Greed by ImpulsiveCreativity on Etsy
So a while ago I talked about how I was going to go see a man about a couch.I did, in fact, go see a man about a couch. And the man was gorgeous and if the visit had been about vetting him as a suitable mate for any of my available sisters or best friends, everything would have gone swimmingly and we would have received gold stars and A+’s all the way around and I would have treated myself to a mojito afterwards, toasting my own ingenuity.
But of course the visit was not about the man, but the couch. A couch which was too small and chunky, strangely smaller and chunkier than pictured. So there were no gold stars or A+’s and we drove back home.
Then last weekend, another couch beckoned from the seedy pages of craigslist, otherwise packed with red vinyl and sad schlumpy black.
This time a ridiculously inexpensive, caramel coloured beauty, clean lined with chrome legs and a chaise - a CHAISE! Oh the reading and leg extending and curling and cuddling that would be had on that chaise!
It was a hard sell to convince Adam to take his day off to drive an hour in his huge truck to go see this thing. In order to do so I had to all but guarantee that we would be bringing it back with us. And, indeed, I thought we would. I had done all my homework, asked for pictures of any scratches or stains and the photos sent indicated minimal wear and tear - what they showed in fact, was a nice, worn look that was appealing to me.
But. BUT! When we arrived and went inside the teeny tiny apartment (seriously, just one room juggling the multiple hats of kitchenlivingroomdiningroombedroom. Our house for a moment seemed spacious and airy by comparison) the couch stood in pieces, all of the cushions taken off and piled in the corner. Adam immediately set to work re-assembling the couch as I made pleasant chitchat with the seller.
And as the cushions came together it was like a monstrous puzzle began to take shape in front of our very eyes. Stains, weird dark blotches, oily smudges where your head would rest. We all stared at it, this gorgeous creature turned Frankenstein, and the seller offered helpfully, “Those will probably come out with a bit of leather cleaner.”
We did not get the couch.
Adam was surprisingly good-natured about the whole thing. Far more-so than I would have been in the same situation.
And as we drove home with the radio blaring and Gus’ heavy head resting in my lap I kept thinking of that quote I posted a while ago by Chuck Palahniuk:
Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.
Those words rang in my head - true! Oh god, so embarrassing piercingly accurately TRUE - and I decided I was done. No more couches. No more driving. No more meeting strange men and lurking on Craigslist.
Because where does it end, this wanting? And what does it mean to be happy with what you have? And five years ago I wanted the couch we have now. Lobbied for it, saved up for it, ecstatically watched as Adam single-handedly heaved it up four flights of stairs because it wouldn’t fit in the elevator of our old condo.
I was thinking the other day how lucky we are. I struggle with this sentiment because in the conventional, financial sense of this word we are not at all, (lucky I mean). We make next to nothing, spend even less. We save, we always try to save, but with Gus and food and rent there isn’t always much left over.
But where the luck comes in, or the good fortune or the karma or the blessing, however you choose to phrase it, is that we are happy. Not extravagantly so, there’s nothing mind blowing here, no fireworks or parades, but we genuinely enjoy each other’s company and the shape and rhythm of this small live we’ve built.
Some days I feel like we are living this sweet fairy tale existence that you only really hear about from your grandparents anymore, “We lived in this tiny house that didn’t even have room for a table to eat at. We had a huge dog that ate more than we did and we didn’t have cable and I made my own laundry detergent and although we didn’t have debt, we didn’t have anything else either! But oh- Oh! We were happy.”
Sometimes it seems like you can’t have both, money and happiness. And sometimes (perhaps this is just a way to justify this imbalance, explain it, create a salve for my full heart and empty wallet) sometimes one seems to preclude the other.
Is it true? Does money create unhappiness? Does money create wanting? Does having very little mean you become happier with what you have if you can just let that wanting go?
And since we have now become accustomed to being happy with so very little, what will happen if we ever have more?