The rental house is a deathtrap of wires in a cramped space. If the clothes dryer is on in the back room, the vent has to go out the window and it quickly becomes too cold for me to work. My days are a too-fast anxiety-ridden blur of tile choices, writing projects, parenting. I am rich, I know that, I am rich in life, there is much to it, I am enriched by it. I feel like I paid the true cost of my success in effort, but the older I get and the more I think about it, I don't even trust my feelings in the matter, as deeply shaped as they were by the culture of the times. I do feel like I worked for what I got in life. Honestly, though, I think everyone feels like that, even people who are completely wrong about feeling like that, like David Cameron. I am sure George Osborne and Chris Grayling think they worked bloody hard. And in their own way, they did. But I find world inequality increasingly suspect, and increasingly a burden on my ethical load - which is something that sadly, in a very good U.S. education ethics, moral philosophy and jurisprudence rarely came up. Understanding the history of privilege is understanding a better future. Not to say we don't go with money and capitalism in the end. I don't think there is a better means of distributing goods and developing innovations. But capitalism has captured democracy instead of being its handmaiden, and our legal fictions have become our Skynet. We don't even see the seconds of our lives drawn away by it.
Every day I watch the rule of law being stolen from democracies by corporations. Every day I see democracies being weakened inexorably by the theft. What is really my fair share of land and water and food and electricity? I cannot condone the measure given to me by the consumerist culture enslaved to shareholder return. I cannot condone that measure. Which is perfect, because somehow my stasis is being at war with myself. And I can beat myself up for the guestroom even as I delight in the vision of the thick, soft carpet samples. Plus a whole new area of self-criticism has opened up in this process - my taste! Very early on when forcing myself to adapt to the idea of that PhD level of British culture - hiring builders - I noticed that I spurned almost everyone else's aesthetic choices with a vitriol that surprised even me. I mean, I almost couldn't wait until I got out of the house - where the residents had offered us coffee- to excoriate the tiles. Instant, near-violent judgment. That's my style. So I have to live with this shrieking harridan if I make a bad tile choice and she has to see it every day. That's what I'm up against. Plus a million anxiety-inducing problems: the roof is rotting, the pipes are lead and must be replaced, the electrical wiring makes this place a deathtrap (I'll tell you what I told the electrician: every electrician I have ever hired, in every place in the UK I've lived, has told me it was a deathtrap that should immediately be rewired).
But you know they are making a beautiful house.
It's all the choices that are death by a thousand paper cuts. It's like writing and this is why a very wise person told me if I could do anything else instead of being a writer I should certainly do that instead. Second guessing of every word, idea, choice, tile. A writer is someone who has developed a tolerance of this exhausting process. Thomas Mann was right. A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. And maybe someone for whom life is more difficult than other people. If only that came with a huge economic return. And if only I could get some confidence in my tile choices.