There is a magazine I dread coming through my mail slot every month: “Estates and Homes”. This free publication is filled with elite listings of city mansions and rural vacation homes (usually river or equestrian), ranging from $650K “charming investment opportunities” to $if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford it “estate living at its best.” Why on earth they send it to me I have no idea- must be some sick sadistic joke.
What I’ve hated about this magazine is how it makes me feel. Flipping through the thick, glossy pages, my reactions to each picture have fallen into one of two categories: snobbery or envy. Snobbery if I’m able to label a home as gauche, overpriced, or a McMansion. Hmph. I wouldn’t want that one anyway.
Then…one will catch my eye. Whew. That would be nice. Ha! No wonder. Estate living at its best. Never in a million years could I have that. Envy.
Two minutes after opening the first page, I have done nothing but remind myself of everything I cannot have, everything other people are enjoying besides me, and yet still managed to make myself feel superior to them because I’m trying to convince myself that at least I have better taste.
And this is what I do to relax and have fun!
This past week, though, I tried a different approach. What if, when I opened the magazine, instead of viewing it as a tease for everything I’ll never have, look for the things I like that I CAN have?
This tiny change in perspective was absolutely revolutionary. When I found myself obsessing over a certain property, I realized that what I loved was the idea of having a place to go on the weekends where we could enjoy friends, family, and a beautiful natural setting without having to drive far, make reservations, or have me cruise direct every minute of our day.
Did that dream have to come with 4 marble bathrooms and a private loading dock?
As I looked at these beautiful homes (I can call them beautiful now because I’m no longer threatened by them) I started to appreciate new things about each: This one is only 20 minutes away! This one has a volleyball net! This one is near a horse track! Cool.
Next step: What’s the LEAST it would take to enjoy those things ourselves? Could we rent a cabin a few times in these areas and explore? Are there campsites that offer these amenities? Do we have friends who’d loan us their place? Is there a special spot in the city that can become our family’s “special place” (you don’t have to own it, just love it) to enjoy on the weekend?
What’s even better, I realized that if I strip a desired possession or experience down to JUST what I want, I am no longer burdened by the extras that would have taken up so much of my time, money, and energy. I’ll never have to clean, and pay for, 4 marble bathrooms in order to get a spot on the river. I realize now that even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. For the price of those 4 marble bathrooms, I could have my spot on the river, pay for every other vacation my family would take in the next few years, and spend the excess time and money I still have left over on helping others.
And there’s something else this mentality gives me: peace, gratitude, and contentment. If I’m ever invited to one of those fantastic houses as a guest, I’m going to be able to appreciate and enjoy it to the fullest…because now I don’t have to want it for myself, or convince myself that I wouldn’t want it anyway.
It’s okay to want things. It’s okay to spend money we have on things that make us happy. But what those things are can be surprisingly simple: Love. Peace. Joy. Relaxation. Time. Beauty. Water. Air. Sun. Trees. Family. Space. A place to simply Be Still and Know.
If we seek those in their purest form, and we’ll be able to afford it…and have time and money leftover to help others find it, too.
“Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?” – Ezekiel 34:18