Friday, December 18, 2009

The Winter of My Discontent

I'm a bit ashamed of myself right now. At that time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas when we ought to be most thankful for what we have and for those around us, I've caught myself dwelling more on what I don't have and what more I want.

With Janet running a day care at home, I'm constantly looking around the house to find ways to maximize the space we have. For the last several years, our three season sunporch has alternated in use as exercise room and storage room. Now, I'm eyeballing it as additional space that could be used for the day care; however, before that can be done, it needs to be renovated, insulated, and heated.

Well, if I'm going to go to that expense, what would it take to expand it and and a few more square feet to the house? We could knock out the back wall and extend the sunporch another ten feet. Hmm... in fact, why not expand both the parlor and the sunporch and put up an whole addition to the house?

Wait, if I do that, I encroach too much on yard space. Now I need more yard. The house next door looks like it's headed into foreclosure, perhaps I can buy it and gain that real estate. Well, if I'm going to do all that, why not simply sell mine and buy a new, larger house? Or better, build one of my own design? Or even better yet, keep my existing one and build another one!

Maybe I should buy a vacation home on the Cape? Or maybe out of state? Why not buy a multi-family home and rent it out? I could become a landlord. I could increase my income through rental properties... and then buy more stuff... that requires more storage... I'm going to have to tear down my barn and build a bigger barn...

Recently, I had a couple of conversations that caused me to feel an emotion I do not often feel: jealousy. One was a guy telling me about his second home in Florida, and the other was a woman who told me about the Mercedes Benz her husband had bought her.

Why don't I have a house in Florida? Why can't I afford to buy my wife a Mercedes Benz??

So then I found myself thinking back over the last 15 years of my career in the Information Technology field, all the things I didn't accomplish, all of the certifications I didn't pursue, all of the money that I might have made if only I had been more dedicated, studied harder, worked harder...

This is a spiraling gyre that never stops. It's like World of Warcraft, there is always another level, another achievement, another possession to pursue. There is no winning, just various levels of losing.

In all honesty, it isn't like me to get caught up in this sort of materialism and I guess that's why felt like posting this blog. I'm generally pretty content with what I've got. If anything, my complaint over the last couple years is that I have too much. (Like Stephen Wright said, "you can't have everything. Where would you put it?")

So, for now I'm going to content myself with maximizing what I can do with what I do have. That's just good stewardship. And like Solomon said, "Better is a handful with quietness, than both hands full with travail and vexation of spirit."


Genie of the Shell said...

Just think of poor Tiger Woods. He has riches, all the material possessions a man could want, and a beautiful family. But his life probably sucks a lot more than yours. He has not a shred of dignity left, and his wife hates him. And now he has a pitching-wedge-shaped dent in his face. And even before all his personal issues came to light, he was obviously dissatisfied with what he had, for whatever reason.

And he probably has a huge, heaping helping of very itchy, painful, and incurable STDs. Sometimes it helps me to keep things in perspective. :) It's frustrating to not have the material possessions that it feels like you need, but rich and "successful" people aren't necessarily happier.

Anonymous said...

Be happy with what you have, not unhappy with what you don't have. We tell Himself that all the time.
Yeah, there is always 'something' you might want, and it's good to have goals, but if your only goal is to have 'something' because you don't now have it... well, that's pretty stupid.
All those people who lost their homes because they had to have more than what they could afford, because they were told they 'could have it' and 'should have it', well, I bet they would be happy now just to have a tiny cottage to call their own.
So much 'stuff' for what?
Kipling said it well:
"These are the Four that are never content, that have never been filled since the Dews began--
Jacala's mouth, and the glut of the Kite, and the hands of the Ape, and the Eyes of Man."

Donzo said...

I think most men are wired to build and destroy. American men, even more so. It's a good thing, as long as you don't destroy yourself with what you are trying to build.
I have worked for 20 years, building slowly, and now it is all gone. I'm back living the lifestyle I had in college.