Labor Day Musing: Lifestyle vs. Living

I assumed this inviting backyard would have at least one Labor Day Weekend gathering. It was lovingly designed for just such things. As of this writing on the afternoon of Labor Day 2017, proper, it remains untouched and in pristine catalog condition.

Whereas this bare bones backyard, about a block and a half away, has already grilled a few times this weekend.

Here’s another nearby backyard whose beauty I admire; an ideal spot for a Labor Day “goodbye to summer” send off. And….nothing. This weekend, or others.

Meanwhile, a few doors down, this spartan set-up has grilled quite a bit of meat this summer.

I walk a 2.5 mile radius of my South St. Louis neighborhood most every day, so I get to see the daily details of how my neighbors live. Real life minutia is fascinating, and it’s important to stay grounded in how we really live vs. the lifestyles conveyed in media onslaught.

One curious thing I’ve noticed is that those who meticulously assemble immaculately designed outdoor living spaces use them far less than those who simply go outside and live.

Case in point: here is a neighborhood front porch tableau that I love. Oh, just to slowly drink morning coffee in one of those chairs would be heavenly. They did such a good job of creating a picture-perfect stage.

But on Labor Day Monday morning, I still saw no signs of life on this porch while directly across the street, a family had pulled out folding chairs to sit on their front lawn. It was a young mother and father with their animated little boy, and grandfather. Father was hosing off a baby stroller, grandfather and mother were lounging in the chairs as the son cavorted. It was a spontaneous assemblage – keeping dad company as he did a chore. But it was alive and charming and real. While across the street, my favorite “outdoor installation” was silent.

This is when the dramatic difference between Lifestyle vs. Living hit me. My aesthetic eye loves the meticulously curated front porch, but my soul longed to be with the family who quickly created a makeshift living room in their front yard.

A Labor Day Dawning:
What is the point of an HGTV-worthy landscaped outdoor oasis if no one is drawn to use it? Is it more rewarding to live an actual life than to convey the life you think you should have?

Look, I don’t keep 24/7/365 eyes on my neighborhood; there are plenty of hours in a day when those who have gorgeous yards may be using them. But seeing them on a near-daily basis, it’s easy to pick up on the signs of use, or lack thereof.

Here is the most stark example of Lifestyle vs. Living in my neighborhood. On the left is a front porch I’ve shared previously on Instagram. This person’s commitment to every detail of a design scheme always makes my heart sing. I’d love to run into them on their front porch just to convey these sentiments. But there’s never a sign of them other than this display.

Whereas, I’ve seen the person on the right on their front porch a few times; we’ve exchanged “hellos” as I walked by while they were airing out a rug, or attending to some other chore. They get the benefits of a nice setting without the effort as they just keep living – win/win.

It is absolutely possible to live a designful life that is as fulfilling as it is beautiful; I am fortunate to know a few of them, and revel in their balanced splendor.

But in the end, isn’t it better to live a full life rather than a pretty one?

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