Staying Awake in Seattle, Day 4: Small is the new big

Whatever directions your circumstances take, expanding or contracting, growing or reducing, uptick or downward trending, you adjust.

I've adjusted upwards and downwards all my life. Up, up, up for years; then, a few years after my parents divorced, a sharp downturn when we relocated to Gloomy Manor, a.k.a. my maternal grandparents' house, where we lived with them and two uncles who were also in the throes of their own particular life changes.

Up again with Mom's second marriage; down and down and down with the demise of that. Although at that point, the downwards contractions were only visible on vacation visits to the homestead; my own path had diverged in its own upwards/downwards fashion, through various communal living experiences at college and in New York City, where I shared a series of shitty rooms and apartments with a series of interesting roommates. Mammals, most of them.

The move to L.A., back in 1992, was a big step up in comfort and convenience. Grouse all you want about L.A., we live the soft life there, with our cars and our endless free and/or cheap parking. Parts of Los Angeles are truly urban, and I have one intrepid friend who's managed a car-free life for her entire stay there, but for the most part, we are fat and lazy suburbanites in city people's clothing. In New York, you get tough; in L.A., you may become hard, but you get very, very soft.

My four days here have been sort of a revelation in terms of personal comfort. Don't get me wrong: I adore this lovely neighborhood, its walkable treasures, its spectacular views. Within a half-hour's walk I have all the great bookstores, markets, coffee shops and eateries a city girl could hope for. And I mean great, of the kind of exceptional quality that would have you driving all over L.A. and back again.

But the trade-off for truly civilized living, at least, among the commonfolk, is 7/8ths-scale everything else. A tiny apartment, with tiny closets and a microscopic kitchen. You? Maybe you're fine with the microscopic. Me? I'm a metaphorically fat, lazy American pig who's used to driving her car to the supermarket, buying in ridiculous quantities, and feeling vaguely guilty about the waste. And the E-Z-Bake Oven is not exactly a McMansion, either. But compared to my current digs, the full-size fridge, oven AND cooktop, and capacious cabinets feel positively suburban.

Truthfully? It feels good to scale back. I like literally weighing an item in my hand and deciding whether or not I want to hump it back to the crib. It feels good to be able to count on both hands the items of food and drink I have to eat and drink. Having to wash the previous meal's dish and cutlery before I eat again, because there's only one set? Is a good exercise for me.

Some of the good comes from things just being different. From being outside of the usual, and my comfort zone, so I'm forced to be thoughtful and attentive (and thankful! Let's not forget thankful!)

But part of the wonder of this trip is in literally scaling back. To the stuff I've brought with me. To the space allotted.

In constraints lie the keys to expansion.

Here's to busting down more walls...

xxx c