I’m leafing through a glossy mag in the waiting room, and glance at the picture of the couple, who appear to be around my age, in front of their designer house with the obligatory fabulous view. Technically, it’s what any sane person would give up an ovary or a testicle for. So, I wonder why I decide to hang onto my ovaries, even though the fabulousness of it all is without question. I’d be more than happy to be invited there, and be immersed in the awesomeness of it all for a while. But something whispers to me that it’s just too perfect for a spirit that has never quite made it into the mainstream, to live in for too long. I’ve examined that feeling, and I’m pretty sure I’m speaking my truth, rather than speaking from jealousy just because I couldn’t afford a setup like that anyway. It bothers me that there are no jarring notes in these pictures, even though I realise that that’s not what glossy magazines do.
Some years ago I attended a writing course, where the tutor seemed to almost be orgasmic when students wrote stories about their depression. To him, this was real writing. I couldn’t write like that, because although I have certainly been extremely despondent at times throughout my life, I haven’t suffered from depression. Naturally, I thought he was a tosser, and didn’t understand me and my writing style. Now, I have an inkling of what he was getting at, about how the imperfections and disruptions in our lives pull the inventiveness and inspiration out of us.
I have come to embrace living in a small flat that’s not particularly ideal – it’s joined to another flat, and has an awkward driveway. That and the paths remain slightly wonky in places, after the 2011 earthquakes. When I first saw this place, I thought that there was no farkn way I was going to live there. Then something happened, and I bought it. The street frontage isn’t particularly pretty, but when I walk down to my flat at the back, I find myself in a private wee urban oasis.
Although the location is city fringe, it’s not up there with the best of them, being a little down-at-heel in places. There has been an ongoing series of roadworks in the wider area since the earthquakes, which seem to direct us down a different route every other week. It will be strange when road cones are no longer part of our everyday lives. It’s very working-class here, a bit rough in places, frustrating, edgy.
And I really like it.
It’s also close to the part of the river that runs through the red zone (the area of the city that was deemed uneconomic to repair after the earthquakes, and which resulted in mass demolition of the houses on it), and the walking and cycling routes that have been spontaneously created alongside it. As much as I understand how traumatic it would have been to lose one’s home, this network of old roads and enormous swathes of grassy lands, with nothing on them but bushes and trees here and there, has become an unofficial recreation area for the time being.
Back in the ‘burb, there’s a big shopping mall not far from where I live, with the local shops just down the road, as is the bus stop. Sometimes, I take the bus instead of my car just for the change of experience. This area suits me well, with its combination of rough edges and inconvenience that rubs along with its appeal and convenience. It keeps my senses awake, and makes me ‘know I’m alive’ in a way that doesn’t feel threatening.
I’m aware that I’ve bought into an area that doesn’t quite measure up. I’m aware that there’s little status in buying a smaller, older flat. But, as much as I see the attraction in buying a newer, nicer, bigger flat in a better area, the thought of it also makes me chafe. I know that this is what we’re supposed to aspire to, but I can’t help getting a whiff of blandness from it. I may well change my mind as my physical capabilities wane, but right now a bit of rough suits me.
As a person who has never been an outrageous rebel, or got on the wrong side of the law (pushed some boundaries, maybe), it seems that nice and safe would be right up my alley. I don’t want to live my life in a real danger zone, so why does ‘nice and safe’ seem so grim to me now? As my life gets more sorted and less messy through applying the learned wisdom of my years, I need something that ripples the pond a little. A certain amount of physical disorder and discomfort in my environment keeps me from snoozing on the job.
Once, I sought order in my life to compensate for things I couldn’t control, and now I find that I need to allow a bit of deliberate disorder into it. Haha – seems that some things don’t change too much – I like a level of control on what sort of disorder I have!
If someone offered me a fabulous designer house with a fabulous designer view, would I take it? Of course I would – I’m not a complete idiot – but the question is, how long would it be before I started seeking out those vitally important jarring notes to keep me awake? Maybe I could compromise, and swap it for a bit of rough with a view.