I had my second big challenge to the Buy Nothing Year this weekend--I spent Friday and Saturday in the Big City with three friends . On the way down, I stopped at a kids’ consignment store in a fancy part of town and picked up three pairs of sweatpants for M, thus staving off future morning complaints of, “Where are my sweatpants? My sweatpants have holes in them! I need new sweatpants!” I also found one pair of the same for the twins (girl clothes are a lot more fun--even at thrift stores) and a pair of almost-new shoes that should fit one of them in the next year or so.
Once in Portland, AA and I hung out in Starbucks (where I was able to use my birthday present from August--a Starbucks card my sister sent me--believe it or not, we live in the last corner of the universe that has no Starbucks) and met up with ML. From there we trolled just about every shop in the Old Port, ate a slightly disappointing dinner, and visited the Art Museumwhere we saw two really nice exhibitions--John Bisbee’s amazing nail sculptures and the photography of Lola Alvarez Bravo. We retired to the hotel to drink wine and eat cheese and chocolate, slept kid-free and got up late to do more of the same, meeting up with another friend, AM for lunch.
Despite snowy walking conditions, I had a really great time exploring, car-free and window shopping. ML is busy outfitting a new house so she managed to pick something up in the majority of stores we went into, freeing me of guilt about browsing without buying. It was actually quite liberating to look without any (internal) pressure to buy. The only thing I was really tempted buy, and would probably have bought (other than a patch that had a picture of a monster and said, “Me Love You”) was a Baby Bjorn potty chair that’s made of all one piece, so we could do away with the multi-part monstrosity we have, that collapses if you go near it and makes it nearly impossible to avoid getting pee on the floor.
As we left the city Saturday afternoon, I felt a general malaise settle over me. Maybe it was the drab gray sky hovering over the drab gray landscape. Maybe it was the nagging sense that I overpaid for the cookies I picked up at the bakery. I hoped it wasn’t the prospect of going home. The malaise deepened into melancholy when I got home and saw our driveway was still unplowed, our plow truck still broken down. I descended into despair upon entering the house and finding the twins sound asleep at 4 p.m.--they would be up until midnight--and as 5:00 approached and I realized that C, who seemed to have spent the entire afternoon baking cookies, had no intention of starting dinner.
Resentfully returning to my role as kitchen slave, I threw together a box of Annies macaroni and cheese and steamed some broccoli. Of course everyone had consumed cookies through the afternoon and would not touch a bite. Z refused his bath and crawled into a big cardboard box to sleep. Amazingly, he and E both fell right to sleep and I took a bath and crawled into bed, still depressed. What is the point of a weekend away, if you return to children even more demanding than they had been when you left?
Saturday morning after breakfast, I drove my car to the end of the driveway so I’d be able to get out after the nor’easter, and attempted to ski back, but the snow was clumpy and I mostly walked along on really tall skis. As I trudged through the snow, taking the long way around through the fields and woods, and then shoveled the deck, I realized that even though I’ve (mostly) done away with my desire for material possessions, desire is still making me unhappy--desire for a way of life that is not hindered by feet of snow (either a more salubrious climate, living in a place where we can walk everywhere, or being able to stay home and write eight hours a day); desire for a husband that is up at 4 a.m. and has the driveway plowed, the fire built and the pancakes made before we wake up; desire for kids that sleep through the night and don’t fight, melt down or demand; desire to live a million miles away from my in-laws, and a few miles closer to my own family. I’m not a Buddhist, but I’m starting to come around to the notion that desire (and aversion) is the cause of suffering. Now I just have to figure out what to do about it.