Since relocating to the west coast last year, I’ve thought a lot about what matters to me. To move here, we chose to give up something (single-detached home ownership, high Alberta incomes) in order to get something back (living ten minutes away from the ocean, cherry trees, year-round hiking & cheap sushi).
Now we are considering wading back into the real estate market, but this time it won’t be for a big ole house on the prairies, it will for be a tiny townhouse on the top of a mountain (if we are lucky). Everywhere I go in Vancouver, I see old homes being demolished and big mansions being erected in their place.
So I’ve been thinking: does having a big house really matter? Does having a big house make people happy? And at what cost?
I can apply this thinking elsewhere. I’m enamoured with various minimalist Twitter feeds, like 5 kids, 1 condo and Joshua Becker. This less is more mentality isn’t just about stuff and space, it is about what ambitions we chase so we can acquire all this stuff and space. Those high grades. That university degree. That demanding job. The busy trap. Then, when we are parents, we transfer it onto our kids: the over-scheduled children, the pressure we attach to our offspring to achieve more than we ever did. My own daughter retired from soccer at the tender age of 15, when the demands of more training, more goals, more fitness equalled no fun and no life. My eldest son chose the university-less road less travelled as a musician, to the horror of many of my other mom-friends.
And then along came our love child, the youngest of five, a child with a ‘dis’ability. Many folks consider Aaron, who ironically has more chromosomes than you or me, as less of a person. This has manifested in less playdates, less birthday party invitations, more questions about prenatal testing, and most recently, a school system who has given up teaching my son any academics at all. As if I have to apologize for his place in this world. Which I don’t. And I won’t.
Today Louise Kinross, writing in BLOOM, caused me to pause. It is slowly dawning on me: maybe I’ve gotten it wrong all along. I think I was fed a lie about what is important in this life. And I wasn’t force fed this lie; I willingly and thoughtlessly accepted it. Is value in our lives attached to how much we do? How much we own? How big our house is? What our child’s IQ is?
Maybe I’m overcompensating for my small rental home, my mini-salary and my kid with a disability. One thing I know for sure: I’d better not squander my energy here on this earth on the vapid and the meaningless. For this very moment is all I’ve got.
It is after school here in Vancouver. The rare sun hangs heavy in the sky. The chickadees are at the bird feeders and Aaron is digging around in the kitchen, talking to himself, making a little snack of tzatziki and crackers. As usual, Stampy is playing Minecraft on his iPad. My daughter and I are happily texting back and forth news from our ordinary days. I’m thinking about pouring myself a glass of wine and slowly assembling dinner (chorizo tacos tonight, yum). All of this is my bounty. And that’s gotta be more than enough.