Could We Move?
We are in transition, still unpacking, still with New Mexico in our heads, feeling a bit low on this rainy and cold November day, the gray month is descending on us, winter is a shadow beginning to spread over us. I love this photo of Maria at Georgia O'Keefe's famous white space, a great source of inspiration for her, and also for us.
I am mostly unpacked, I spent much of the day shopping, there is absolutely nothing in the refrigerator. I got some haddock and salmon cuts, breaded chicken breast, fresh roast chicken, vegetables and some zucchini for zucchini pancakes, some spinach and greens, cat food and dog treats, and some canned soup for cold days.
In our home, I am the cook and the hunter-gatherer, I like to plan ahead for two or three days, we often go out. This weekend, we are hoping to see "Victoria and Abdul," a movie about Queen Victoria and a friend she made who changed her life.
We are both feeling a bit low In New Mexico, we talked quite a bit about moving there, we both felt so alive and at home there. I don't see it happening, but it was good to talk about. Moves are expensive, so is restoring old adobe homes and finding water rights.
We love our town and feel very connected her, and I am always wary of people – myself included – who are forever seeking happiness wherever they are not. For years I wanted to live in Cambridge, Mass. or Provincetown, or towns in Vermont where artists and writers go to live.
I fantasized about the creative life, I wanted to write literary books on the dunes near Provincetown like Eugene O'Neill did.
I have learned that fulfillment doesn't come from where I live, but from who I am. It is not external, but internal, once I began to love myself, I began to love my life. I've moved about 16 times in my life, and was miserable almost everywhere I went. When I did the long and hard work on myself I began to find peace and happiness.
I have often wondered about the life of Henry Roth, the tormented author who wrote one of the classic novels of the 20trh Century, "Call It Sleep," considered one of the greatest stories ever written about immigration. and the best novel of his century.
Roth wrote this classic, and then vanished from view for six decades, working in Maine as a laborer, ending up living and writing in a trailer in Albuquerque. Before we went to New Mexico, I searched for hours to find out where he lived there and if there was any place of his I could visit.
But there was no trace of him or of the trailer he wrote in for years before his death. His memorial service was in New York City, not New Mexico. He seemed quite forgotten there. I think of Roth often and of his six decades of silence and retreat. He wanted no part of fame or commercial publishing.
He spent the last days of his life with his lover in a trailer in the middle of the city. Until the very end, nobody knew he was there.
But New Mexico has always pulled writers and artists, from Georgia O'Keefe and Roth, and I could see us holed up there with a studio for Maria and grazing ground for the donkeys and sheep for the dogs. This yearning made me melancholic and brought up the ghosts of those other places I yearned to live to find happiness and connection.
I am wiser now, I know myself better. It is natural to crash a bit after vacations, away so far I can leave life behind, and just love Maria and the things we can see and do together. Magical time. Now, back to the mundane details of life and work – food, shopping, the news, the dentist, the pharmacy.
Make no mistake, we had a powerful visit, the kind that has caused so many people before us to move. But I have been on this path before, and it did not ever bring the happiness I fantasized about.
I am plotting to get my hands on the new Iphone X, going on sale tomorrow. I will have to be patient and save some money or buy into one of those leasing arrangements. It costs over $1,000. I may be able to trade in my existing phone for it. I think I need to have it. Apple has been a part of my creative life since the beginning, I have to stick with it. Steve Jobs was a ghost in my life, giving me the tools I needed to do my work. It is not about being cool for me, it is about being creative.
But I am back in the world today, and feeling it. So is Maria.
A woman on Facebook asked me why I didn't just stop looking at the news, I told her I couldn't do that, I am not an ostrich living with my head in the ground, I don't want to hide from my country and my world. And I don't want to move to seek happiness. I've done that, it does no good. I have good and righteous deeds to carry out.
I am older now, and I am wiser, and I see the melancholy for what it is, a cleansing emotion, a transition from a beautiful and restful and care free time to the reality of life itself. And I love one just as much as the other. I have to be happy inside, no matter where I look outside. I learned this lesson just in time.
I have so many friends who tell me all the time they can't wait to live here, and live there. But they will not do the long and hard work of self awareness, they believe in the magic of the move, as I did for so long.
I know now what I did not know before, that I must face myself and know myself and look inward if I am to find peace and happiness and compassion in my life. It is not out there, outside of me, it is right here, inside of me. For me, happiness is not to be found outside of me, not even in so beautiful and appealing a place as New Mexico. I am finding it in my battered and muddled self. I like it in there.
I decided some years ago to make a stand, and this is where I stand. I have worked hard for my life, and I owe much of it to the generosity and openness of the country, the tolerance and generosity of the people, people here who believe work is a calling, not the point of living.
Where else would I have met this sad-eyed artist looking desperately for a studio, and had a barn to offer her in friendship, and ultimately, love?
I am where I belong, and where I need to be. It's probably a good thing I don't have a lot of money, I'd probably be on the phone to realtors now causing trouble. I also understand that I am not unhappy enough to upend my life or Maria's. We are both happier than we ever imagined. That is not a good inspiration for moving.
But still, I feel the old ghosts. That is an inevitable part of being me.
Melancholia is, like fear, a geography, a space to cross. I have lived with it all of my life, and it has never struggled more to be seen than it has here, where I am happier than I have ever been.
When we came to the farmhouse last night, we both saw clearly that we were home, and were not moving across the country, not even for the spectacular landscapes and rich cultural and artistic ethos there. It's okay to be low for a couple of days, and then, to myself: get over it, there is much life to live.
By tomorrow, I will no longer be melancholic but frantic to get on with things, there are Mansion residents to see and refugee kids to cheer on. I am needed, and happy to be needed. I am knowing me, and happy to be me.