Monday, April 27, 2009

House of Cards

I'm not a jealous person. But I observe jealousy. I see and hear people comparing their lives to others, complaining about what they lack and others have. Wishing and hoping for "more" and "better." I'm reminded of something my mom used to say when I was growing up... we had made that big move to Cincinnati and I remember driving through some old, upscale neighborhood and expressing my own dreams of living in these big, beautiful, manicured, perfect homes. I had these visions in my head of the happy, secure families who lived in these houses... mothers who kept the house clean and tidy and pretty and who were funny and sweet. Fathers who worked hard but came home to play and chase and cuddle and such. Kids who had everything their hearts desired and who had wide open futures ahead of them. So much was wrapped up in my vision of what life inside these perfect beautiful houses had to mean. In my 12 year old head, these people must have made all the right choices to get to this perfectly right place. Right? So I would admire one of the big, beautiful homes... and my mother would always say "I wouldn't want to clean it!" 12 year old me would guffaw and figure that if you could afford the house, you could afford someone to clean it and care for it. And that would be the end of the conversation... it lasted only as long as the house was in view and then it was done and we continued in making our own choices, cleaning our own home. 34 year old me... looks back on that statement and thinks it had a lot more meaning than I ever realized. My mother was making a joke and being literal about the physical nature of cleaning a large home. But I see this play out in life around me all the time now. Let's imagine a family. John and Jane Doe. 2 adorable children at their feet- Suzie and Bobby. They live in a beautiful home with manicured lawns, shiny cars, big comfy couches, full scale technology, bright and shiny chandoliers, a roomy and exactly functional kitchen. He is wildly successful in his career. She stays home with the children, attending to the needs of the home and family. The children are given every want and raised with love and structure and joy, right? I went through a cynical period in my life where I really started to believe that anyone who appeared to have a perfect life really had a lot of deep, dark secrets. That when the doors were closed and the shades were drawn, horrible things were going on. Abusive mothers, alcoholic husbands, depressed and suicidal children... The Doe Family. They have it all. The American Dream. Or is it all a facade and the secrets of abuse and drugs and horrible things is the real story? Or is it somewhere in the middle? Good intentions, poor execution. Living a life that can't be afforded or maintained. Suffering in silence, hurting the ones they claim to love the most. Fears about money and appearances and successes. And truly struggling to manage it all. Unable to clean that big, old, beautiful house. And then I look at my own life and how we are choosing to live it. I take into consideration the huge messes of my childhood... abuse and financial struggles. I am blessed to have ended up in a situation where I could get the cleaning help I needed. And I've had God carrying me through so that I could finally walk on truly solid, level ground when the time came. I no longer wish for a bigger, better, more beautiful home. I no longer fantasize or demonize the families who live there. Instead, I just live my life as "real" as I can. We live in a home that suits our needs. We live in a neighborhood that suits our personalities. We have friends who are genuine. We have a church family. I have a job. My husband has a job. We have 2 fantastic, normal kids. We have a spoiled little dog. We drive regular cars. I like life being simple. I like not having a big, old, beautiful house to clean.

13 comments:

ShankRabbit said...

It's so easy to get caught up in the "I need everything bigger and better" lifestyle that surrounds us.

But you're right, looking around at what you have... an amazing family that loves. That, to me, is worth way more then any beautiful giant home with perfect lawn and every tech gadget in the world.

I said to Isabella yesterday, "I think that if there ever comes a point in our lives where we have so much money that we can just buy whatever stupid expensive whim we want... then we're not giving enough to charitable causes."

Jim and Garret said...

I love how you came full circle in this thought. As usual, your writing is awesome. Oh, but I won't be reading the other blog. :-X

Garret

Andrew Scott Turner said...

I've come to the realization that we humans are generally inept at facing what we are, and therefore work hard at being something else.

Celebrities wishing to be private, the poor wishing to be rich, the wealthy wishing to be unencumbered by the responsibility associated with what they have accumulated.
I think the most one is capable of ever doing is working toward happiness. Whatever that means to the individual.

Not sunshine happiness, or a life without struggle or sorrow or all the other emotions - but a baseline contentment with themselves, their surroundings, their accomplishments. It allows you to strive for improvement without fighting to be somebody or something else.

When you desire to be more than you possibly can, you become petty and angry. When you strive to improve your situation for the sake of your contentment, then you can never say it wasn't worth the struggle.

Alix said...

John is mortgaged out the ying yang and banging his secretary. Jane is a depressed alcoholic. Bobby is addicted to crystal methamphetamine, and Suzie is on Eliot Spitzer's speed dial prostituting for spending money.

But the house sure is big and the lawn sure is manicured.

Great commentary as usual Liz. I love where you took me on that journey. All is not always as it seems, is it.

I am a lucky blessed individual and also am not the jealous sort. I do dream though... I wouldn't refuse lottery winnings, but I don't pray for it either. I am satisfied. Being satisfied is a great and powerful gift.

Thank you for reminding me.

Lynn Freeman said...

Liz - what greater example of self acceptance and self realization than what you've written here. Age old saying - money can't buy happiness - sure makes life easier but true happiness comes from within. I know several people who "seem" to have it all. Let's take Mike's "boss" for example. I used to envy his wife - brand new, fully decked out 5,000 square foot house built from the ground up. New showhome in Phoenix they just took possession of. Money to travel to warm places twice a year, money to buy the grandkids lots of presents. Money to buy that $65,000 new Dodge Challenger and then chip it out. Money for nice furnishings, money to host lots of frequent, great parties. So much money that he could retire tomorrow and not worry about a thing. BUT....I only found out a few years ago what their "skeletons" were - and I'll tell you something - I wouldn't want her life for all those riches for nothing! He is an alcoholic who suffers frequent long periods of depression. He drinks when he rises out of bed in the morning until he passes out after lunch and then starts again when he wakes up. Drives drunk all the time - and one day he will kill someone and it will all be over. And Mike keeps making him money hand over fist as he runs his company while the guy is off drinking in a bar at 10:00 a.m. But we've made a small fortune too so who am I to complain. Big difference though - money has enhanced our lives and made it easier, but certainly not happier. We are happy because of who we are and how we live our lives. You can't fake happiness - and it doesn't matter what kind of house you live in or what kind of clothes you wear. If you don't have that deep down happiness then you have nothing as far as I'm concerned. I'm glad you have it :)

Liz said...

Thanks to all for their thoughts so far. I'm enjoying reading what everyone is sharing.

Garret... that other blog might surprise you. Yes, I'm reading the Bible. But it isn't just gonna be a big ole Hallelujah, Amen, Word of God kinda thing. There is a lot that I disagree with in that book. And there is a lot that is open to interpretation in that book. So, for me, it's a challenge. And it will be a learning experience. And hopefully I will get to a point where I even dig into some history and context. We'll just see where the journey takes me. But it isn't for everyone- which is why I chose to have it in a separate blog and not as a regular feature of this one. :)

Alix said...

I've read the Bible cover to cover. Great experience. Cleared up a few questions, but left me with many many more. I think it's designed that way.

Enjoy your personal journey, Liz.

C. Beth said...

What a GREAT post, Liz. Very wise.

Flartus said...

I'm with ya all the way on this...Miss Chef and I frequently talk about how perfect our 1350 sq. ft house is for us. I know if we had any more space, we would fill it with more Stuff we don't need.

I wrote a bit more indignant take on this same subject in December: http://flartus.blogspot.com/2008/12/road-rage.html

Sometimes I feel like I should repost it every once in a while, because it really is one of my pet peeves--people not realizing they don't need 90% of what they have. And getting pissed when they're inconvenienced in their ridiculously convenient lives (drive-thru food taking too long?? C'mon!)

Liz said...

I'm going to head over and read that post right now, Flartus.

Mrs4444 said...

Excellent. Thanks.

Heather said...

I loved this for a variety of reasons, mainly for the fact that I saw a lot of myself in that "big house, i want more" phase of my childhood, and mainly because i see a lot more of myself in your "real life, acceptance" of now. i love that feeling, though, don't you?

Mim said...

Every time we head off on one of our camping trips, especially the Dark Ages reenactment ones, I am struck by how little we actually need. If only I had the fortitude to tackle the excess Stuff we do have and get rid of it all :)

Adam and I have one of those "What if we won the lottery*?" conversations every now and then and we always end up deciding we'd stay exactly where we are, keep driving the same cars, going on the same holidays. Life is good the way it is. (But the house could do with some renovations!)

*Of course we'd have to buy tickets first, which we never do, so it's all a bit of a moot point really ;-)