. Haven’t seen or heard from him since. He lives 3 minutes away.
- When we first moved here, we didn’t receive mail for approximately three and a half weeks. Turns out, it was here the whole time, but were given the wrong box number by our landlord. He lived here before we moved in. Who knows how he was collecting mail.
- Despite the water pressure issue in the sink, we’ve had no problems. We even have a built in filter spout at the sink. But the company’s information we were given to set up our own water account does not serve our neighborhood. Who has been paying the bill for the last 8 weeks since my husband moved in?
- Getting some decent news on the go in the car is like pulling a baby’s teeth–that is to say, impossible because there is none! The public radio station is a devastating disappointment after being spoiled by RadioBoston. Here there is little participation in the national broadcasts that host the familiar voices, and very little (any?) original content. Opera is on 90% of the time I tune into that station. I miss those hyperlocal human interest stories. Even Maine had more content, and the population of South Carolina to Maine is more than 3:1.
CCPL offers Freegal, really interesting programs, loads of story times, rooms filled with toys, vacant computers, ample classes in technology, drive thru book drops, job vacancies that are quickly filled, a one book one county effort, innovative ideas, and centralized management outside of the branches. My 11 month old son was allowed a card, whereas the consortium we left in Massachusetts only allowed children to have them on their fifth birthday (or once they could write their name). I can’t describe how happy I am that there is such a vibrant library community in my new city. I aspire to be a part of it someday in the future, but I have to admit: it is really nice to give my resume a break for a while. I’m enjoying stay-at-home-motherhood a thousand times more than I imagined, and I credit a lot of that to the fact that if I ever just need to get out of the house and be around adults for a while, we are always close to a branch of the CCPL. There are things that interest me and my son, and it is exactly the kind of cultural education we both need at this point in our lives.