by Sally Nielsen
What does a turtle do or think about while inside its shell? Is it only concerned about when it’s safe to stick its head out of its shell or does it contemplate its life while inside it? Today I feel I might be a turtle.
This year two of my close friends and several of my acquaintances have started new life journeys. They are consumed with house details. One moved from a split level into a smaller house on her new husband’s large wooded lot. Another friend is building a new house with a forest preserve behind it; it has tiny closets and a tiny yard. Another is moving into a cabin in the woods. One has locked up her delightful condo and moved into the home of a poor Peruvian Andes family for ten months of Peace Corps work.
I’m not going anywhere and my life in a busy neighborhood in a large sprawling North Florida city seems routine and small-minded. I felt I should strike out on my own, show some moxie and become a fiercely independent lioness of older womanhood. Should I buy a tiny house and live off the grid in some out-of-the-way woods? Never mind that I have a ton of friends and children who care about where I live.
I have spent a great deal of time looking at YouTube videos of tiny houses–in particular those tiny house dwellings built by people who prefer to live off-grid. In one an interviewer exclaimed “It’s amazing!” constantly. Using the sun to heat your house in the north woods was amazing and bucketing water into the house was a sign of ultimate independence.
I began to realize tiny house life demands constant personal focus on its details. When tiny house dwellers video their spaces they use monotone voices. They speak of their challenges with patience and forbearance. And sighs. Although they will share a friendly selfie their videos view life from the eyes of a turtle inside its shell.
Doctors have discovered I have what appears to be a tiny lump in my left breast–a cancerous one. As I begin to make my way through the bewildering levels of cancer detection and treatment, tininess obsesses me. Let this one lump be microscopically tiny. Let it be solitary and let it have no grid, I pray. I fight against the impulse to retreat into my hard shell but the fact is I have dozens of people outside my shell–connections who have been through this and experts who are willing and able to help me.
As I caress my breast, promising it that I will try all I can to keep it there, I realize I already live in a tiny house that requires attention. I need my doctors, my nurses, my family and every one of my friends. I am grateful for my grid.
Sally Nielsen is a life writer who lives in North Florida.