Because a life unexamined is lived without intention.
Monday, June 24, 2013
The Lines We Draw
Bending, I press the red plastic bubble that pumps fresh gas into the dew drenched mower engine. 9:30 in the morning and the humid air is already 79*. A bead of sweat drags a wet fingertip along my collar bone and down beneath my paint-stained tank top. The wrench of the pull and then the growl of the machine cuts through the bird song and I set out to tame the clover studded yards before me.
I generally do the front yards of both of our neighbors - one whose elderly owner pays me a small amount to ensure its respectability and the other dear friends who have shoveled our snowy walk enough times (making my cold-hating, non-morning self muchous happious) to ensure I will joyfully trim their yard all summer long.
Yet I am paused on the far side of their lawn. The edge between them, shared by a white haired, seventy-ish, very fit and able, feminine soul who absolutely refuses to mow one single inch beyond her responsibility. A six foot span of green between their houses, split...and her three foot stretch immaculately mowed. The line down the middle glaringly obvious as our warm, damp summer has amped the grass to ultimate lengths.
I am stopped.
Standing there beneath the heavy weight of the day, I am....achingly saddened by this visual boundary. A non-verbal condemnation of lackadaisical landscaping. (I'm a once-a-week-whacker-of-weeds kinda girl) The thing is, Ms. Linda and I have a history. She is the only person I have ever called the police on. Can you believe that? Seventy-something and yet with a tyrannical grip on this street that preceded our arrival; but her reducing my boys to tears, threats and orders--the claim that the sidewalk in front of her house was HERS and such nonsense. She told them they were stupid. (I merely called about the absolute laws and then for a number which, in my bare feet and sundress, I marched up on her porch to deliver with a "please call this officer if you have any questions....but my boys are INDEED allowed to ride their skateboards down this sidewalk, thank you ma'am.") But such hostility is so...unnecessary.
I wonder at the lines I draw. Between myself and co-workers....friends, neighbors....some healthy and needed. Some out of fear of being hurt. Some of self-preservation. Some of exhaustion. The compartments that make up our lives. The separation of selves....
I remember standing in front of a class of my English students towards the end of term and (dressed in a modest blouse and black slacks as usual ) asking them if they had any idea how many tattoos I had. If they knew the last show I'd been to was Tool. That if they met me on the street on a Saturday night they would never recognize me....because that personal self, the slightly wild artist with a taste for whiskey, is separate from this professional self. The one that is never late, fully prepared, on point and ready--as they should be in their future careers. And the moment they let their "private self" dominate...if they bought the lie, "you gotta be YOU all the time!" they would handicap themselves.
I still believe this.
That there is a time and place for every facet of who you are. The wisdom is in the choice. Every life needs lines. The lack of these is eroding some of the foundations we need to survive as a society and I am at a loss as to the answer to that.
However, these lines that are drawn that keep neighbor from neighbor....that tear away at the very idea of community...they crush me. Perhaps I'll make her cookies. Can you make cookies for someone you've called the police on?