The Grass is Always Greener Syndrome

“An almost-new home tucked away on 3 acres.  1800 square feet 3 bed 2 bath home with hardwood floors and sunny kitchen.  Double garage, shop, chicken coop, small pond and large, deer-fenced veggie garden.  Come see where you’d rather be living!”

In another couple of weeks, the Skipper and I will have lived in our first rural home for one year.  It’s been a blissful year in many ways, and we’ve never regretted our decision to buy this particular house and property.  And yet, I’m regularly keeping an eye on the real estate ads…just in case.  It’s so hard to re-wire the consumer brain!

We moved houses often when I was growing up, though mostly within the same city, and we never had to change schools because of the moves.  Both of my parents had very disrupted childhoods thanks to regular big moves, and both were traumatized by the experience of having to constantly make new friends, figure out the new school, and learn about new (local and international) cultures.  They wanted to spare us that difficulty, and they were largely successful.  But I can’t seem to get the restlessness out of my neurological pathways :).

I love this house.  It’s just the right size: room for everything, but no unused space that we don’t know what to do with.  There’s all the flexibility we need to shift functions to different spaces, add a suite, do a little updating as we the mood (and pocketbook) strikes us, and it’s totally functional now.  It’s bright and open and structurally sound.

I fell in love with the garden as soon as I saw it.  It had raised beds ready to go, almost no lawn, and the English country style colourfully chaotic flower beds that tug at my heartstrings.  It had major food garden infrastructure: apple trees, grapes, raspberries, blueberries, kiwis.  It had an adorable pond and fountain, a gazebo, a small greenhouse.  After our condo and apartment life, the half-acre size felt manageable.  And the location!  We still feel like the luckiest people around.

And yet.  As we adapt to rural life and let our dreams run wild, as we fantasize about working from home or even making some income from our land, we wonder if there is really enough property here.  Much of the land is in a steep, forested ravine–great for privacy, not so great for food crops.  We’ve got space for a chicken coop, but the pond wouldn’t really work for ducks.  There’s no bocce court.  We are right on a not terribly busy road, but there are a couple of new subdivisions in the works, which might add significant traffic noise over the years to come. etc etc.  I fight the urge to look at the MLS listings out of habit.  When I can no longer fight, I rarely see anything that compares to this, but that doesn’t stop me from browsing!

I try to remind myself of the incredible, innovative ways that urban farmers are using small spaces.  There are many ways that we can adapt our property to needs that might evolve over time.  And at the moment, I have raised bed space I haven’t even planted, and we’re doing our best to keep up with what is growing!  We may not be able to grow all of the grains and dry beans that we might eat in a year, but that’s not really an efficient use of small spaces anyway.  And, really, there’s no way we could handle more than we have on our plates at the moment–there are not enough hours in the day!  So I know my restless mind isn’t really coming from a sense that something is lacking in our home.

I was inspired by Sharon Astyk‘s  recent turmoil over the possibility of moving her family.  They’ve invested many years and much blood, sweat, and I’m sure tears into their current homestead, but they suddenly became entranced by another home and property for sale nearby.  That home brought into sharp focus all the things that had been nagging them lately about their current situation, and they thought very seriously about making a move.  In fact, from the way she was writing about it, I was sure their hearts were already moving, and it was their heads that were having trouble coming to grips with the change.

But I was wrong; they’re staying put.  Lots of reasons, but what they found was that just contemplating moving forced them to take stock of what was not working for them in their current home, and then they were able to think through what they might do about it.  And lo, there were solutions to be had.

The posts helped me to see that sometimes that sneaky consumer-brain is really hard to rewire.  It’s the part of me that still sees buying something new as a solution to my every passing dissatisfaction.  Don’t like your neighbours?  Don’t try to get to know them better or work together to try to build community, just buy a new house.  Had a bad day at work?  Buy a pair of shoes.  Not happy with your current life?  Buy a book or a movie and escape to a “better” one for a while.

It’s harder, but eminently more satisfying to figure out where the dissatisfaction is coming from and deal with it directly.  And it’s amazing how the desire to get out and spend disappears in the face of real action.  I’ve noticed big changes in my spending and spending time habits over the last few years.  Today, instead of looking at new potential homes, I’ve cleaned the house I have, done laundry, done a couple of electronic chores I’ve been meaning to get to for months, and sent some important emails.  I feel much better.

Now if I can just remove the MLS link from my bookmarks…


6 thoughts on “The Grass is Always Greener Syndrome

  1. I find it interesting too that we think that often moving or doing a big change will fix something in us that seems broken. But a friend of mine lived in India for a couple years and she said to me once “Amanda, you wake up the same person, with all the same issues, just in a different country.”

    I often experience that dissatisfaction that you describe even though my situation “seems” idealic. It appears we may be in transition sooner than we’d hoped which has brought it’s own load of decisions and opportunities that we did not expect.

  2. So true about traveling. You do take all of your baggage–metaphorical and otherwise–with you. And every time I travel, I long for home. Go figure!

    A new baby is the biggest life transition there is! I’m not surprised it has you taking stock and contemplating other changes. I look forward to reading about how these might unfold for your growing family…

  3. Toni Toni Toni! Love the place you’re in.

    And yes, as my wonderful Backyard Farm guru Jenny once reminded me: “wherever you go, there you are.”

    It is so tempting to lust after something bigger and better. But I’ve found that real peace comes from taking the time to mindfully observe the beauty surrounding you right at home. And also dreaming up how to pour love into making it even more precious.

    Enjoy 🙂

    1. Thanks Andrea. I need a guru too! 🙂 And you’re absolutely right, staying in the moment and in awe of what’s right in front of us is the only antidote to the bigger and better urges. I just need a regular reminder!

  4. Oh my gosh, I do this too. We moved every couple of years when I was a kid. My husband lived in one house his whole life. He hates the idea of moving. I’m always looking at real estate postings, mostly because I’d like to have something closer to five acres. But, we have invested a lot in this place and we have the possibility of paying it off in the near future. If we moved, it would certainly take longer to pay off the house and being absolutely debt free (including mortgage) is one of my big goals. But I can’t stop looking at the ads!!! 😉

  5. That’s amazing that you’re actually looking at paying a mortgage OFF! We’re in the first couple of years of ours, so that seems an unattainable dream at the moment. 🙂 The Skipper also grew up in pretty much one house his whole life, and in the village where his mom and all of her family grew up and still lived in. A whole different world. Every time we move somewhere–no matter how temporary it looks to me–he says, “I think we should stay here forever!” In this house, he has said, “You’ll have to bury me in the backyard!” LOL. I’ve managed to convince him to move many times so far though…

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