We’re on about day ten of stickiness.  Even though it hasn’t been super hot, the humidity just will not go away, and the forecast doesn’t bode well for me not sweating all over myself.  Oh well, life could be worse.

We went to see Wall-E today.  Two big thumbs up from me, and the rest of the family really liked it too.  I loved the storyline — it was really thought-provoking in terms of conservation & consumerism, and delivered a sobering message without being preachy.  It definitely reframed some of my thoughts around what I might “need”.  I’d been ruminating on that as it is, as Lane has started noticing advertising and marketing gimmicks and I’m trying to show her them for what they are.  Does she want that tube of toothpaste because she thinks it will make her teeth really clean, or because it will taste good, or is it just because it has Diego on it?  Yes, the Aqua Globes on the infomercial are cool, and yes we do have plants, but our watering can works just fine, we don’t need hand-blown glass globes to automatically deliver the perfect amount of water for up to two weeks!

In trying to help Lane see through this mental clutter, I’ve started to realize how much of it I have, and how I sometimes fail to see around the obstacles that the media has planted in my mental path.  I’ve spent a long time really digging Burberry plaid.  Why?  I do find the pattern visually appealing… but do I like it more because of the illusion of status it might convey?  Probably.  I drive a Honda Odyssey right now.  We bought it with the intention that we would take care of it and it would be driven until it simply could not be driven any more.  It boggles the mind how many times people have called that into question — do I really want to drive a car into the ground?  What if it lasts another ten years?  Do I want to be driving a 15-year-old vehicle?  Part of me does cringe at that… ugh.  But why do I cringe?  Is there anything fundamentally flawed about loyalty to a vehicle that continues to serve its purpose, that being to get me and my family and my stuff (some of which I probably don’t need anyway) from Point A to Point B and back again?  Why should any part of my brain worry about the impression someone might get because I don’t have the latest model?

We are in the process of buying a house.  This whole foray brings up a related set of values and perceptions.  Frank and I were contemplating buying a 3 bedroom ranch, and my in-laws (people who are not generally the keep-up-with-the-Joneses type) were convinced it simply could not be big enough for our family.   First of all, it was more than big enough for us.  Maybe not for all our ‘stuff’ too — but that could be rectified via a garage sale, Craigslist and Freecycle.  Regardless, my brother and I grew up in a 3 bedroom ranch that wasn’t any bigger than the house Frank and I were considering, and my childhood house was probably smaller.  Before we bought the 3 bedroom ranch, my family and I were in a 3 bedroom cape cod, which was DEFINITELY smaller than the ranch we bought when I was 13… and while it may have lacked for space (especially in the closet department) we survived.  The house we are now under contract on is definitely bigger, a 4 bedroom raised ranch with a living room and family room and roomy master suite with two closets, and a dining room and huge deck and big backyard.  We decided to buy it not because it was “more house” but mainly because it was very close to my in-laws’ house.  That it is bigger and more updated is simply a bonus (until I start thinking about the bigger mortgage that comes with it.)  Yet a part of me still feels a big oodgy when I mentally compare it to other people’s houses.  How does it compare, and how will others compare their house to mine?

This rat race, it is a hard habit to break.  And it seems so fundamentally pervasive in our culture.  It must tie somehow to some mental process, some functioning of the human psyche that served us well for survival when we all were hunting and gathering and trying to avoid saber-toothed tigers lest we become an entree.  Perhaps it helped to ensure our survival, if we always strove to collect more berries than the people in the next cave.  But it’s time to draw the proverbial line in the sand.  I’ve collected enough berries.

6 responses to “Sticky

  1. This is a very thoughtful post, Lisa. I think about many of the same things you do too. When buying a new house last year, I had a hard time getting it out of my head that my house needed to reflect my socio-economic status. Our society very much judges a person’s status/position by the size and quantity of their belongings.

  2. Great post, Lisa! I often ask myself if I really need something, but not in every instance. I’d lived below my means for many years but still made purchases that were ill-advised.

    When I became a Stay-at-Home-Mom it became much, much harder. We’re more often living at our means now, though we’ve managed to save some, too. I could definitely be saving more.

    I don’t mind driving a car into the ground, but I soooo want our next house to have 4 bedrooms, a 2-car garage and granite countertops! We really could get by with three bedrooms.

    But I’d still like those granite countertops someday.

  3. BeThisWay, granite countertops are just practical. There is no better surface for kitchen work! Corian is a close second. I had Corian at my last house and loved it. Formica may be budget-friendly but it’s not nearly as nice for rolling dough on, and it mars and stains so easily.

    There is still certainly a difference between wanting something because you just want it, and wanting it because it has inherent advantages. I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with seeking out something because it is intrinsically beautiful (which granite certainly is!) as long as that beauty is within your means.

  4. Since we are trying to sell our house in Florida, I occasionally allow myself to dream about what a house here would need to have for us to buy it. LOL I actually have told DH that we could downsize from the 4 bedroom that we had to a 3 bedroom since it looks like by the time it happens the oldest will be fairly close to graduating. (Gosh I hope that is so not true and she has at least 2 1/2 years left of high school when we are able to look at buying).

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  6. Very thoughtful and interesting post. For me, I think it comes down to values and who I choose to “keep up with”. We all have our own standards. Having confidence in our choices despite what others may think is a difficult place to get to, but it’s worth finding the way to that place.

    I used to worry about how it looked that I drive a 17 year old car. Now I am proud of that. I used to care what size my house was or how it looked to those around me. Now I am just glad I have a $34 electric bill for my little house. It’s been about perspective and shifting my values to get to a place that instead of wanting what others have, I often am glad I don’t have the strings and stresses that go along with those things.

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