Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Simple Life

       Awhile ago, I came to the realization that we live such simple lives. I wake up every morning about the same time (early!—see may prior Sleep essay for details regarding), eat breakfast, leave for work, catch the bus, work at the same desk, eat a home lunch, catch the bus home, and go for a workout (a three-and-a-half mile run) every third day or do one of my various hobbies on non-workout days. We eat dinner together as a family then clean up. Then I bathe, brush my teeth, read to the kids, get ready for bed, then go to sleep.
     Weekends differ only in that Friday evenings the boys attend their respective scout meetings; Saturday mornings I pay the bills and check our car's fluid levels and tire pressures, and Deanne and whoever wants to goes grocery shopping followed by a trip to the library; and Sunday mornings we all attend church.
     I recounted this realization to Deanne with giddy bemusement, commenting how boring our lives must seem to outsiders, yet to us, we have more than ample excitement dealing with the kids, health issues, and finances.  The kids' discipline, chores, needs, and homework.  And planning future trips, outings, and other fun stuff.
     She said I don't mind; I'm content.
     I remarked that our lives are plenty fulfilling too and stressful enough and I can't imagine how others deal with the stress of their more complicated lives, the most complicated life of all (short of being a drug dealer or crime boss) being the guy that lives the double-life with a hidden lover or second wife, possibly with a second set of kids. How could such a guy sleep? Did he have no conscience? Or how could he keep juggling all those balls up in the air at once—lies, deceptions, excuses, and running back-and-forth between locations? I couldn't even begin to fathom it, I have such difficulty keeping track of things and keeping things going smoothly in our own simple, straight forward lives. Such a man, I concluded must not have things under control at all but must battle, fear, and avoid endless crises, one after another—a hectic, chaotic life bound to lead (someone like me, especially) to early death.
     A week following our discussion, we had dear friends from a prior church over for lunch and the dad (of a family of five) mentioned that he told his wife “We live such complicated lives.” His face had the half-distressed, half-resigned look of “If only...”
     Now Doug is a sometimes realtor, sometimes photographer, full-time landlord of residential rental properties and fixer-uppers, part-time property manager, and full-time husband, dad, and son to parents in Wisconsin where he (and one or two of his kids and sometimes his entire family) spends a few months each year not all at once because his rental and investment properties and photography business require periodic, spread out visits. His kids are very active in swimming, soccer, and social activities, and his wife is a full—time nurse administrator, so he does most of the chauffeuring (three hours plus on the road most days). They do live complicated lives in comparison to ours, but largely by choice. They've done well in real estate and own a large, nice house in a desirable location, and I'm happy for them for it, and though Doug appears to want to simplify things, they also appear to want to keep their success going, which is understandable.  But I don't envy them in the least for their demanding, hectic, and stressful pace and lives.
     By the way, our sole expensive asset is a 2004 General Motors sedan with 35,000 miles on it purchased used two-and-a-half years ago from Craigslist for five thousand dollars. In the past, I've experienced far too much stress dealing with our used cars' troubles. I've concluded more than once I'm not cut out for home ownership, much less property rentals, where seemingly minor issues (cracked foundation, leaky roof, mold, defective materials, termites, dry rot, etc,) can cost tens of thousands to repair and lawsuits from tenants could be costly, time consuming, and stressful. Just thinking of our friends' lives makes me tired. (Also btw, we rack up only three thousand annual miles on our car, preferring to consolidate trips and stay close to home which saves time, gas, stress, and the environment. And nothing beats home cooking for tasty, economical, and healthy eating, so we eat out only once every other week or so.)
     Though not for everyone, the simple life suits us just fine, enabling us to live in and for the moment, and with and attuned to each other. And no one on their death bed has ever said, “My one regret in life is that I spent too much time with family.”

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