Not one or two, or three, but four. FOUR YEARS! That means the honeymoon phase came and went and despite my best efforts, I couldn't save myself from the rain, or reality. It means that somewhere in there I thought we were crazy and I cursed under my breath more times than I can count on my two hands. It also means that you might believe me if I told you I still love it and would choose it all over again.
We started out calling this an experiment, and it probably still is, because isn't everything? I gravitated to that word and type of language because it makes people feel better. Too much confidence brings forth all the devils advocates and it's exhausting to defend all the things you have been wholeheartedly working through all the years prior to making such a big decision. And even more, I know myself well enough to know that choices (but not too many) are the gateway to my heart. There is less of attachment to "experiment," and it implies that any moment you could call the whole thing off. It gives the illusion of choice and when given choices I make good ones, not necessarily easy ones. After four years this whole adventure feels more like an experiment gone right, even though I am not so sure I could name what it is I set out to achieve. I think I just like counter cultural things, and crave new perspectives. I am continuing to discover and redefine what it takes to live a rich and meaningful life. Over the course of my own it has meant shaving my head, getting rid of my cell phone, selling my car, and spending every last penny in my bank account to buy a pair of Italian sunglasses that did nothing more than make me happy. Every once in a blue moon things can actually make you happy. It means listening to those little things that don't always make sense, but make your stomach stir with stardust. When we began this adventure all I knew is that I wanted it to be magical and life-giving, like I want everything to be. After coming full circle, from riding the wave of the initial shock and joy, and then feeling the struggle, the doubt, the frustration, and at one point, the indifference, I have found myself right back where I started, smitten and smothered in all the joy. I can confidently conclude that it has been nothing short of magical and life giving, even when it sucked. Because sometimes it did, and sometimes it still does.
Whenever I had a hard time without a car I was careful to take note of when and why. I realized that taking a two hour bus ride once a week to Oregon City to teach dance was not life giving. While I adore my students and the studio and that job, the 3-4 hour commute made me resent all the other beautiful experiences I was having the other 6 days of my week. I was realistic and made changes, deciding I would teach once a month, and for a longer chunk of time. I was also honest with the fact that when Chris and I go on a date I want to wear high heels and arrive quickly and effortlessly. I don't want to smell a soggy bus or be fanning off my sweat while I sip a cocktail. Now that we have a little more room in our budget, we can actually go on dates, and pay $15 for a car share or uber. Even after paying for public transportation, and a car share or a taxi once a month, it is still financially advantageous to live without one.
The girls are 5 and almost 3, and it already feels like we are entering a new phase of life. Diapers are almost a thing of our past and Kindergarten is just about here. On the cusp of this transition and now that we are not destitute, I am often asked when we are going to get a car. When I share that I have come to love this lifestyle all over again, I am transported right back to five years ago when I eagerly shared my enthusiasm to have a natural birth. I am made to feel naive. I keep trying to look for blind spots, maybe these people know something I don't. In fact, I am sure they do, but there is also something they don't, and that is, even though I admire and love them, I may not want my life to look just like theirs. I might not want to be signing my kid up for a million and one activities in opposite sides of the city. I may not think that commuting crazy distances in search of opportunity is a normal part of parenthood. I truly say this with little to no judgement because Octave is about to start school and I would have never imagined the complexity of it all. When I was pregnant I certain my kid would go to our neighborhood school, end of story. While that is still on the table, it feels more conflicting than I thought it would. Every mother wants the best for their children, it's just our ideas of "best," that could be challenged and redefined, or different from person to person. All I know is that I thrive when things are fairly simple, and I think my family does too. Simple doesn't have to mean less opportunity, in fact it can mean quite the contrary, but as American's it's hard to believe that less is more and so we go, see and do, and schedule the life right out of our days, and we have to have the very best. I don't want this for my family. Maybe this means that they don't get attend the best summer art camp that Portland has to offer, because it is too complicated to get there by bus or bike. Maybe it means that I am not as prepared as all the other mamas, because all that comes with me throughout the day is what I can carry on my body. And maybe I am almost always on the break of a light sweat, but I truly believe that what they are gaining far outweighs these seemingly petty details.
The point of living without a car is not to proudly claim that I am super woman and can do everything human powered, it is quite the opposite. It is being honest and saying that I can't or don't want to do everything. It is vowing to slow down and smell the roses, to stay a while in one place, because that is where you are. It is making the transitions, or the journey from A to B just as beautiful as the destination. It is blurring the lines of meaning and redefining success. It is vulnerably exposing yourself to people and places, and trusting your body like most of us trust machines. It is showing up a little wet and a little cold, but bravely alive. Not everyone needs to sell their car to experience these things, this is just the way I have done it, and it continues to work, so we continue to do it. Four years. And counting...