Sunday, 24 February 2013

Envy as Recreation

I have always enjoyed looking through real estate ads. At one point I considered becoming a real estate agent, but I've decided I am not interested in sales; I'm just nosy. I like looking at other people's homes and seeing how they live. I see a cute cottage or a majestic mansion and my head fills with stories and plots. I always begin writing by thinking of the setting, not the people or the plot. The setting is a character in and of itself. My husband the social worker walks into a room and the first thing he notices is the people in it. I walk into the same room and the first thing I notice is the colour, the texture, the fabric, the windows...oh, and are there people here too? I missed them completely.

I envision myself living lives in these houses for sale. I could easily do the writer-in-a-garret thing, a studio apartment with no furniture but a loom and a harp and a battered desk. Or I see myself in a stone cottage surrounded by green fields and sheep, with a spinning wheel by the hearth. Or a chalet in the pine woods with a river running past, in which my dog dabbles. A geodesic dome, off the grid, with a well and solar panels. A funky loft in downtown Toronto, with canvas on which to paint and a nightlife humming below my feet (I'd never go down and join in, of course). A greenhouse with little shop attached, a market garden behind the house.

I will never purchase any of these places. No matter if I find a perfect, beautiful place that would be ideal for me - I find another, and another, in the next issue of the real estate magazine. As different as they are from each other, they are all perfect. I could see my lifestyle flexing and adapting to fit any of them. I can see myself writing my life story into all kinds of settings. I can picture my retirement being a myriad of things - a homebody working in my garden, or a footloose traveler roaming the world. And so, being overwhelmed with options, I choose none of them. It's not a fear of the unknown that keeps me in my current house. It's not sentimentality either. It's the certainty that - once I chose a place and moved - I would keep finding yet more places, and once the ball was rolling, I would want to try them all. I am not good at closing other doors once I've walked through one. And if that feeling is there, then I know I haven't really found THE place for me.

I also know myself well enough to recognize I am the type to see first the sunshine coming through the windows and the wisteria blooming over the trellis and not notice until too late the dry rot in the floorboards or the flight path directly overhead. Reality rarely lives up to the expectation. Better to stick with what I have and keep fantasy in its place: between the pages.

I will continue to munch my way through real estate ads like a sugar junkie eating candy corn, finding right place after right place. It is entertainment, not to be taken too seriously. (I have learned not to take too much about myself seriously, in fact.) And as a writer, I can create people to inhabit these lovely homes in my place, and let them deal with the dry rot while I soak up the sunshine in the greenhouse.

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