Its funny how quickly envy can turn into anger. And anger can turn into defeat or feelings of inadequacy. I am not a materialistic person. I do not enjoy shopping or get a high off buying something new. I don’t feel the need to decorate my house or coordinate my curtains with just the right throw pillow. I’m not even sure why people own throw pillows (no one ever throws them) or have that beautiful room in their homes no one is allowed to sit in. But for some reason, when I see these things on Facebook, I get all knotted up inside and I get angry and begin to wonder what I did so wrong in life that I don’t have these things that I don’t even want.
Why? Honestly, I’m not just saying this, I don’t want those things. I want a happy, healthy family. I want boys who play in the mud and laugh all the time. I want just enough to not do without but not so much I forget to appreciate the small things. I want loving relationships and understanding friends. I want love and beautiful memories. So why do I care when someone else acquires and boasts about things I couldn’t care less about? Why does it needle me when I see granite counter tops or crown molding peeking in the corner of a boastful picture of a new mixer or a loveseat that “makes a room”?
I grew up in a house with shag carpet, and it wasn’t the 60s when shag was in. We had olive green appliances with a stove that didn’t work so well. Everything in our house was outdated by at least 20 years and there was never a plan or money to change that. We had a couch that was threadbare, hand-me-down dressers, and the latest and greatest of nothing. I didn’t care and never felt embarrassed until I was 15 and a terrible boy made fun of my house and asked why everything in it was so old. Ouch.
I made a vow that in my home, in my future, I’d have the nicest stuff. I’d play the game just right, go to school, get a degree, get the good job with the great benefits, grow with a company, find the right man, invest in my future, and have this amazing awesome house with a beautiful modern kitchen, gleaming appliances, and the perfect décor all situated on a beautiful piece of property in at least 3000 square feet. When I was a grown up, it would all be mine.
So I did play the game and jump through the hoops designed to reach that destination. However, somewhere along the way the game changed, or maybe the prizes did, because it became far more important to just be happy, satisfied with life and living. Welcoming living creatures into my space and finding bliss in my job. I didn’t care so much about the dream as I did about life and I never did attain the things I thought were important. I’ve owned 4 homes and not one has had a wood beam ceiling or an A frame living room.
I live in a small house, with 80s blue carpet and those awful hollow doors that never last and buffer no noise, ever. I have plastic showers and kitchen outlets that never work. I have windows that leak like a sieve (on the plus side we will never die from carbon monoxide poisoning), shingles that hang a little off, and a couch that is quickly showing its age.
Sometimes I feel bad, like I missed the boat or haven’t amounted to much. I look at the photos others post and I wonder why I don’t have the big beautiful house made of stone and large weather tight windows. I feel bad that one day someone might point out to my kids that their home is less than because it is small and missing wainscoting and marble. That their second hand clothes aren’t cool and their used toys are just little bit wonky. I imagine that one day they will feel like I did, set on finding and having the “better” life. I just hope they realize that a better life has little to do with things, and everything to do with living.
So yes, I sometimes feel a pang of jealousy for the things I don’t even really want. But I think it is less because I want them and more because I promised myself I would have them. A self who was too young to know what true happiness was, too silly to understand what it really meant to “have arrived”.
All to often we get down because we let the lives of others influence our feelings. We get caught in the cycle of being “not as good as” or “wish I had that”. We forget about what we do have and what really is important. I think becoming an adult is about realizing what it really means to have it all.
I have 1300 sq feet filled with enough laughter to fill a space three times that size. I have a couch that is perfect for practicing headstands and summersaults or spilling food and having accidents. I have love that brightens every room in a way no new and modern fixture ever could. I have carpet that doesn’t inhibit play but invites it, all the muddy paws, globs of play doh, tire tracks, and drops of paint are welcome here. I have land that sprawls, where adventure waits uninhibited by danger or strangers. I have dogs that get to dig, chase, and play without a landscape care in the world, their furry faces covered in dirt and smiles. I have food to feed us, water to quench us, and a cozy pellet stove to keep us warm and dry.
I like to think my posts make others just a wee bit jealous. After all I am human and what are humans without competition? I like to think people see our goofy smiles and our trampoline living room and they think secretly to themselves “I wish I was that brave or that lucky”. Brave and lucky enough to live a life full of the important things and not just things; full of life, laughter, love, silliness, mistakes, failures, strength, and togetherness. I like to think they look at my home and see the time I wasn’t watching and two little boys went crazy with the chalk, or the time I had to watch tv from the floor because there were too many dogs on the couch. I hope they see a daddy playing dodge ball inside on a snowy day not worrying about knocking over lamps and décor because we don’t have any of either. I hope they see little boys screaming with excited terror running from balls and hiding in cabinets kept empty on purpose for just such a reprieve.
When I post something I hope it makes everyone out of their mind insanely jealous. Not because they don’t have what I have, or their countertops aren’t as stained as mine, but because everyone should have such a family, everyone should want such joy. Not because they own the right things or have the latest gadget, but because they have loved well and found that the only value in life is sharing yours with loving living creatures, not the perfect wall color that looks good with that chair.
I think the world would be better, and people would be happier if our posts were less about what we have gotten and more about who we love. I wish I saw more about moments of bliss and contentment and less about new cars and shoes. I wish I knew more about my friend’s partners, their children, their guinea pigs than I did about their boats, vacations, and jobs. I wish everyone understood what was worth boasting about. What was worth being jealous over. What was worth giving time and effort to.
So while you may not understand from pictures why none of my glasses match, why my towels have holes in them, or why all my pictures hang just a little bit crooked from too many stray dodge balls, there is no way you can spend real time in my home without understanding, no wishing, that your home was just like mine.
This week I am feeling very grateful for the living things in my life that add spice, humor, love, and beauty to my every moment. Words I cannot buy, gestures that can’t be coordinated, and moments that are never staged. This is my life, and it is a good one. Not despite the things I never achieved or acquired, but because of the things I never achieved or acquired. I am lucky to have been such a failure. I am glad I stumbled and fell just enough times to crash into the perfect storm of colossal mistakes that led to and created this family in this moment.
Are you happy? Is your life filled with the beauty of things and items only money can buy? Or is it filled with people and life that bring you joy and create happiness? I challenge you to play in that room no one ever goes in, spill milk on that rug that cost a fortune, and leave dog hair on your pants when you leave the house. I challenge you to walk away from the things you think matter and embrace the things that really do. If it grows, if it breathes, if it lifts its face up to the sky and smiles, then it is the right thing.
What I am reading: Information on wind turbines, solar panels, and on demand hot water heaters. Thinking about cost, the environment, and of zombie apocalypse or nuclear fallout situations. Maybe I need to read about fall out shelters, or at least tornado shelters.
What I am listening to: Babylon by David Gray
What I am watching: I just binge watched Jericho, it aired from 2006-07. I hate that it ended on a cliffhanger and while it wasn’t the world’s best acting it did remind me that it is such a shame our current tv line up is driven by the watching habits of a populace that thinks Honey Boo boo is good television. Sadly, that means we lose good shows like this one that make you think and have diverse subplots. I guess it just proves television is not the thinking man’s medium.
Now moment: Being asked for one more hug eight times as I try to leave a room from a little boy trying to avoid bed time in the cutest, most effective way possible.
Gratitude: Things I am grateful for
sand box toys
perfect haircuts on the run
hugs from my husband
friends becoming patent agents (selfishly can’t wait to file needless patent)
possible new jobs that are truly exciting
opportunities for happiness
spiderman shoes that light up
monster truck toys for $4
Friends who “get it”
donut pans (review to follow)