My Summer in the Bell Jar

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I’ve been mulling this post for a while now and have put off writing it because it feels snobby and ungrateful. I don’t generally like to complain about my life. I feel that I’m incredibly lucky to be a white female living in the United States in 2016 and compared to many around the world I have luxuries and conveniences that many could only dream of. However, I’ve had some changes in my life that have shaken things up and I’m not terribly thrilled about it.

In March of this year my husband and I sold our home. We bought some land and rented an apartment as a place to live while we built a house. My husband is a builder, so this is his dream. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about it too, but I’m not digging apartment life. This is where I get uncomfortable. I know it’s crappy to complain about living in a 950 square foot apartment. We have clean, running water. We have heat, air-conditioning, wi-fi, and cable. And the complex is safe. I’m also lucky, as a teacher, to have three much-needed months off each summer. There are many in this city, this country, this world that don’t have such luxuries. I’m getting tired of the cramped living quarters and I’m bored, but I think what is really bothering me is the lack of outdoor space.

The house I left sat on 2.5 acres and we were outside all the time. Between the lawn, the 12768215_10208757316431947_564853884077694704_odog, the chickens, the turkeys, the ducks, the bees, and the garden there was always a ton to do outdoors. We had neighbors with children, so my kids were always outside too. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t frolic around doing yard work and singing to the birds like a Disney princess, but my love of the outdoors is pretty darn close. I love that part of the day in the summer, just before dusk, after you’ve mowed and cleaned up the yard and you can stand
in the front and admire your house and hard work. Everything looks so beautiful in the dim light. The day is cooling off, the fireflies are out. Likewise, I love the before and after of a freshly mowed yard. A clean chicken coop. A freshly weeded garden. I love collapsing into bed, exhausted, after a day of being outside. I love dirty feet, bonfires, and mosquito bites (ok, not really on that last one!).

When I was bored at my old house I could walk around the property. I could pick beans or zucchinis. I could check on the bees, feed the chickens, or throw a ball for the dog. And, of course, there is always, always yard work. These are the things I miss.

In my apartment, I can’t do any of these things. I have a small patio, about 8’ x 12’, but it is contained by a railing, so I can’t just open my slider and walk out into the grass. I can go out my door, down the hall, and out the front of the apartment building, but I am surrounded by cement, cars, and driveways. I do have a tomato plant, a cucumber plant, and some flowers, but they all live in pots, on my tiny patio, so weeding is unnecessary. I used to gather my own produce and some from the farmers market to can a winter’s worth 3b5260b4379ad92fe841dde3caa2fcf6of food, but my current kitchen doesn’t have enough counter space for such an activity and I don’t have any room to store the bounty.

We’ve lived here 3 months. I told myself it would be a “city vacation.” We could have food delivered to our door. We would be close to stores and parks. I told myself I’d take a much needed break from all the weeding, chicken-coop-cleaning, lawn mowing, and hot afternoons of canning. However, it’s been 3 months and I. Am. Miserable.

I’m running out of places to go to get my nature fix. I’ve weeded other people’s flower beds, I’ve walked miles of trails, we swim in the apartment complex pool daily, we’ve visited beaches, playgrounds, and parks. I’m bored. Soon we will begin building, so we are trying to pinch pennies in anticipation of that project, and there are only so many things a person can do without spending a ton of money.

I hate to complain about this. I am healthy. My family is healthy. We have plenty of food, clean water, and more than we need, in general, to live a comfortable life, but I miss the outdoors.

If you count the slider to the patio, this apartment has three windows. It’s
on the ground level, so we can’t hear the rain pattering on the roof. I can’t enjoy a cross-breeze. I’ve read books, binge-watched Netflix, cooked and cleaned, we’ve done art projects, played board games, and I even started exercising, but these things do not fill my day, or, I should say, do not leave me fulfilled.  

When the weather is beautiful, I feel this physical, nagging need to get out and enjoy it. Heck, I even feel this way when it rains. And the urge IS physical. Days when I can’t get
outside I feel anxiety. It preoccupies my thoughts. Too much couch-surfing causes me actual, physical stress.

I’m not asking for sympathy. There’s really nothing to be sorry for.
This is temporary housing while my husband builds us what I know will be an absolutely beautiful house. I know it will be worth it, but I also needed to get these frustrations out. I know I’m lucky to have this time with my children and I know I’m lucky to have the opportunity to build, but I just wish I could have my yard back!

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