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Hedonistic adaptation

February 10, 2022
'We have lived in our home for over two years. This is a milestone for me, because every two years, like clockwork, I have the instinct to throw it all up in the air and move us on to somewhere else. When we decide to stay for a third, I’m proud of myself for not doing so by rote.'

We have lived in our home for over two years. This is a milestone for me, because every two years, like clockwork, I have the instinct to throw it all up in the air and move us on to somewhere else. When we decide to stay for a third, I’m proud of myself for not doing so by rote.

When we first walked through this home I marvelled at how much it felt made for me. At the decks that looked out onto rainforest, just like the one I grew up sitting on. At the old and the new working together to create imperfect, unusual peace. I told my partner we needed to move from our neat, new home in the suburbs, the white picket fence run-on, and plant ourselves in this unruly wild. When I woke up on the first morning to a view drenched with green, I was home.

Now, I see its issues. The uneven floorboards and the gutter that’s haphazard and the leaves that are always, always back again the next day. I have adapted to its peace and its privacy as baseline. No longer something to be marvelled at, just something else to take for granted. I wake up and reach for a screen instead of sitting in front of the forest. I was sure I’d do that daily.

My 4 year old friend comes over and suggests, aptly, that we play hide and seek instead of sitting on our butts talking. She’s much smarter than the rest of us. I hide in the bathroom we never really use and wait. She is downstairs, and I am up, and I realise I may need to settle in.

I don’t have my phone with me. I am, momentarily, artificially constrained. I wait. And I look.

This door has stained glass panelling? The light hits the window and throws a raspberry glow at this time of day?

I have lived here for two years, and I have never noticed.

She finds me, but we both agree it was a good hiding spot. This house, it turns out, is full of them. 

Over the next week I am so jolted by my discovery of stained glass sunlight that I start to look. To walk through this home, once coveted, then taken for granted, and see what it is that makes up its fabric. There is so much I’ve been passing by, the result of so many stories and maybe-we-could’s come to life.

Here is the dining table built by my brother-in-law and my husband, designed to fit right into the first home that we first sketched out on a grassy patch of land. It has held hundreds of dinner parties, both impromptu and lavish. 

Here is the desk I paid $80 for on Gumtree. When we picked it up the owner told me four generations of women had made their work on its surface. At first I am daunted by their expectant presence as we carry it home, but I decide instead to be comforted by their example.

Here is the painting made by a dear friend, gifted to me by another. I watch it often while I wait for the kettle to boil. 

Here is the step I sat down on when we received one of ‘those’ project outcomes. ‘Are you ok?’ J asks me when he passes. ‘Not really,’ I answer, but I can’t stop smiling. 

Here is the hammock in which my friend sat patiently as I begged her for words to make sense of grief. She waited with me as the hazy summer day made its way through dusk and into forgiving night. We were there for hours.

Here is the cast iron skillet we had to buy a new suitcase for, lugging it home from across the world. Here are the books that meant we had to buy a second.

Here is the spare bedroom that has slept so many humans we love. They have stayed by choice and by necessity, sometimes in celebration, sometimes in mourning. We meet in the kitchen in the morning and gently make our way into new days after long nights together.

Here is the front verandah on which my sister sketched out songs that meant we could know her better than we ever had before.

Hedonistic adaptation is the principle of getting used to the things we longed for, and turning them into our baseline of happiness. Whatever it is we yearn for, reach for, work for - when we get it? We get used to it. It becomes a part of the fabric. Taken for granted. Blurry in whether it has stained glass panels, or whether it’s just another door.

As I turn over and consider the small abundances that fill my home, I realise I live in a tree house made up of so many moments I had once desperately hoped for. Ambitions and yearnings and maybe-one-days take up concrete space around me. I sit on them and sleep on them and drink out of them as I yearn, again, thinking, ‘maybe one day, this.’

My greater crime is my hedonistic adaptation of self. All of the rooms I have built and filled with experience. This one which houses my relationships. This one, home to my capacities. This one, dedicated to the songs that light me up in an instant. I walk past these rooms all the time, on my way to rattle the doorknob of the closed door to ‘what’s next’.

When we plant ourselves so firmly in the future, we miss the fullness of all that has contributed to the nourishment of self necessary to make it there.

I recognise the dissonance in myself, today. I am at once marvelling at every cultivation and pushing myself further out into the unknown. Intentionally landing in the tension of growth, daily, while trying to practice awareness for all that has already been grown, built, realised.

I have committed to moving through my home with greater appreciation for where the light lands. For the stories in concrete form that quietly send us reminders of love as we move about the rhythms of our day.

My next challenge? To move through the waves of self in the same manner. Looking for the stained glass windows, the perfect hide and seek spots, and gratitude for all of the what-ifs that have already come to pass, even in the pursuit of the what-nows. 

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