Sunday, May 17, 2009

easy off

I have this friend in the States, I've known her a long time.  She's wealthy by any standard and whenever I'm with her I have this sense of it, from her really nice cars to terrific clothes to fancy house and private schools. It's like a spa retreat, visiting this friend.  She's unaware of her largess mainly because she's never been accustomed to anything different. Her life is all she knows and it's basically what she expects.

Here we live in a house that is below the standard of normal or even below below normal in the States. There isn't a housing inspector in the US that wouldn't cite this place for a variety of codes, from the holes in the roofing to the termites out of control to the broken this or that or whatever else. I am not saying I am entirely digging this, in fact some days it's nearly too much. But this is life here and our house is not as nice as some but nicer than most.  

On one of my worse days I was complaining about our stove, a stove that has no temperature control in the oven and needs to be lit with a lighter every time. The stove that runs out of propane in the middle of dinner. Beyond the rickety status of things it's filthy, it was in this house when it flooded and here it remains, a battered thing like no oven I've ever seen before I moved here.  So I was on a rant to J, taking stock of all I found unbearable in some sort of roundabout effort to convince him we should spring for a new one, it'll still be the same size but it'll work and it won't be so, well, gross. A friend of ours from the village was here when we were talking about it and he chimed in too, yes see you can get a new one in town. And maybe if you do you can give this one to my mom, because our stove isn't as nice as this.

And in that moment I, like my friend in the States was largely unaware of her largess. I am like my friend living there but living here, with my high standards and supposed expectations, of my discomforts unbearable and yet completely without a clue about how much of the world goes around. I'd feel even more ashamed of this if I wasn't at least trying but in so many ways it makes me want to try a little more.  Because at the end of the day the damn stove works, it works and I use it and I cook my family dinner on it and it often sucks but it works and no one is getting poisoned and no one is going hungry and that should be enough right there.


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24 comments:

Ms. H said...

Thanks, I needed that reminder.

:)

alejna said...

That does really put things in perspective. Thank you for making me think, as ever.

But I do hope you get a new stove...

Magpie said...

It kind of makes you wonder- is there one person who has everything, and one person who has nothing? Because, it's like we all have stuff, and some people have more and some people have less, so where's the end of the line?

Karen said...

sigh, and a thank you. Was just feeling rather crammed into our two bedroom condo with three rowdy boys and extremely introverted husband.
make vow to rally now & re-focus today's energy on what we have...herbs growing on the back deck and flowers on our front steps, a cool unfinished basement plenty good for playing on hot days when we can't afford or desire the central air, a ceiling fan over the dining room and a never ending supply of interwebs!

Kyla said...

We're all spoiled in ways someone else isn't, I guess.

krista said...

i battle with this daily. i grew up one foot out the trailer, one out the duplex. growing up in southern california, uber aware of all that i did NOT have, rather than what was more than i needed. i struggle now with the need versus want, the desire vs the contentment, the wanting my daughter to feel secure in love and hugs rather than the purses and limos on prom night, knowing full well how much we want to be the princess, if only for one night.
*sigh*

hypoglycemiagirl said...

My major complaint about life in Scotland is that the water pressure isn't as good as in Scandinavia. Oh, dear, it takes a little longer to rinse my hair and I freeze a little more. Sheesh.

ewe are here said...

Gaining perspective can be an interesting re-awakening sometimes.

Wacky Mommy said...

"...our stove isn't as nice as this."

okay, i needed that.

kristen said...

i love that actually, that you get the opportunity to look at your life from such an amazing perspective.

if you get a new stove, than your stove could pay it forward to your friend. it's a beautiful perspective, friend. xo

deb said...

It's all about perspective, isn't it?

Bon said...

i had a stove like that when we lived in Slovakia. i liked cooking on propane, actually...but the oven itself? everything i cooked was rocks, basically. but the problem wasn't the stove...it was what i was used to, MY problem, my lack of skill.

i think so much is like that. i feel pressure, living in our own house these past few years for the first time in my life, that everything be clean and tidy and kept up...not fancy necessarily but still pretty nice...and i don't know who the fuck i'm trying to impress sometimes. because in the end, the place is decent and my kids will not remember in 50 years if the freaking deck needed stain.

you are trying. i so wish we were all trying. i wish our cultural raison d'etre was to try. imagine what we could do with our energy if we refocused ourselves and our economies based on totally different priorities?

i miss you too. :)

de said...

I've been thinking a lot about what gluttony is, and it is not only seeking out more, but it's taking more when less will do, even if more happens to be just hanging around. Not a lot of wiggle room.

flutter said...

There is a saying, that the man who started the company that The Boy works for said...and we keep it in a frame.

"I don't have everything, but I have enough."

Enough, is, well...enough.

wheelsonthebus said...

Well, perspective sure helps. Want and need are two very different things.

Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

I used to think like this. I need to get back there again, cause life is so much more pleasant when you are counting your blessings instead of your pennies.

Thanks for this. Very timely for me.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I lived in E. Europe too and I was a horrible, horrible cook there, partly because I was a horrible cook ANYWHERE but also because the equipment was so different. It had a learning curve, and I hadn't the patience for it. So. I'm wondering. 1> Are other people's stoves as gross as yours and if not, can they tell you how to clean it? I'm sure you know how to clean : ) but maybe they have a kind of detergent you don't know about. And 2> can you, like, apprentice with someone? to learn how (and what) to cook on that equipment?

When I lived in Lithuania the locals thought I was a pig because I was so bad at cleaning my apt. Living overseas is one big huge challenge to one's assumptions!

Z said...

I'm not so sure that you should feel obliged to cope with something you find difficult and frustrating, when it could be made easier and more pleasurable for you, simply because some other people have it as bad or worse than you do. An apparently small matter such as that can colour your whole attitude after a while - it's not as if you're trying to recreate your previous lifestyle, just to cook edible meals for your family. You're coping with unfamiliar ingredients, not having former 'essentials', less space and comfort - but then when the stove goes out or anything dropping on it has to be thrown away because it's dirty it can come close to the last straw.

When you get your new stove and everyone looks and says how wonderful it is, and you know it's still less than most people have in the US and cooking is still a matter of patience and adjustment but you can't say so because that really would sound princessy and picky, that's when you will really appreciate what you've got and be grateful.

Regina Dwarkasing said...

Jen,

Like the other commenters I want to say thank you, for letting us once again realize how lucky we are (in most ways, not all!)

Regina

painted maypole said...

hitting a little close to home today

thanks

deezee said...

I think it's about finding the balance, the ability to see our privilege and appreciate it, yet not unnecessarily enduring what we need not when we encounter a struggle. As others have said, if your getting a new oven improves your life and you can gift your old oven to someone and improve theirs, that is using your advantage in the positive.

And maybe you were just being reflective here, and already now all of this...

hele said...

dude. you are a pioneer. you rock ahead so that the rest of us can follow.

so keep swinging that ass to the music and soon the world might do the same :)

Janet said...

I think the thing about Western culture is that we quickly acclimate to what we have. And then we want more. I'm not judging, for I am entirely guilty of it as well. Not to the extent that some are, but still: I am a princess.

mamatulip said...

This is amazing, how you do this to me in just three paragraphs.

Amazing.