Guess where I am?
Yes, behind my dog, taking a picture from my front porch steps. But that was yesterday.
Right now, I'm in the mountains in my new house, drinking coffee made with well water and looking for a bear in the creek in my back yard. I'm going to see one, one day. I'm so certain that I included that little fact in the author bio for my 2015 book.
"One day, she hopes to see a bear in her back yard."
It's called HIT, by the way. We changed the title from DELINQUENT to HIT, and that cover will debut at the end of March. But I digress.
I am a country mouse now.
So is the critter that crept into my garage and nibbled on the cat food.
But, again, I digress.
Everyone I meet here in the mountains asks where I'm from and why I moved here. I guess they can sense that I'm not from here originally. And I tell them all the same thing.
Because the suburbs were starting to feel like vultures, circling.
For the last ten years, I've been living within three miles of the house where I grew up in a northern suburb of Atlanta. I knew all the roads. My family was nearby. We had great movie theaters where you could press a button and have someone bring you a margarita and a grassfed burger while you leaned back in a leather recliner. The SuperTarget provided almost everything I needed, from clothes to tools to organic food to Skylanders birthday cakes. We had great schools and amazing friends and a neighborhood pool and a beautiful home.
And my husband and I spent most of our time huddled inside behind closed curtains, hoping no one would ring the doorbell or call or send us an HOA letter for painting our house the wrong shade of slate blue.
I'm not sure when I went from friendly neighbor to weirdo hermit, but it happened. I guess when I first had kids, I needed a community. I wanted playdates and bad tennis games and sidewalks. And then I became a writer, and my kids grew up to the point that I didn't carry them around like baby koalas anymore. And then I started dreading the small talk on the way to the bus stop. I realized, one day, that I almost had a panic attack every time someone wanted to talk about the weather or the neighborhood. That I had almost nothing in common with the people living around me. Being a writer brought me in touch with who I really was, and finding my community online allowed me to be unapologetically weird. And I realized that as much as I fit in with anyone reading my blog or chatting with me on Twitter, I didn't have a lot in common with 164 of the families living in my neighborhood of 167 homes. And so I stopped going outside.
Luckily, I'm married to a psychologist, and we both realized that one of the reasons we were edging into more-than-February depression was that we were unhappy in our home. Being there made us edgy, as if our own belongings were vultures circling overhead. All the things we'd collected in seven years there weighed us down. So we were unhappy inside and unhappy outside. And the obvious answer was to move.
To the country.
Now we're an hour away from that house, living on the side of a mountain. And we're all ecstatic. We wander around, smiling. We open the doors and windows. We let the kids explore. We turn up the music. We sit on the couch and hold hands and pet the dog, provided he hasn't recently dropped a log on his favorite spot in my son's new room. Yesterday, we took off as a family to scale the hill down to our creek, a daunting task that was rewarded with beautiful rocks and fresh deer and raccoon tracks in the mud.
Last week, I wouldn't let the kids stray 20 feet off my front porch for fear of Stranger Danger, cars, and the judgmental eyes of neighbors. Now, I flap my hand at them and tell them to take the dog with 'em and look out for copperheads.
Honestly, y'all? I feel free here. I feel centered for the first time in ages.
The first day, an old man stopped by, a dog at his side. He gave us a neighborhood phone list and laughed at my dog's new 16-foot leash. "Nobody 'round here uses a leash," he said. And then he told us how happy it made him to see our kids playing outside. He's 74 and still plays softball and told us to watch out for the rogue gang of chickens that sometimes runs free in the streets.
I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the suburbs. I'm just saying that if you're an adult and you're unhappy, it pays to really look at your situation and see if there's a way to change your fate. For us, it was selling the house that felt like an albatross around our necks, dumping half of our belongings that weren't bringing us any joy, and moving to a smaller, cheaper house in the mountains where we can all spend more time in the sunshine.
Also, well water tastes awesome. I had no idea.
I think one reason I've been so prolific as a writer in the last year has been that writing was my only escape. I only hope I can keep it up, now that I'm happy again.