I have fallen prey yet again to the Facebook “success theater”.
I use Facebook a lot. It is a great venue to promote my writing and be informed about trending articles. Unfortunately, to use Facebook also means to go through a great deal of insufferable posts from other people.
This particular post falls under the “I’m living the life” category. It featured photos of my friend, looking ever so glamorous, traveling with her significant other to places I will probably never set foot in until the kids turn 18 and go off to college. The photos highlighted fancy meals that I will most likely never be able to recreate even with the help of trusty internet recipes, should I even have the time to artfully plate my meals. With each press of the “Next” button, I felt increasingly miserable. There are hundreds of this sort of posts and I usually just gloss them over but maybe this one caught me off guard after an especially long harried day of homemaking which inevitably leaves me feeling frumpy.
I look at those photos and think that’s exactly where I want to be. I want to be traveling, wining, dining. Instead, I am traveling at the turtle pace of a curious toddler; the whining I have to deal with occasionally has nothing to do with alcohol; and dining peacefully is always a challenge with a nine-month old whose idea of eating is to fling morsels of food onto the floor and a three-year old who is just learning the basics of table manners. Not that we have the money to travel, wine, and dine anyway.
Every so often, my husband and I would fantasize about winning the lottery and having more money than we dare imagine. It is a fun exercise imagining all the things we could do. What I realized it comes down to is that money offers more options, more possibilities, and in this sense, more freedom. “We could get one of those trailers and just travel around the US for a year.” “How about sending the kids to pre-school? That costs an arm and two legs!” “We could buy our landlady’s property. We would never have to rent, or pay mortgages. We can have a city house and a summer house.” Etc. Etc.
But we did win the lottery. Several times. Of course husband always declares he won the lottery when he married me (eye roll but secretly pleased!). A corrective open heart surgery that’s practically free. A year’s worth of rent free. A country home surrounded by picturesque hills, fields, and rivers. Every time we take a walk in what looks like where the music video for Fields of Gold was shot (at our toddler’s turtle pace), my husband says, “We are living the life.” Gratitude certainly is the best antidote to envy.
Then too, if we had the money, we probably wouldn’t be as creative. I wrote in a previous blog post about the sorry state of our country house. Our squatty no-flush toilet is so sparse there’s nothing to hold the toilet paper. What is normally a fixture in a regular house seems to be an optional amenity in ours. I could have easily bought a toilet paper holder at a home center but in a quest to save a couple hundred yen, turned to the internet for do-it-yourself ones. I made one out of a wire hanger in minutes and felt the self-satisfaction that can only come from working with one’s hands.
And oftentimes, the simple life seems to be fertile ground for priceless you-just-can’t-make-this-up kind of memories.
A friend invited us to a party to celebrate her husband’s 40th birthday. That evening, it rained buckets and we wavered about going. In the end, we decided to brave the torrential downpour. After all, one doesn’t turn 40 everyday. My husband wrapped my purse with a garbage bag. I wore flip flops and my husband wore his old ratty pair of tennis shoes we set off to the train station wielding our biggest umbrellas. With the strong wind whipping in all directions, we got drenched nonetheless. When we got to the elevator of our friend’s posh apartment building, I looked down and saw my husband’s tennis shoes had a thick head of white foam. I was confused for a second. We went through rain, not snow. It turned out that my husband had soaked his tennis shoes in detergent and the residue frothed as he walked. We laughed so hard our eyes watered. Here we were coming from the other side of the tracks, into this really fancy apartment in the middle of Tokyo, my husband’s foaming shoes amidst such opulence. The contrast could not be bigger. We couldn’t stop giggling as he squeaked and left trails of soap suds all the way to our friend’s doorstep. Tough to feel envy when we shared an event that will make us laugh a lifetime.