suburbanizing

We are reveling in the gift of time this month.

Time to rest.

to relax.
to read.
to laugh.
for time with family.
for good meals with good people.
for the thesis to get finished. (!)
for creative, reflective writing.

It has been so good.

With all this down time to coordinate logistics for our move and new apartment, I’ve been doing a fair bit of thinking about what simple living can look like for us in this new season. Drew and I seem to oscillate in our conversations about living small lives. Sometimes we feel tremendous guilt about our little luxuries, how easily we throw away dollars after a paycheck comes in, especially for and towards things that we’ve merely grown accustomed to but don’t actually need (data plans, fancy coffee, books…always more books!). Other times (most often) we are congratulating ourselves for how comparatively frugal and thoughtful we are. Then, we celebrate our stinginess with indulgences that quickly add up.

“Four dollars for a pot of tea? Well, at least it’s fair trade and organic. Plus, this is our tea shop. We want to support local businesses! And we need a break, we’ve been so stressed out lately, it’s been weeks since we’ve had a date…”

We smooth over guilt by feeling self-righteous for how intentional we are with our resources compared with them. The them being anyone who seems to spend more money more freely than we do which leads to categorizing friends into classes of haves and haves more. It’s miserable.

So how to think rightly? How to live with open hands, graciously giving out of what we’ve been given? Assuming I find work within a few months, our income will easily double from what we lived on last year. Not that anyone is surprised that two working adults make more money than one… but, it presents us with a challenge of how to steward such a gift well. We hope to live on less than last year, meaning our living expenses and regular loan payments should come to under or right around $23,000. (as I’m editing, I need to confess: Much as I wanted it to be about learning transparency and seeking accountability, I totally typed that just to brag. Look how poor we were in toronto! woe is us! I have such a long, long way to go in this humble, simple living business…)

Additional income will go towards loans (there are so many) and PhD program applications, loans taking high priority as we talk more about the not-so-far-off future of little woodland children and my excitement to stay home with them. Still, while all these financial considerations factor in, there are also questions of how to use our resources to better serve our friends, church and community in the present. In this season, not just the one half a decade down the road.

I am hopeful that with each of us doing somewhat meaningful work for less than burn-out hours we will have more introvert capital to invest in others. Introvert capital, of course, is the reserve of kindness and goodwill energy that an introvert has to offer to those they most care about when it’s not all being sucked away in a less than satisfying job or daily routine. Moving to a new community requires large reserves and I’m grateful we’ve had this reprieve to store up and start thinking.

Still, all this down time away leaves me itching for just how we’ll invest. The SUBURBS scare me. I feel completely at a loss for how to live locally, how to invest with neighbors I won’t bump into while walking to and from the bus, riding the subway, dragging grocery carts to the vegetable stand. How to offer our space to others, space which feels ENORMOUS given where we’re coming from but so tiny compared to most around us. How do we fend off the competition game? The jealousy and “if only’s” and the insecurity? I so long to be the sort of person who can celebrate all that is so abundant and good, unhampered by the comfort or luxury of others. To revel in the gifts I have been given, to share joyfully.

In our transition to becoming suburbanites, we’re “borrowing” a family car for the year, waiting to buy one until we have more clarity on where we’ll be after this year. But, the plan is to use bikes for our primary transportation. As far as I know, there are no bike lanes in Chicago Ridge. But, armed with my enormous rear bike basket, a granny cart and plenty of reusable bags, I think we can make it work. Speaking of: anybody know of any (affordable) natural food stores/co-ops/markets on the south side?

I would be so grateful for any wisdom about making life and diving into community in the burbs. What is the best way to meet neighbors? Which suburban stereotypes should we press against and which should we be patient with and learn from? How can we keep from the mentality that weekends are for shopping and acquiring and eating out?

Most importantly, who wants to come for dinner?

🙂

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