Psychologist Dr. Ron Clavier said the antithesis of anxiety is certainty.
There is certainly no certainty here. Not being able to make up my mind is the story of my life. The only clear, conscious decision I ever made was deciding about Hubby. On our second week dating I knew this was it, this was for life. We have been together since.
I try things, live with them and then change my mind. Or I obsess about decisions – which one? My inner voice always says what if?
The big decision now is where do we want to live? Now, this isn’t just which house to live in, we can’t decide which region in Canada. (Although at one point we talked about relocating to Europe.) We have settled on the Province of Ontario. But that is not to say other provinces don’t sneak into our discussions. What about Newfoundland? What about the East Coast? Then Hubby says, “I’ve always wanted to go out west. It’s beautiful out there. What about Alberta?” Then we both say, “What about the Arctic?”
I think the problem is both Hubby and I are both a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. Let me explain. We both like the city life. We also like rural living and an outdoorsy lifestyle. We canoed through Algonquin Park on our honeymoon. We think Wawa, Ontario (population 400) is a great place to live. I once had a huge organic garden and was the proud owner of three compost bins. Of course, we had an outdoor wedding. Hubby loves solar panels and talks about living ‘off the grid’. We think raising chickens for eggs is a great idea. My family regularly shoots things and eats them. They also catch things and eat them too. (I am a vegetarian, go figure.) I grew up on a boat in Georgian Bay, in a trailer in Red Squirrel Lake (north of Temagami, Ontario) and in the field and bush of Simcoe County. Now I live beside the largest city in Ontario. And I like it. Kinda…
My garden is on my balcony, 16 stories up. We are high-rise living here, and we like it. Our building is surrounded by green space – if you look out any window you can see the lake, trees, or fields. We don’t have window coverings but instead watch the sky change throughout the day. We watch showers coming in and thunderstorms booming past. We get both the sunrise and sunset. We lie in bed and watch the sky light up with the setting sun. I drink my morning coffee with the rising sun.
Last summer we heard coyotes howling. Deer, raccoons and rabbits are all regulars in our naturalized park system. We live on the raptor migratory path – I can lie in bed, look out the window and see turkey vultures soaring by. Hubby says our place is like a big tree house. And it feels that way.
There are things we really love about living near the city. Art, culture, diversity, healthcare, transit – intellectual life. And work. Well, we don’t really love work, but our jobs are here, for now. We know we can always find work elsewhere. But we love the intellectual life of our city – colleges and universities are nearby (and we use them). Public libraries are the centre of our universe. We also use city-run recreation programs for the kids. The Art Gallery of Ontario is a short drive away. So is Harbourfront Centre, the Royal Ontario Museum, and other bastions of Toronto culture. We are regulars at all kid-friendly cultural events.
The Greater Toronto Area is well known for its diversity – people come from literally all over the world to live here. And we like living with them. Our neighbours are from Syria, the Philippines, UAE, Columbia, Lebanon, Bosnia, Uganda, Poland, England, India, Pakistan, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, the Caribbean, and Newfoundland. (Ok, not really, but those folks do see themselves as a different country;) We feel that the world really does come to us. And we love it.
Living in the city is pretty convenient too – I don’t need a car as SAHM because I can walk or take a bus wherever I need to go. Getting groceries, doctor’s visits, physiotherapy, even getting a cup of coffee are all super easy. In an emergency we have FOUR world-class hospitals to choose from, all ranging from a 5 to 20 minute drive away. Sick Kids Hospital is a quick 15 minute drive down the highway. Some families fly across Canada for their services. Some even fly in from around the world. And this hospital is literally at our doorstep.
Our apartment itself is bright, airy and spacious. I fell in love with it in a 1940s, New York-kind of way. It’s nearly 40 years old and has three large bedrooms and two washrooms. (It’s bigger than my friend’s bungalow.) Walls are hung with abstract paintings, bookshelves are full, and jazz music plays on the radio. It feels like home. At night we sit on the sofa and look at the twinkling city lights.
Then we go into the bedroom and look out into vast greenspace and imagine we live in the country.
Because our area is becoming too busy. Traffic is a nightmare at times – sitting in your car in gridlock is not how anyone should be spending their lives. We would like more space, grass to call our own, even a dirtpile for the kids to play in. Hubby talks about moving to a slower place and the need to slow down our lives. Most of our leisure time is spent getting out of the city. We drive to conservation areas and spend the day hiking. We pick flowers, collect leaves, and look at insects and tadpoles. We peer into puddles and play in the dirt.
But if we were in the country we’d miss the healthcare system the Canada is famous for. Rural Ontario is famous for doctor shortages. We’d have to drive for a couple hours to make regular medical appointments. We’d be searching for services that might not be there. I don’t know what we’d do in an emergency.
Our challenge is our kids – do medical needs trump living a life as we dream it? I argue that Little Miss Adorable could have a pony in the countryside; that would be her physio through our own therapeutic riding. Mr. Sensitive could maintain some independence by taking his electric wheelchair through forest trails we’d create. We could create countless accommodations as we build our lives together.
Hubby is a rock drummer and played most of the main bars on the Queen Street Strip in Toronto. This used to mean something before many of them changed their names or closed. I was an independent artist, freethinker and gallery-stalker. My work was displayed in tiny shows that no one went to. This was also before the galleries were renovated or closed completely.
Our lives have changed dramatically after having kids, and the things we were attached to in the city have also changed. And maybe city life is not so important now. Really, how can an overpriced latte compare to a bucket of tadpoles and a grinning four year-old? They can’t.
When Hubby and I visit my family we drive past acres of farmland and countryside. We drive past fields and forests, small towns, ancient farmhouses, clotheslines and barking dogs, and say, What if we lived there?
Rural or Urban Living for families? For Special Needs? Are you a little bit Country or a little bit Rock and Roll? Please share your comments, experiences, or links to your own blog.