Published in the Bay View Compass, March 2005
If I were God, I would have prevented Hiroshima and that tsunami. I would have let the person playing me, down here, keep the love of his life. We would have 40 golden years in Maui with a Republican delivering Viagra and covering the bartab. Instead I’m in Bay View worried about the next bomb and gambling my house that young folks here will honor the new crop of elderly.
Choices that I made now govern future choices.
Americans don’t want to hear “you have no choice.” We love freedom. Freedom is America’s sales pitch from war to tampons. Freedom is bolstered by capitalistic Christianity; money is grace; and salvation is money to do as you please.
Have you pined for the moneyless freedom of preschool childhood? Have you seen 18 when you believed that dozens of colleges wanted you?
Have you grasped at love as the perk of freedom, and slipped a ring on her finger?
But marshaled against you making another life choice were in-laws, overpriced health insurance, and your 401K laughing at the price of kids.
Oh, you did choose the best neighborhood. But now the new neighbors get to pick you as neighbors. Or not.
And some, for sure, will play loud music, not put down weed and feed, let their dogs work your lawn, and—that mad midnight motorcycle! When the child finally sleeps, memories of lame decisions create insomnia. “Why did I marry him? Why all these kids? He’s laid off. Am I pregnant?” You’re stuck.
You whimper to yourself. Then maybe to your best friend. You whine thoughtfully. You enjoy friends, love spouse and children, appreciate neighbors. You know Bay View is cool and hip, and so how can I be unhappy here? So you begin a search. Eventually you throw caution to the winds and join a neighborhood email list serve where you make the discovery of your life:
No one is happy.
The world is full of unhappiness experts with their long lists of trauma, bloody red insult, and bruise. At first you are fascinated, it is like a noir film and you reach for popcorn. These folks own the problems of life and have tried every solution but rabid misfortune prevailed.
You reply—a sympathetic email meant to deliver her from her loneliness. And she rejects you in bitter CAPITALIZED words. How DARE you? The goddess desires immortality through an unresolvable sadness that only another deity on Mount Olympus would understand.
And, since the goddess knows all, has had more experiences than you ever will, and is deserving of your shock and awe, you begin to wonder “Am I out of touch?” The list serve has now ruined your illusions.
May I tell you my story?
First take a deep breath and whisper a prayer of thanks for the drama queens in your life, necessary demiurges who merely tempt us to see life as they do. They believe that love is basically selfish.
The queen I once humored dumped my friendship because she needed drama-level support about ordinary office politics. I could only commiserate; she needed outrage to feed her illusions of isolation. By now I surmise she has joined a list serve where she can believe folks are listening to her. Sure they are.
The moment I parked behind my newly purchased Bay View home, neighbors welcomed me. I found myself pulled into the circle of men who gather in the alley. The Best Neighbor in the World award belongs on Lenox—not to me. I am only the luckiest. As their children grew up and into college, the alley gatherings became less frequent. The men pay attention to the front door and look into the eyes of friends whom their children bring home. These neighbors made me feel at home infectiously, driving me to extend my hand to new neighbors—astute enough to choose us. If a drama queen is uncomfortable here, I know why.
You can reach Bill Sell at the author’s eMailbox .