The green-eyed monster and me

Recently, I visited a friend and came home feeling entirely dissatisfied with my house/yard/general existence. (Note: my feelings of inadequacy had nothing to do with the my friend at all. She and her family are some of the sweetest, most authentic, loveliest, hardest working people ever. So to be clear, she did nothing wrong. This is not about her. It is about me.)

Most days, my cup feels half full when it comes to material possessions, so this was a bit odd. Sure, I sometimes have pangs of jealousy, and sometimes I get inspired to better my lot in life, but more often than not, I just think, “Wow, that’s beautiful,” or “They’re such neat people,” and then move on.

But his time, for whatever reason, I was suddenly excruciatingly aware of how tired and shabby my house is.

*There’s a violent hole in the leather sofa’s middle cushion.
*Various lampshades have been stapled, broken, smooshed, and scribbled upon.
*There’s the alarm clock that has to be flipped upside down in order to keep the alarm set.
*Dead house plants adorn cluttered, dusty shelves.
*The flower gardens look more like weedy patches of wildflowers than actual cultivated beds.
*Window screens are broken and bent.
*The dining room table has a broken leg and must not be bumped or leaned upon lest it go crashing to the floor.
*My bedroom has a bad case of the piles.
*The upstairs toilet is missing a lid.
*One easy chair lists to the side, the other screams every time someone sits in it, and the rocker walks.
*Rugs are faded and stained, and one of the kitchen tiles is broken.

And that’s the short list.

I read something recently in which the mother was describing their hot little home by the railroad tracks. Some of the doors are missing their knobs, she said, and extension cords for the fans are all over the place. As I read that, I mentally tsk-tsked and rolled my eyes, but now I realize she was describing my house, too, down to the missing doorknobs and extension cords trip-traps (yes, really). It made me depressed.

If I had some self-righteous high ideals to back up my style of shabby chic (which is shabby, minus the chic), it’d be a lot easier to cope with the state of things. Because then I could have glorified reasons for the faded and worn-out furniture—“we wear things out because we don’t want to add to the landfill,” or “we live simply so others can simply live.” Whatever.

Or, I could play the classic If I Just Had More Money song on my itsy-bitsy woe-is-me violin. Which is mighty tempting, I must admit.

But both of those arguments are hogwash. The truth is, I don’t have it in me to fuss over my house all day long. I don’t want to weed my flower beds to perfection or go buy fabric to fix the sofa. (I just want them to magically look perfect/be fixed.) When it comes down to it, I pretty much hate shopping and rearranging and matching. It’s much easier to throw a blanket over the hole in the sofa and then sit down on it with a bowl of popcorn and a good book.

So if I’m (mostly) okay with my holey sofa and non-lidded toilet (it flushes quite nicely) and squawking chairs, then why all the jealousy? I’m not really sure (and don’t want to spend the time thinking logically about this anymore). What I do know is that I’m not going to let myself wallow. Either I grab the bull by the horns and fix things up (those plants only have minutes left in his house), or I can decide to focus on all I do have and smile real big. In either case, the choice is mine and I WILL OWN IT.

I feel so much better now. Thank you.

A post-post disclaimer:
a. What feels trashy to me would probably feel (and be!) luxurious to the vast majority of the world.
b. I am fully aware that I’m a hard worker, that my house is cozy, and that we are wonderfully fortunate to live the way we do.
c. There is so much more to life than nice sofas. It’s the togetherness and kindness that actually count. (So what to do when we can’t stand being around each other and no one acts very kind? But excuse me, I digress. That’s a whole other post…)
d. Even beautiful people feel ugly, skinny people fat, and hardworking people lazy. These are feelings and feelings aren’t always rational. I’m just being honest here.

This same time, years previous: quotes for writers (and how I do it), baked oatmeal (the kind my family likes)


  • Anonymous

    I appreciate your honesty too…and no need for a disclaimer, in my opinion. Can't we all relate to those negative, overwhelming feelings that sometimes stick to us like glue?
    I guess the irony for me, is that I just found your blog and I found myself feeling jealous of you. : ) Praying for a thankful heart…

  • Marie M.

    I love your honesty. That's why I read your blog. Long ago I realized I'd never be Martha Stewart. My home would never be perfect. (Knowing I am imperfect doesn't bother me, it's an impossibility.) But when I see a perfect room in a magazine . . . if only. *Sigh.*

  • Amber

    I feel the same way. My list never ends and i guess it shouldn't. Helps keep things in perspective even though i hate to admit it.

  • Karen

    Once again you've gotten inside my head and have written the post I'm not eloquent enough to put into words. I'm right there with you! My house is literally falling apart in places. We do what we can with the time and the money we have. But, the fact is we don't have an endless resource of either. And, with four boys in our house it's only a matter of time before things are broken/smashed/dirty again. And can I just say AMEN to your post-post disclaimer letter a. We here in America forget that little tidbit most of the time.

  • teekaroo

    I have days like this often, except I don't have a sofa. Can't even cuddle with my husband! I like your honesty.

  • the domestic fringe

    You know, every once in a while I'll feel that way about my house too. I blame it on hormones and eat some chocolate. It passes. Eventually I'm once again ok with the fact that my sink doesn't drain so well, the paint is peeling off my floors, there's a chimney hole in the wall, half my kitchen is unfinished, I have a toilet in my hallway at the top of stairs (without an actual bathroom), and my daughter took most of the paint off my kitchen table with spilled nail polish remover.

    I do hold on to the hope that I will have a new couch before I'm so old that I'm wearing diapers and wetting it.

  • KTdid

    My father (such a sage one) always maintained that one does what one most wants to do (and is physically & mentally capable of)…ALWAYS. NO EXCEPTIONS. So, you are living the life you most want to live! (i.e. you don't wish to put your children in public school, get a job so you can have more money, so you can buy a new sofa and a toilet seat [meanwhile stressing out because you don't have enough time with your kids and certainly no time to cook and BLOG])


  • dr perfection

    So for one week stop cooking all day and fix some things or ask your mom to pick up some furniture and lamps at one of her thrift stores. You are such a bellyacher. I thought you were a bellydancer.

  • judy

    Boy ,you certainly are on my page today.I JUST TODAY COMMENTED TO SOMEONE ABOUT MY GLASS BEING 1/2 EMPTY. MY SON RECENTLY JUST FIXED THE PATIO SCREEN- HE PUT IN A NEW SCREEN WITH ONE OF THOSE LITTLE TOOLS,NEW TOILET SEAT. I bought some drapes at a garage sale. they look expensive but I didn't pay much. better than the sheet i had this is a dual purpose curtain-keep out heat,&vise versa. my son is fiddling with the electric in the kitchen.the VA might come out to fix the bathroom floor so my husband does not fall neighbors yard looks like a golf coarse and with his wife's green thumb-lots of eatables and a beautiful rock garden.I WAS SO ENVIOUS I COULD BITE STEEL,BUT BIT MY LIP INSTEAD. SHE SAW I COULDN'T;T AFFORD TO BEAUTIFY MY YARD THIS YEAR SO SHE BOUGHT ME 2 BEAUTIFUL GERANIUMS AND SCOTS MIRACLE GROW GARDEN SOIL FOR MY TOMATO CONTAINER POTS ON TOP SIDE DECK. I STILL HAVE A LONG,LONG WAY TO GO.BECAUSE AS SOON AS YOU FIX SOMETHING,ANOTHER THING GIVES OUT.I HEAR YOU LOUD AND CLEAR

  • Anonymous

    I'm sorry, I didn't tell you the other weekend when we were there. I noticed your flower beds. The jungle effect was really pretty.


  • You Can Call Me Jane

    Making our homes perfect would be an incredible waste of time, if you ask me. I truly believe this, but that doesn't mean that I don't regularly have pangs of what you're describing. When I'm honest with myself during these pangs I realize that it's greed, jealousy and self-centeredness that are the root causes. And, since there is NO chance of becoming perfect in my future, I just have to learn to let it pass and, like you said, "focus on all I do have and smile real big".

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