Posted by: susanideus | February 20, 2010

Is this Heaven or ….?

If we choose to remain ourselves, full of potential, then we can take whatever happens and redeem it by openness, courage, and willingness to move on… (Madeline L’Engle)

This is one of those days when I have to remind myself that life is a journey, and just because I’m here today, it doesn’t mean I’ll be in the same place in the future. That’s good because I really don’t like where I am, and on numerous fronts, I mean that sincerely. I don’t know that I would go so far as U.S. General Philip Henry Sheridan who said in 1866: “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell.”  However, the first time I heard this, I’ll admit to exhibiting tear-inducing laughter.

I don’t like the climate, I find little to admire in the city to which we are closest  or the town just “down the road a piece” (how can one warm up to a place where a store proclaims itself to be a Redneck Paradise–and means it?) I have nothing in common with the politics of the area. I have always admired the wit and writing of Molly Ivins and how that dear woman (born in California but raised in Houston) could have enjoyed being a Texan is beyond me. Of the politics here, she said “Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair’s-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question: Why bother? Oh, it’s just that your life is at stake.” Sarcastic though Ivins was, how can thinking people want to be a part of the political scene here?

In Spring, that briefest of times between a sorry cold wet winter that isn’t really winter at all and an endless stifling summer, I will love the bluebonnets and other wildflowers. I would love to walk on the Gulf beach if only there were places left to do so.The coast and the Hill Country are awesome, literally. That being said, I still prefer mountain and desert in any season and the sounds of a mountain stream burbling down a rocky hillside  rather than an ocean. I don’t care that most of New Mexico’s rivers are mere streams by Texas standards–they are as clear as sun-dappled diamonds and biting cold. The wind whispering through towering pines and high-country golden aspens is music to my soul, a doxology played pianissimo, whereas wind here in south Texas seems so often ferocious and destructive.

I have moved enough to know that a big part of home is being around those you love. My dear family is here and I love that. I know I can make a home wherever Harold is. We’ve done so often.

But in my case “home” is not the same to me as “place”. Place means roots and love of the land and its history, it is where your spirit is at peace, where it stays when you leave. It is a sense of rightness and of being settled. It is belonging, not just to your family and friends, but to that place.

My soul is being sucked down into the swampy dankness of this place. The humidity here one wears like an added layer of clothing, unwelcome and oppressive. How can anything or anyone be expected to take root in this clammy boggy land?

I know that part of this longing to be in New Mexico rather than Texas is my sense of discontent with myself. I don’t like who I’ve become, or not become, here. Robert Frost said in A Cabin in the Clearing: “If the day ever comes when they know who they are, they may better know where they are.”  I know that a sense of place and a sense of self are intertwined. Right now the self I want to be feels smothered, almost claustrophobic. Is it this place? Is it me? Yes.

Part of it that I have felt an inability to change my circumstances for the time being. There are so many factors, family and the economy being among them, that keep us here right now. When we first moved back here in 2003, I truly thought it was temporary and I was just biding my time until we would go back “home.” Granted, because of that, I didn’t make much attempt to fit in. Once it became apparent that we were staying for longer than anticipated, and we moved further away from the city, I thought things would be different. Not so much. I do know people here in Texas whom I love dearly and will miss greatly if and when we leave, but people are different from place.

Okay, I have seriously dissed Texas, and there are those I am sure who would just ask me why I don’t leave. I am equally sure that others lambast New Mexico in the same way.

“You know you’re a New Mexican if  your favorite restaurant has a chile list instead of a wine list…if you can correctly pronounce Tesuque, Cerrillos, and Pojoaque…if you are told that places in the U.S. cannot ship internationally…if you expect to pay more if your house is made of mud.” LOL  See, I can laugh about New Mexico. These are priceless! I love them! I understand them. I don’t understand the culture that is Texas.

Am I back to choices again? Lately, everything seems to come back to choices. Maybe we should just pack up and leave if it means so much. Doing so would no doubt imperil any hope of an even halfway comfortable retirement. Is that wise? Perhaps we should not have chosen to move back to Texas at all. Yet it WAS the best choice at the time. Since then, life has happened in various unforeseen ways. There are those who subscribe to the theory that you are where you are because it’s where you need to be. Is this a big cosmic lesson? (I actually mistyped it “comic” first–hmmmm!?!)

Am I making the choice to not be happy or contented here? After all, I have family and friends here who are precious. Should I not make the best of things? Perhaps I lack the courage of which L’Engle speaks in the opening quote, or the faith to step out. What about the deeper soul issues? Where do they rank in the priority of what’s important? Could I be using my discontent with this place to mask other issues? Am I using it to avoid…what?

Chime in here, good readers. Are you disgruntled and longing to be elsewhere? How do you handle the discontent? Or, are you settled and happy wherever you are?  Let me hear from you!

You know you’re a New Mexican if you wake up to a sunrise like this:

Is this Heaven? No, dear, we’re in New Mexico, Land of Enchantment.


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Responses

  1. I’ve lived in Texas all my life–51 years in small-town South Central, 7 years in Austin. I despise the heat (and Houston’s humidity), the politics, and the idea that this great state is doing just fine, thank you. I love bluebonnets and the San Marcos River where I grew up. I’m convinced my Scots-Irish ancestors arrived during bluebonnet season; if they’d waited a few weeks, surely they’d have headed back to the mountains of Tennessee. I suspect Molly Ivins liked Texas because she never had to look too far for something that needed reforming; she always had a ready-made topic. I dream of living in the Berkshires. And yet my roots here go very deep.

    My mother loved my father and knew he needed to live in that small town he grew up in. But she was never happy there. I realized several years ago that the same place, which I loved, had never been a good place for me either, with no kindred spirits, no opportunity to grow as I needed to grow. I needed a city. I’m happy in Austin. Until the heat sets in.

    I used to think location didn’t matter because I would always be the same person and would drag my problems with me. Now I don’t think the issue is so clear-cut. I stayed in my hometown because of family issues but also, in part, because I didn’t have the faith to step out. I now have things it couldn’t provide: a writing practice group, a critique group, a church choir, people who share my interests. But I had to change a lot before I was ready to reach out for them.

    I hope you resolve your questions and get to the place you want to be very soon. If there should have to be another stop along the way, Austin is a good place for writers.

  2. What a powerful piece of writing! I don’t know if I can even comment on it except to say it moved me. Only, I wished it moved me out of Texas and I could take you with me! I first moved to Texas because I knew that there were jobs and opportunities – I could make money so that I could go visit the places, people I love. Those places didn’t have jobs. Will I leave? Again – like you, there are family reasons that keep me here now but it all boils down to this: work. We will go where we can support ourselves and get our son through school. I will fit in wherever I am and make a ‘place’ for me comfortable.

  3. “I used to think location didn’t matter because I would always be the same person and would drag my problems with me. Now I don’t think the issue is so clear-cut.”

    This is the crux, isn’t it? I can be relatively “happy” anywhere Harold & I are, but that isn’t the same as satisfying the soul deep inside. If being the same person means ignoring the deeper issues, that’s not good enough any more.

    Thanks for the comments, Kathy. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of them.

  4. “I will fit in wherever I am and make a ‘place’ for me comfortable.”

    This is so true, Rhonda. Sometimes we have to do what we have to do for survival. I just long for a time when that isn’t the case. I have a comfortable home here with Harold and with my girls nearby. I just long for more…

    For now, I guess both of us just keep on keepin’ on, dear friend.

  5. Hi Susan,

    Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing that I feel you plucked from my heart. You and I share that love of New Mexico. I do love the desert air and those sunsets, ahhhh… I am a native Texan and have run from it for a very long time. I have lived so many places, but no where is like New Mexico. Every morning I woke up in a sacred place, and I knew it, I felt it. The place the land of enchantment resonates with me, and I will live there again. I am in Texas now to finish raising my children, and to at their children’s baptisms, baseball games, soccer games, Christmas plays, Thanksgiving dinners and all that goes with having grandchildren. We have chosen children for this period of our life, but in a few years we will be living in the mountains outside of Taos. We will be writing mysteries and memoirs, smelling the pinon wood burn and watching those glorious desert sunsets. Congratulations on a blog that says a lot to us about you.

    • Oh Helen, this is truly one love we share deeply, isn’t it? That beautiful, sacred, enchanted land. This came from my heart and I’m glad it touched yours. As with you, choices keep me in TX for now, but not forever. I simply won’t deny my heart its real home. We’ll meet in New Mexico some day to celebrate, OK?


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