Saturday, 16 March 2019

Reinventing Yourself

One of the dangers of bad winter weather is that you can easily get sucked into living like a slug, immobile on the couch, watching back to back episodes of TV shows. I admit I've done my fair share of that during this long, gray winter.

My favourite indulgence this winter has been the BBC's Escape to the Country and Escape to the Continent. My word, the beautiful places there are in this world! The intriguing houses people have built! I've seen everything from huge barn conversions to dinky low-ceilinged stone cottages to actual French chateaux and even an ancient castle gatehouse. We've toured caves of ripening cheese and interesting woolen mills and river long boats and boulangeries that make me want to lick my TV screen.

The thing I find most fascinating, though, is the pervading theme all of these prospective buyers talk about-- they want a slower-paced life. They want more time with their families, shorter work hours, more opportunity to go outdoors, more time for their hobbies. They want to re-focus their lives on what's important to them.

Why do they have to move to Cyprus or Liguria to do that?

I mean, don't get me wrong, I'd love to up sticks and live in a Maltese farmhouse or a mountain-top lookout in Abruzzo too. But why do these people think that they have to go to such extremes in order to change their routines or emphasize their family life? Maybe they live in such an expensive area that they have to work long hours to sustain it. Maybe their current lifestyle cannot reflect their values because of external circumstances. Or they simply don't have the space to develop their interests. In that case, sure, I'd encourage them to downsize or change neighbourhoods or whatever it takes so they can lessen their work hours or gain a garden, etc. It makes sense to move, then.

But sometimes I get the sense that these prospective buyers on the shows could change what they do without moving, but they somehow think that starting over in a new place will change who they are. They talk about taking up new pastimes they have never done before, taking up golf or cycling or gardening or other interests they've never tried, and that for some reason they've never done living where they are (even though there's nothing stopping them from doing it in situ). So instead of trying them, they want to move the whole kit and kaboodle to a new place, thinking that they will somehow magically become different people if they do.

I think if you are a certain personality type, you will not magically change that type overnight by relocating. If you didn't make time for reading or walking or playing with your kids before the move, you won't do it after the move. If you didn't value a quiet evening at home before, you won't later either. You can slow down where you are. It's a matter of making some (sometimes difficult) choices.

I've been through the usual young-parent mode of dashing between soccer, piano, rugby, gymnastics, swimming, archery, dance, cub scouts, karate, and band practice. I've done the on-the-bus-by-5:00a.m. to get my kids to seminary. The drop-offs at friends' houses. The dentist and doctor appointments. Just thinking about it all makes me exhausted, and I wonder how I survived it. How do people do it who have more than three kids? When your kids grow up and go, you automatically slow your pace a little, but I personally don't think you have to wait until your kids are gone to slow down. We got to the point where we realized things were too crazy, and we limited the kids to one sport and one musical instrument each. I cut out some of my interesting-but-not-vital activities. I started auditing classes instead of taking them for university credit. I started saying no to things that weren't crucial to someone's well-being. I can safely say my life is pretty calm now, I have time to read and sew and garden and learn new things. I've let go of some of the trivialities.

I think what I'm saying is, you don't have to relocate to find a better way to live according to your values. And relocating won't suddenly change your values. No matter where you live or what your current circumstances are, you are still free to figure out what is important to you and emphasize it in your life.

Now, having said that, if someone wanted to offer me a hilltop home in the Piedmont, I wouldn't say no...

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