In our new back yard, we have a lovely row of trees.
I am often extremely thankful for that row of trees, because they are my little bit of nature – green, fresh, and beautiful, in this vast and barren land of New Development. We chose to build our house on this lot because of that very row of trees.
The other day someone asked me if we were enjoying our privacy, provided by those trees, and also because we don’t live at camp anymore, where almost all of life is shared, all the time.
I didn’t know how to answer that question about privacy. The old me would have said yes. But after five years of living in close community with people, I’m finding I don’t like privacy as much as I used to.
I have always loved my own space. I love having a schedule and a to-do list, and although I have always liked people, I would sometimes start to view them as an interruption to my perfect little plan.
It was hard for me to adjust to camp. There were always people around. We shared a duplex (and an entrance, and a laundry room) with another family, we shared a yard, we shared the majority of our meals with others.
People were forever wanting to get together to play games after all the kids were in bed. There was stuff going on almost every night. It wore me out. I thought it was good and healthy to say “no” to socializing all the time, and I still believe in creating space and margins for sanity.
But I went too far the other way. I said “no” too many times, and suddenly I found myself sitting in our quiet house, having backed into a perfect, isolated corner…and I was completely lonely and miserable.
I am so thankful for friends who kept making the effort, kept trying to share life on a regular basis. Now that we’ve moved, I find myself wishing I’d said “yes” a lot more often.
Now that we’re in Niverville, I hardly recognize myself, I’m so hungry for social opportunities. Look out, neighbors! If you’re new, and moving onto our street, we’re coming for you!
I still love that row of beautiful trees, because I need my nature. But I don’t need as much privacy as I used to.
In our culture, it seems as though we sit in our private homes with our private yards, and leave each other alone so everyone else can live their own busy, private lives. Someone at the door is a rare occurrence (while at camp, I couldn’t even count the number of times in a day when someone was at the door).
It’s easy to plan people right out of our lives. It’s easy to get so caught up in our own schedule, in our own comfort and desires. Community drags me away from my plans and my lists. Being close to others is sometimes the only way for me to always remember they are there.
A friend once told me that growing up in a large home made it very possible for everyone to retreat into their own little worlds.
Can’t get along with someone? Go hide in your own room where no one will get in your personal space.
Can’t agree on what to watch on TV? No problem – there are enough TVs to go around. Go watch whatever you want by yourself in the basement.
Can’t shower or use the bathroom whenever you want? Heaven forbid we should have to wait. Every home should have three bathrooms, at least, right?
I have tried to retreat to my own private place to avoid problems, but in the long run, it doesn’t work out very well.
At some point, I’ve always had to come out. And everything is still waiting there for me.
When we first moved to camp, there was a relationship I struggled with. I told Ben about it, and declared the solution – I needed more space from the person, before they drove me crazy. I needed to take a break from being around them all the time.
But Ben said, “No, you need to spend MORE time with them. You need to spend SO MUCH time with them, that you get past the annoyance, and learn how to truly love them.”
And you know what? It totally works. It’s very hard, but it does work.
Although we’ve moved into a three bedroom house almost twice the size of what we had at camp, I don’t want us to lose each other.
A small space keeps you connected. That’s why we’ve chosen to have our girls share a room. And it’s why we won’t be finishing out our basement any time soon, unless the number of people living in this house increases.
And close neighbors keep you from yourself! Now, when my sweet new friend down the street says, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pry…” I smile and think to myself, “Oh, please do! Pry away.” I will try to embrace the discomfort that comes with losing my privacy, knowing that it brings growth, character development, and a connection to people.
I will continue to love that row of trees in our backyard, but I will also continue to hope for a yard full of neighbors and their loud children, and many knocks on the door. Keep me from my private corner. Remind me that life is meant to be shared and lived together.