Thursday, February 21, 2008

If You Want to Make God Laugh...

Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Well, no sooner had I announced that I would blog only on Sundays and Thursdays, that everything went to pot! I got sick... really sick... and needed a long recuperation period. Now that I am recuperated and it is Thursday, I will try to make my fuzzy brain think in a somewhat logical and coherent way...

So, here's what I've been contemplating lately… living an authentic life with intention and purpose. Simplifying. As some of you might know, my day job is as a copy writer for a local real estate firm. While it is a cool job if you love to write and love looking at houses (which equals loving to write about houses, btw) it is not a job without its hazards. You have peak seasons when you are so busy, you don’t know if you are coming or going, and finding as many synonyms for “featuring,” as possibly so all your copies don’t sound the same. Followed by periods of nothing, nada, zilch, zero homes to see, which means no money to make. But the biggest downfall to this job by far is… (Drum roll please) falling in love from time to time with a house.

Yes, that’s right. I said falling in love with a house. (sigh)

So, I am smitten once again. My last house-affair wasn’t pretty. It was way too big and for way too much money. Honestly, it was more house than I could handle. But it was gorgeous. It was an 1880's farm house that was completely refurbished and remodeled to be Green - you know ecologically friendly... Green… earth first! I am all for earth first. My novel is about trees for crying out loud - ok it’s about a lot more than just trees or that would make for one boring novel, but I digress… So, I loved that house and obsessed over that house, and pined for that house, stalked that house, talked about it late at night with my husband and friends. I drove everyone crazy! I was in love.

I know what you're thinking... IT'S A HOUSE! GET A LIFE!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. BUT you didn't see it, and you didn’t have to write about it in a long, beautiful, salesy, descriptive pitch. My job is to make people fall in love with houses through my words (The photographer has it easy. You know… a picture’s worth…) It’s only natural, every once in a while, I actually am so convincing, I convince myself.

But... sometimes the love of a house comes before the words. It might begin the moment I drive down the narrow, wooded, windy, country road. Or pass the long, sweeping vistas of rolling farmland. Or wind my way down a long driveway canopied with trees and dappled sunlight (See I really do, do this for a living).

The house du jour is this kind of love affair. It had all of that and so much more. It was nothing like my former house-affliction. No. That house with its 4,000 square feet and bunches of barns and outbuildings (all of which were also completely refinished to perfection), made me realize, I could never keep up with a house that size and it’s many out buildings. I would spend my life cleaning! And who wants to do that? Certainly not me!

Well, in the wake of getting over that first house-affliction, I learned something - most of us need to downsize. That house might have been as Green as they come, but something about a family of 4 living in 4,000 square feet seems juxtaposed to living earth first. That’s a 1,000 sq ft per person! Is that really necessary? Is that really Green?

America has become a nation of EXCESS. Everything is in excess. Food, cars, the sizes of our homes, our spending, our bills, and so on and so forth. And we are passing that excessive living down to our kids. There are more overweight, bored, and depressed children in American than every before. I think it’s because they are trying, or we are trying, to buy love for them in all the toys, games, clothes, etc. And when the love is not in the toys, games, or clothes, they do something else in excess – become not only bored, but depressed. Not just put on a few pounds, but become overweight.

All this excess has got me thinking about my dream to live green. I took a few earth first tests online. I was sure it would tell me, “You’re great, Sheri! Look how you love the earth. You do your part. If everyone lived like you… But here’s how you could improve, yes even you…” But the test didn’t say that. It said if everyone lived like me, even with all I do to reuse, reduce, recycle, eat healthy, organic, yada, yada, yada… it would take 4 planets to sustain my lifestyle. Four planets! I felt discouraged. What could I do? Then I discovered that an average family of 4 really needs no more space than about 2400 sq feet. And if everyone lived like that, we’d be fine. If everyone stopped living in excess, the earth would heal and so would its inhabitants.

It got me to thinking... maybe we should go small, down size? Maybe my family and I should move… to a smaller house… less electricity, less to heat, less to cool. Hey, less to clean! We could maybe afford those solar panels I have been dreaming of, and maybe even geo-thermal heating too. And why not a wind turbine while we’re at it. We could live off the grid! Hey, the grid could pay US back, or we could donate our excess of mother nature’s power to a family in need… So the dream began.

And so that brings me to this new house I saw yesterday - my new house-love. It was nothing special from the outside. As a matter of a fact, it was quite unpleasant from the exterior. But still I was in love. Here’s why... First of all, you should never judge a house by its cover – you should all know that by now. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, and it’s your peace with life that really matters right? (Yes, I am still talking about a house.) So, number one this house “lives” smack in the middle of a woodland preserve. You would be living in a preserve! How wonderful is that? Well, for this writer who loves and writes about trees, I felt like Henry Thoreau discovering my Walden. And then it got me thinking about Thoreau and his pilgrimage to the woods.

When Henry Thoreau was asked why he went to live in the woods, he said. "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

And I thought, ME TOO! Me too Henry. I want that too!

Then he went on to explain that he wanted to get the most from his life by determining what was really important. He believed this could only be done by removing himself from the normal life of Concord, Massachusetts in the 1840's. For him, it was economic, too. He wanted to reduce his material needs by living simply, so that he would not have to spend much time supporting a lifestyle that he did not need or care about. But of course, he’s reason for living amongst the magnificent trees was for a spiritual connection too.

And then that got me thinking about a passage I just read in The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, that said many people in Eastern and Western religions, will strip themselves of all their belongs and live simply in the woods to find God and inner peace.

I think this would be good for ALL of us - maybe not the woods for everyone - some love the beach, the mountains, a meadow... but to live simply and with purpose.

By doing this, Thoreau and the great religious minds, were able to strip down their ego and be in touch with life - real life and what it's really all about. Not square footage, or the latest IPod, or a flat screen TV, or shiny, new car. But about you living your authentic life, loving the people in your life, being a messenger for them, and them for you, dedicating yourself completely to your talents, whatever they may be.

But how does one do this? It seems like it should be so simple. But selling a house in today's present market - believe me, I know - is no easy feat.

And so it brings us full circle - PLANNING!

Yes, I am planning. Oh this new house-affair too, shall pass. Some lucky new owner will buy it and spruce up the outside and live amongst the trees in a woodland preserve. But I don't think my need to simplify my life will stop.

So, I plan fully aware of what it will get me - a hardy guffaw from the One Above.


Jeanne said...

I loved this and related to it. This was a lazily meandering piece and I happily went along for the ride. Who hasn't had an affair with a house? I mean, really! What cracked me up ... and I wouldn't have known to attribute it to Woody Allen ... was the opening saying. A friend and I, in the face of our watching our best laid plans run aground, have always laughed, saying, "Man plans, God laughs." It must be true. Woody Allen said so!

Sheri said...

Thanks Jeanne,
I had never heard this before and it clicked for me.

BTW, did you have this photo of you up before? It is adorable!

Rebecca said...

Ah...I know exactly what you mean about falling in love with a house! During our last house hunt, we saw one that was up in the hills, surrounded by woods. But it was a fixer-upper and my hubby just wasn't up for it. So we got a newer, more economical house in a new neighborhood with baby trees (two when we moved in and we've planted two since). I've always dreamed of living in the woods! Maybe some day...

Sheri said...

Us too! I wanted an old stone farm house surrounded by a swath pf trees, but my husband said it would be a money and time sucker, and he would probably have been right. So, we moved to a new neighborhood within a historic, rural town. Basically though that's a bad combination. None of the townies wanted the development we now live in! WE also had no trees so each year at tax time, we would plant like 5 more at a time. We found a guy who sells them pretty cheaply and plants them too. Over time I am going to have the "what's with that house" house. Everyone in my neighborhood will have these neat manicured lawns with a few specimen trees, and I will have 50 random trees in my front yard alone! (not really but it would be funny!)

LEEZY said...

Mmmmm … dreamy house … mmmm … dreamy trees … beckoning us with their branches … aaaahhhhhh.

I'm fortunate enough to live among many, many trees, in a lovely quiet outta-tha-way town and I am broke paying for this house. But do I care about being broke? Not on your Nelly! (well, 99 percent of the time) As long as I can pay the mortgage and bills so we can stay here — and eventually renovate the rest of the pad — I could be happy for an eternity). Now if only all this happiness would lead to me finishing my book projects!!!!

Thanks for taking us on a beautiful meander Sheri … 'simply' lovely.

PJ Hoover said...

For the last four years, I've been working on downsizing everything - except the house :)
I once heard material possessions weigh us down. So if they aren't being used and really don't have much of a purpose, they go.
As for the house, I would love something bigger, though I love my location. 2500 sq ft for the four of us. Too many toys.

Rachel said...

My husband and I love houses. We used to live in a great old neighborhood in Portland, OR and would take long walks at night just looking at all the cool houses. I hope to move back there someday.

Sheri said...

Looks like I am not alone in my secret obsession.

Leeza, yes you do live amongst the trees - lucky duck! I will be old and feeble by the time my saplings reach their height - I won't even remember planting them...

PJ according to the Earth First guides, you are living right - 2200 - 2500 sq ft for a family of four is ideal. This spring is going to be a HUGE purging - I am going to take you up on that idea of getting rid of everything we don't ever use.

Rachel, Oregon is a state I have always wanted to visit. It must be beautiful there. Talk about trees!

I am so glad I am not alone in my love of houses...

Jeanne said...

Re: the photo - yes, it's recent - took me a little bit to figure how to add my profile to the site. At least my hair doesn't have any grey in it yet in that photo! :o)
And thank you ...

ChristineEldin said...

I can relate to this too! I'm sure you've heard my crime stories over the past couple of years.
We've lived in a high-crime area one block away from the city line. So DH has spent the past 8 years looking and looking while prices keep going up and up. ONce in a while he'd fool me into being serious, so I'd fall in love with one of those houses (that we can't afford).

But, finally, at last, found one. IN the country. It has those windows at the top that let in light. Fans all around so you don't need the AC as much. Did I mention there's no crack house across the street?

I feel your house love. You will need to consumate a relationship one day.....


ChristineEldin said...

OMG! I thought you were WriterKat! The two of you are next to each other on my blog roll, and have the same color blog!!! That's why I said "I'm sure you remember my crime stories."

Hahahaha! Sorry about that.

Sheri said...

Christine - so funny! I guess I can BE a writer kat... but no, alas, am not THE writerkat you are referring to... Yes, living far away from crack houses is a good thing! And now you have two homes right? Part of the time here, part of the time aborad???

Jeanne - make me laugh! You wrote, yes it's a recent photo - I know what you meant - that you recently put it up, but it sounded so funny you saying, "It's a recent photo." At first I thought you were joking!

Sarah Hina said...

This is me, Sheri! I have house-lust too, and house-guilt. My husband and I have lusted after many a house in our town, and in Columbus, but have restrained ourselves each time, knowing that a bigger house meant more stuff to fill it, more to clean, and more to pay.

So we finally decided to build onto our tiny 1000 square footer by 500 feet, and leave it at that. I still sometimes wish we had a basement, but it's enough...for now.

Oh, I want those solar panels, too.

Great post, and I loved your thoughts on eco-living and Thoreau. I think we're kindred spirits! :)

Sheri said...

Ever since Anne of Green Gables, I have always wanted a kindred spirit!

So sweet, thank you Sarah.

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous