Friday, April 29, 2011

making it

(via this blog)

Kathy took a vacation day today to hang out with me the kids.  As we were walking home from dropping the kids off at school this morning, Kathy observed that we really do need to call the termite people to come make sure our house isn't being eaten by wood-devouring insects.  As we were trying to remember whether the termite people are supposed to come every year, or every other year, I sighed, "This is the problem with a house.  If it's not the termite people, it's the chimney cleaning people, or the air-conditioning cleaning people, or the furnace people, or the plumbers.  Every month there is some routine maintenance that costs a few hundred dollars.  And it's so tight already."  Even though it was sunny, and I was drinking yummy coffee, walking through our neighborhood with my love, my mood soured.

When get got home, I knelt in the garden and started pulling out weeds.  After a while, Kathy came out and lamented our budgeted lifestyle, and we contemplated selling the house to get something smaller so it wasn't so tight on a month-to-month basis.  Kathy looked close to tears.  "I've worked so hard.  For years, and years, I never even knew what the 9 o'clock show was, because I was never home from work early enough to see it.  And now we might have to move out of our house." 

"I could watch the kids so we can get rid of the nanny, or I could work part time as a contract lawyer," I offered.  I always offer this during these conversations.

"No, you can't.  The whole point of this year is for you to be able to sort yourself out; you shouldn't have to be doing those things.  I want to give you this year."

Feeling utterly defeated, she went back inside, and I dug dandelions so vigorously that I broke my trowel (which had been purchased at the Target $1 spot, so that was kind of to be expected). 

A while later, Kathy came out and handed me a glass of Diet Coke (she's a keeper).  "We're being ridiculous," she said.  "Look at that."  And she pointed at the house.  "We have all that, and we're complaining about not being able to go out to dinner as much as we want."  I sighed.  It's not that we want to eat oysters and drink champagne.  We just want to get to the end of the month without wondering whether we can go get a pint at the bar or whether that will push us into the red.  (Or actually, we don't wonder, we KNOW it will push us into the red.)  But she had a point.

"You're right," I said.  "We are being ridiculous.  When I was a kid, 'going out for dinner' usually meant my mom got that pack of 10 tacos from Taco Bell."  And we stood there, and looked at all we have.  We have a house.  We have a car, and ANOTHER car.  I don't have to work for a whole year, and get to spend my morning digging weeds in my garden.  We have a nice house in a nice neighborhood, directly across the street from a really great friends.  We have each other.

The problem with having and then not having is that you have to cut back.  You get used to little conveniences and luxuries, and take them for granted.  We were grumpy because we can't afford to take the kids to the neighborhood pub for burgers on Saturday afternoon, and things of that sort, because we had gotten used to it, so we expected it.  Things like that just become part of your life, so when you can't do them anymore, you resent it.  But in reality, for the vast majority of my life, I brought my lunch to work because it was cheaper, and a good Friday night meant drinking beer at home with my friends.  The same is true for Kathy.  I realize we sound a bit entitled.  That's because, as it turns out, we are a bit entitled.  The obvious luxuries -- like weekends away or fancy restaurants -- we gave up easily.  We thought this was a good sign.  The struggle, though, has come with the things that we had begun to not even see as luxuries at all, like taking the kids to the movies or for ice cream, or ordering in a pizza more than once a month.  But the truth is, those things are luxuries, and lots of people can't do them.  Now, we are those people.

Kathy is not much of an "everything happens for a reason" person.  I suppose I am not either, but I am a "find the reason in everything that happens" kind of person.  Not that I much like living on about 1/3 of what we were living on a couple of years ago, but I do actually think it's kind of good for us.  We have been able to shift into a much lower gear without moving or selling any major possessions.  We get to squabble over money like every other young couple (young as in relationship, not participants).  We get to build our life together, from the ground up.  And we get to help each other work through our entitlement issues, which we both thought we didn't have, and come out the other side with gratitude. 

The truth is, dinner at the pub or no, we are actually making it.

1 comment:

  1. Its eerie...I needed this post today. Having the gutters and railings fixed. Need a new wall built. Had to replace furnace and worried about $. I need to look at what I have and be grateful. Thanks.