We had a good and busy weekend, in which we had a family from Jay’s school over for brunch, commenced finding a church, test-drove minivans, and bought and installed a toilet seat. The pace and diversity of activity was consistent with the general whirl we’ve experienced since moving to South Carolina. It also highlights what I’ve found to be the overriding quality of the last month: the incessant need to evaluate options and make choices.
Nearly everything is up in the air: what time to get up on weekday mornings (it’s looking like 6:40am), where to buy produce (Earth Fare), which route to take when picking Caroline up from school (through the neighborhood, despite the stop signs), what temperature to set the air conditioning at (75 at night), and whether to place the boys’ beds (arriving tomorrow) perpendicular or parallel to the wall (Grammy?).
We also visited a church on Sunday morning and hadn’t been there three minutes before I was weighing the architecture, the way people were dressed, the pastor’s body language, and the tenor of the choir.
Later that Sunday I stared at a wall of seventeen different toilet seats and thought: Maybe we’ll just dig a hole in the backyard instead.
Our social life is probably the best example of how, in a new place, you end up having to make decisions about all kinds of things that you take for granted when you’re in a more settled state. We have a number of communities through which to meet people, and a handful of “friends of friends” connections here, but as of now, no friends, strictly speaking. It’s exciting to be casting a wide net, but also tiring (and probably counterproductive) that every social interaction comes freighted with the question, “Are we a good match as friends?”
There are a few things I’ve noticed about all this choice-making.
First, it really highlights the things that I’ve learned in life and the things I haven’t. For example, as has been documented, nothing in my prior experience prepared me to evaluate correctly between a rotary mower and a gas mower. I do, though, have a keener sense of what I like in a person, which helps when thinking about pursuing friendships.
Second—and this applies especially to decisions made in hardware superstores—it’s really hard not to buy the more expensive version of a product when the overall dollar differences are small. On that same trip to Lowes where we bought the toilet seat, Jay and I also picked out a nozzle for the hose. One was plain metal and cost $4.98, while another was rubber coated, with brass finishes, and an adjustable spray head, and cost $9.98. The deluxe version for just $5 more! I nearly had to slap myself before I remembered that I don’t actually care at all about the quality of our hose nozzle, and bought the cheaper one.
The third and final point comes from Caroline, shared with me over dinner last night: In a way, all this decision-making feels like a race against ourselves. A month in, we’re still gung-ho for the job of arranging the discretionary areas of our lives just the way we want them. But, there’s going to come a time when any boxes we haven’t unpacked are never going to get unpacked, when our verve for interior decorating will fade and the fraying on our couches will cease to call out for action, when we’ll stop seeing every new person as a potential friend and just accept our social calendar the way it is.
There are good and bad things to both states, to being open to new experiences and to being content where you are. But for now, circumstances demand that we make choices, and—to follow a metaphor that’s been on my mind—we’re trying to get in as many as we can before the cement hardens around us.