Sunday, June 18, 2017

6/19/17—Seeing The Vine

There's a really pretty vine with bright orange flowers that grows wild here in Virginia. It's invasive, so you mostly see in less kept areas like the edge of roads or woods, but you'll also see it in peoples' gardens. And apparently it's toxic enough to make a person sick (but nothing near death) from coming into too much skin-to-plant contact with it. It's called Trumpet Vine and, besides looking pretty, hummingbirds dig it.

Not far from my house, there is a stretch of road I drive regularly. And when the trumpet vine is in bloom, I know exactly where to look on each side of the road to see it. It grows in the same spots every year.

Growing up, we moved a lot. The longest we lived somewhere was three years. The shortest was about two months. My father was in the military. It was the thing I hated most as a child. I hated it more than being bullied or feeling alone. In fact, I blamed those things largely on all the moving we did.

As an adult, I've only lived in two homes in the past 25 years. Both of them are in the same DC suburb. And both are also in the town I lived in the most in my childhood—seven years across two different parts of my childhood and in three separate houses, all accessible via the same, short two-lane road I live off today.

So as I was driving down that road this week, knowing just where the trumpet vine grew, all along the stretch in front of the house I lived in when I was four—the house where I lived in the creepy room where strange things happened—I thought about how comfortable and planted I had become.

Growing up, all I knew was a transient life. When I turned 27 or so, the transience stopped. I moved only once, because I bought a home. And now I've been here 18 years and know exactly where the trumpet vine grows along the side of the road. And because I live pretty close to the city, not much has changed around here in my lifetime. It was all built out by the time I came along. Nowhere to put new houses.

We even still have the same 5 & 10 I've been shopping for treasures at for 50 years. Not too many of those still around, but this place is usually bustling. I look at the little kids rushing to the toy aisle, the school supplies or the candy bins and can't help but be nostalgic. I don't know how they do it, but they have everything...any little thing you need. So it's all very comfortable and familiar.

When I was young, I used to long for a "home town" and for a sense of permanence. Now I think I have something equal to that. Better, actually, than living in the same place all my life because nobody's been all up in my beeswax all my life, and I also have the benefit of having experienced other places.

But, this week, as I caught myself spotting the trumpet vine on the roadside to my right, then looking to my left to get a look at the vine on the hillock in front of the creepy room house, it didn't feel comfortable the way it had in the past. It felt maybe too comfortable.

I love my home and don't want to leave. But this week I wondered to myself about the life I gratefully ran away from all those many years ago. There were benefits to moving. You got to start again with a clean slate. And it shook things up...added new anticipation and hope, along with the unknowns that brought anxiety. You were forced out of your comfort zone on a regular basis. I could possibly use some of that right now. But, for now, I'm still holding on to comfort.

I know that change is impossible to achieve without leaving your comfort zone. But comfortable is comfortable. Maybe it's an excuse, but it does seem harder to muster the courage to change the older you get. Just thinking of all the energy I had to move from apartment to apartment or to take off in my car and seek adventure when I was younger makes me exhausted. And it also makes me sad, because I felt more alive back then.

To think that I would just grow old and die in the context of all my current life variables is not appealing to me. On one hand I'm comfortable, but on the other I'm not terribly happy or alive. When I was a kid, I longed for the comfort of constancy in my life...constancy I never got, except for being with the same parents and siblings. Now I'm beginning to see that what I longed for for so many years is no longer working. It had a really good run, but now it's starting turn.

Because I tend to move at a snail's pace in life lately anyway, I don't expect a shakeup soon. I've thought of this before and, at one point, was close to pulling the trigger on leaving my big city suburban life behind. Then I descended into years of illness and my energy was focused elsewhere. But today I'm thinking that 10 years from now, that pretty vine will still be growing on the side of the road. And, if I do right by myself, I won't be here to see it.