October 27, 1998

Views From Metropolis


Wendy M. Pfeiffer

Part 10 in a Series

I've always had trouble with stairs. I guess its related to dancing.
You know...there are two types
of dancers in the world: those who float effortlessly through the
patterns, and those whose lips silently
mouth the words "left, right, left right". Well, that's how I do
stairs. I have to concentrate on the
placement of each foot, one after another, or everything gets tangled
up and I stumble.

As a child, I memorized the number of stairs in each stairwell in my
life, and created complex decision matrices about which foot should
lead the ascent or descent. It wasn't until my 20's that I
discovered that everyone else is not that way.

Most people have an automatic stair-climbing mechanism that kicks in
a few steps into the process. It comes from the same cranial region
that regulates driving a stick shift, screwing in lightbulbs, and
dealing cards. Somehow, a general pattern is established which, when
complete, brings autonomous control of each mechanism to the
sub-conscious level. I'm not sure if the mechanism is chemical,
genetic, or procedural, but I am sure that it is missing in me.

Perhaps this is why I don't fear change. To achieve the step ahead,
I've got to concentrate on it. If I am distracted by the step
behind, I'll flounder and stand still. When one's mind is focused on
the step ahead, change is inextricably linked to motion, and more
subtly, to survival. Pausing at each step, my mind is screaming,
"Which foot? Left or right? Left or right?" The noise inside my
head is more painful than the inevitable next step.

So it is with fear and necessity that I take this next step...buying
this house. Yes, in some ways, it is like so many things I've done
before. After all, there are only so many variations to "left or
right". Its like left: choosing to settle far away from family,
choosing a lifestyle removed from Puritanical work ethic. But its
like right too: choosing to be stable enough to pay a mortgage,
choosing a permanent residence and choosing to be part of community.

But here's where its different. I intend this home to be my last
step in this direction. It is large enough to be comfortable and to
include changes in family. It has amenities adequate to expand
careers, business, social life and creative endeavors. Yet, it is
not so expensive as to be vulnerable to financial cycles. It is not
big enough to be unmanageable in old age. It is a conscious landing
in the upward climb. It is meant to be the one place where I will
not have to think. A place I can rest. A place that is neither
going up, nor heading down. A place from whence I can survey my
progress and contemplate next steps.

It is, in the end, a place where I intend to stop. I fear the
stopping may mean the end of this kind of life. But I
fear the endless continuation of this life more...one step in front
of the other, always counting, always thinking.

At least, that's the view from here.

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