This Sunday my son and I went to a “play date” at one of his friends’ houses from school. I put “play date” in quotation marks because three other families also came and the hosts had out a full spread, plus they ordered pizza.
This family lives in a nice neighborhood. It’s actually the neighborhood where my daughter’s school is located, but very few of the local families send their kids to her school, opting for “better” (::cough:: whiter ::cough::) schools in other parts of the city. This neighborhood has been popular for a while, but in the past ten years has seen a massive increase in interest and now houses on this specific hill sell for insane amounts.
This family’s house was beautiful. The whole thing looked recently remodeled, with sleek, clean stainless steel and marble lines against shiny, dark hardwood floors. Their back patio sported gorgeous stone floors, surrounded by an unblemished, stained fence, a corner couch (big enough for ten!) AND A FIRE PIT! The walls were adorned with legitimate art pieces, and each room boasted a recognizable color scheme. The house was immaculate. And so, so beautiful.
And again I felt that familiar green eyed monster, peaking out from behind my eyes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why I get so envious of people with beautiful houses, especially when they are in desirable neighborhoods. Whenever I get bitten by that pesky, green beast, I spend a few days thinking about why I’m so jealous of what people have. Jealousy is an ugly emotions, but it can teach us a lot about ourselves.
I mean obviously, I would love to have an amazing, beautiful, house. And I would love to live in a funky, hip neighborhood with a bustling “main street” and palpable sense of community. I mean my house is okay, it might even be nice at some point, when the broken shit gets fixed. And my neighborhood is okay. Sure there is constantly trash flying everywhere, and the hum of the nearby freeway is constant, but it’s easy to get to work from where I live, and I love that.
It’s not just the “idea” of the beautiful house and the coveted location. It’s all the things I imagine someone feels when they live in such a house, in such a neighborhood. Surely those people must be happy, gloriously so. Surely they are happier than I am.
In my mind, only one kind of person can live in a house that looks like it materialized from the pages of Good Housekeeping, in a neighborhood that gets written up constantly as one of the cities foremost destinations. That person has arrived. They have money, and lots of it. They have professional success (that’s where the money came from). They are well-liked (probably because of all the get-togethers they host). They have arrived, as it were, at the life they wanted for themselves. They aren’t living in a “good enough” house, in a decent neighborhood, just thankful they could stay in the city. They are living in the gorgeous house, in the neighborhood people would literally spend millions to call home. They have ended up exactly where they always wanted to be.
But my assumptions run even deeper. I assume that when you live in a house like that, you are content. There is no reason to doubt your success because you reside in its very embodiment. Your whole life is proof that you’ve arrived. Everywhere you look, what you’ve achieved is around you.
People in houses like that, have lives that match. Beautiful, happy lives, that are lived with intention. People in houses like that have a lot of friends, and make home cooked meals, and keep everything organized, and never feel overwhelmed. How could you feel stressed in a kitchen like that?
Of course, when I follow the bread crumbs down that rabbit hole, I recognize how ridiculous it all is. One cannot assume happiness, nor be certain of how others perceive their own success just by glancing around where they live. The idea is preposterous. And when I am honest with myself about my preconceived notions, I recognize how ridiculous it is.
I also am brought face to face with my own personal demons, the ones that tell me I’ll never feel I’ve arrived, that insist I will always want something more (like a kitchen remodel) and never be able to achieve it. And then another part of me chides the former for even wanting a remodel because we don’t NEED a new kitchen (or a master bedroom downstairs, or even a second bathroom), and I should be grateful for what I have and content to continue having it.
I am brought face to face with the fear that I will never feel financially secure, that a part of me will always be waiting for the bottom to fall out, that someday we may not have the money we need to make the required repairs.
That at its very core, my life will be forced by reaction, not shepherded by intention.
I want to feel like we have enough, that we will have enough. I want my attitude to embrace enough, because certainly we have already achieved it. I want to look around my house and see all that we have, not everything that we could make better.
And most of the time I do see what I have. I am in awe of it. Really. Lately, as I’ve come across more and more personal tragedy, I am reminded of how little I’ve suffered, how incredibly lucky I’ve been. And I do feel like I process these stories with a lens more focused by perspective, that I am better able to recognize my incredible (and entirely undeserved) fortune, that my gratitude is not merely the echo of a sentiment I expect from myself, but a truth I hold deeply, in my very core.
The truth is, I can live with intention. I have that capacity, more so than the great majority of humans inhabiting this world. I just have to want it enough. I have to be willing to sacrifice. That’s the thing you don’t see when you look in on a life of intention from the outside; intention it’s difficult and requires sacrifice and doesn’t always feel good.
I’m still figuring all this out, learning what I really want and coming to terms with what I’m willing to do to achieve it. The answers are not always what I expect them to be, and that can be both disappointing and thrilling. If I don’t actually want this, what do I truly desire? Most of the time I don’t know the answer, but I recognize how privileged I am to ask the question.