Invitations in Disguise
A little over two years ago my husband and I decided to sell our one and only car, and embark upon what has now become, our greatest adventure to date. This decision had some to do with money and some to do with this love for our earth. It sprung from a desire to localize our life and enhance relationships. We desired to cultivate a slow simple life, where our bodies can’t be so quick to fit in more than our hearts and minds can process. But more simply, this decision was inspired by the joy that comes from riding a bike and walking. So, we thought we would give it a try.
I was most enthusiastic our first year. I rode joyfully in sub zero temperatures in rural Wyoming, a place no one thought it was possible. Our second year I rode a seventy pound bike with a thirty pound toddler until my 41 week in pregnancy. My bicycle was actually the one place I could escape nassau in the beginning of pregnancy, and the only place I could escape the aches and pains in the end of pregnancy. I was smitten with our lifestyle, but I was very much aware that with the arrival of our second baby I might not be so enthusiastic. I often reminded myself that this was an experiment, and a choice. My husband and I always said we would honor the other, if and when either decided this was no longer life giving.
By the end of the second year our lives had been uprooted, careers changed, and incomes decreased in half. I quickly found that even if I changed my mind and thought we were completely nuts for this experiment, there was nothing I could do about it, at least not immediately. Oh how quickly my heart changed the moment it no longer felt like a choice. I’ve spent been the last six months questioning and quarreling over our bold lifestyle. It didn’t help that our family cargo bike got stolen a few months ago, taking my transportation options down to my own two feet, and our well lived in double stroller. I just kept feeling like I was missing out on life, and even worse I felt like my daughters were missing out.
I was ready to mentally cash in, call it quits, and name us brave and adventurous for our efforts. But then my Dad left town and let me borrow his car for the week. I’ve had complete freedom to navigate the city as I please. I’ve been able to do things a million times faster than before. I’ve said yes to the people and places I’ve said no to in the past. I’ve even gone through a drive thru with my kids screaming. I tried it one more time while they were sound asleep, I had to see what it was all about. I wanted to feel like I belonged to the mom club, even if only for a week. I wanted to relate and feel relatable. I even wanted to document my fast food and that iced Americano in my lap, as if to say, “do you see me? I am normal, I am so incredibly normal!” I’ve shamefully driven around for no reason at all.
But after day three the novelty of the car started to wear off. I felt lethargic, cranky, and disconnected. I missed my own two feet more than I ever thought I could. I was deep inside all the hustle and bustle, without intention or meaning, just because I could. I felt my blood pressure rise as I became increasingly annoyed and fed up with the in and out of car seat
business. My daughter pointed and screeched for me to stop so she could look at a bird. “Go back Mama,” she cried. Moments later I look in my mirror to find her passionately waving and trying to engage with a man on the street. Confused and disappointed she asked,“why isn’t that man saying hi back to me, mama?” She didn’t know that this convenient machine was keeping us insulated from all the things we love to engage with most. I was suddenly foreign to her as I kept on driving past the things we always made time for, but it was not safe of productive for me to stop. Anxiety crept in, tears filled my eyes, I had seen and felt enough.
Our humble income, our current lack of choice, and all the practical things keeping us from owning my own car, are not something to change or pity. My circumstances are keeping me right where I want to be, and holding me accountable, encouraging me to be the mama I have always wanted to be. And my daughters, they are not missing out on anything. Sure, we may not be able to say yes to the opportunities that take us too far from home, and we may not be able to up and go far, at the drop of a hat. These things are possible, they just take a little more planning and a lot more time. But in return they are getting a laid back and present mama who will always stop and smell the roses, literally! They are getting an energized mama who is always glowing (sweating), from the exerted energy it takes to get to the destination. They are getting an adventurous mama who will happily walk distances only their great great grandparents would speak of. They are getting their very first lesson in what it means to savor and appreciate the little things. Ironically before I even knew it was possible to live car free with a family, and long before my children were even a reality, these are things I dreamed of giving them. I have everything I need. I am right where I’ve always wanted to be.
My intention is not to praise one lifestyle over another, but simply express that after a year of doubt and feeling inadequate, I am feeling confident in both the life we have chosen, and blessed by our circumstances. While we all know it’s true, it is so very humbling to be reminded that the grass is not greener on the other side, it’s just different. Hindsight has proven to be a loyal teacher, and perspective a treasured gift. This is my season of connecting the dots and learning that every inconvenience and every interruption is my road home. This way of thinking has spread like wild fire into every area of my life, and most naturally, motherhood. Babes who don’t and won’t sleep, laundry piled high, sticky surfaces, tantrums and double meltdowns, they all point to something deeper. They are all an invitation into life’s greatest riches. With a new set of eyes, what once felt depleting can be transformed into nutrient dense soul food, a well that never runs dry. These eyes, this perspective, it’s the most valuable gift I can give my daughters and it’s the legacy I want to leave behind.
Erin Delaney, The Village Journalist