Monday, February 18, 2013

True Life: Living in Massachusetts

I am picking up habits here that I don't enjoy.

I'm talking about the amount of stress, financial juggling, and the Rat Race mindset that seem to come along with the package of living where we live. I really miss Oklahoma. I miss living on our own, in our own space, and being able to see the sun. (We live in the basement where it seems to be permanently midnight.) I miss warmer weather and being proud of ourselves when we could not only pay our bills but maybe go to Chili's two times in one month. We weren't rich by any stretch, and I was proud that, when people came to our tiny apartment, they couldn't tell that everything in it was found at a Salvation Army.

Now, we're in New England, back in my home state of Massachusetts. I really do love a lot of things about MA: the beautiful summers/fall, the museums, the history you can find anywhere, the coast. I love my family.

What I don't love is that everyone is constantly competing for the best. They're not necessarily competing with one another (that's what it felt like when I visited a friend in Orange County, CA- no thanks).

Home for Sale in my area: $249,900 fixer-upper
Instead, they compete with themselves. If you buy a house (unless you are part of the Mega Rich category), you know that you are buying a life-long project. You will never be happy with it or entirely proud of it. In fact, discussing plans to totally revamp your house is standard conversation among women. Men get to talk more about the yard and how they know a guy that can get them a good deal on a new plow for the winter. Also a snowblower. And a backup generator, just in case the first one goes out.

One can never have too many generators.
When my husband and I first moved back here over the summer, he kept remarking on how everyone looked miserable. He calls it the "Stank Face" and brings it up when we're at traffic lights. I told him that it's not that people are mean here; it's a gruff lot, used to a consant amount of back-breaking labor. (This is not true of all parts of Massachusetts, but for a lot of middle class and/or blue collar workers, that's the case.) People have that face because most of the year is cold and bitter, and shoveling is not cute. Shoveling is a major cause of male adult death in the winter, because the snow, which has piled up, frozen over, piled up again and then been rained on, causes heart attacks. Older people are worried that they will be frozen by being locked in or out of their homes during storms. The weather here has not improved since the Pilgrims, and we all know how their first winter went.

People looking unfriendly because they're freezing.
Again, the generators. That's what separates modern day from life here in the 1600s.

The weather is bad. On top of that, people are constantly running through cycles of the rat race to improve, improve, improve, with really no end goal. Which  means people here angrily get through awful weather, only to work 70-90 hours a week, and taking a break makes people feel guilty or like they're getting behind. A stay-at-home mom? Lazy. A guy who retires at the actual retirement age in his 60s? He retired too early.

It's about work, and struggle, and constantly trying to improve your lot.

It makes me miserable, because I'm doing it now too. I have consciously lost touch with friends because friends cost money. Going out to dinner, or getting a drink, or going up to the lake all cost money. That's a fucking awful statement, but it's a big reason I only hold onto my soul mate friends and don't really reach out to other people. (The other big reason is that I just feel depressed and like I need to hide in my bed most days.) I feel guilty spending money with people other than my closest confederates. Then I blow a ton of money, because money= hard work= love.

That's why I never saw my father growing up. Because "You know your father loves you. He may not tell you and he might seem scary, but he works so hard so he can provide for us. That's how he shows how much he loves you. By how hard he works."

Man, I have heard that speech a thousand times. Mostly because my dad was the scariest person alive to me until I was about 11.

Anyway. This rant has gone all over the place, but I'm just trying to keep my eye on the prize. Although I do now  know money is not the most important thing, it is what is keeping me shackled to this life-in-limbo stage. Debt cannot run my life the way it does so many people around me, so I have to stay focused and live this life for a little while until we can break loose.

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