The “Slow” Way To Be Happier With Less

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Photo by Alex Woods on Unsplash

His baby was maybe a year old, give or take a few months. He had learned to walk recently. He shuffled over to the dog bowl and grabbed a handful of pellet-like dog food. First, he tried to eat it himself. His attentive parent discouraged from doing so. He lumbered over to the dog with a hopeful grin, and shoved the food into his face. It was a hilarious display.

I have two kids myself, and I’m too old to have more (at least in my mind). I still love other people’s kids. This feeling contrasts to how I felt before I had kids. Back then, I did not enjoy other people’s kids. I wanted my own kids and seeing other kids reminded me of what I did not have. Friends would say, “Oh, you’re so lucky you don’t have to deal with this craziness.”

My imagined response was, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself.”

We eventually had two kids. Almost a decade later, I’m still sensitive to childless couples. You never know if it’s by choice or circumstance and so I never bring up the topic.

Today, I could not imagine having another baby, but I still love to see other people’s babies.

My wife wants one. I don’t. I love dogs, but I only like other people’s dogs. I don’t want the responsibility of walking a dog or making care arrangements whenever we go on vacation. I don’t want to deal with vet bills, torn furniture or poop cleanup. I went through that with two cats. It was enough. Oh, but let me spend time with someone else’s dog or cat, and I’ll love every minute of it.

Six years ago we bought a house in a neighborhood named after its plethora of tall oak trees. I loved it at the time because it was other people’s trees. Now that I’ve been living here all these years I feel a guilty disdain for them. Yes, I know trees benefit our ecosystem in ways I’ll never fully comprehend.

Every other year it costs over $1,000 for a tree company to perform routine maintenance. And then there’s the leaf cleanup every November and December. If you live in an area of dense trees, you know the pain.

Rent Or Own? It’s A Tough Call

Babies. Dogs. Trees. I love them, but I don’t want them. Ownership entails responsibility and expense. I can enjoy playing with a friend’s baby for a few minutes and then say goodbye when I leave their house — no diapers, no house-proofing or worrying about what the baby will do next. It’s the same with dogs. Give me ten minutes with a dog, and I’m good for a month. And if I’m desperate to hug a tree? I can always visit a park or go for a hike on a trail.

Of course, there’s the other side of the coin. Babies give meaning, love and emotional satisfaction. Dogs provide companionship and love. Trees provide an abundance of benefits. Plus, they look nice.

There are things I own that I wish I didn’t. I hate owning cars. I’d prefer to enjoy other people’s cars (renting) when the mood strikes. We live in the suburbs and two cars are a necessity.

I own a house too. It is a money pit. I’m torn about this one. I like the idea of owning a home. I love the stability of being in a good neighborhood, a nice place for my kids to grow up and make friends. I hate the expense and the restriction on my freedom.

We can’t move on a whim. Selling a house is a major headache. I rented apartments in New York City and Jersey City for many years before I ever owned a home. I got along just fine without the emotional trauma of not owning a plot of land. So, I guess I could be happy renting instead of owning.

I Wouldn’t Change A Thing

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change any of my decisions or question my desires.

I desired children and had two of them. That has been a challenging but wonderful experience.

I desired a house and bought one. Home ownership is frustrating, especially if you live in a fifty-nine year old home with lots of surrounding trees.

I never desired pets, but I inherited two and came to love them. The ending for both was painful. Do I want to go through that again?

I desired nice cars with state of the art tech. The love affair always ended after a few months. I’m convinced it was necessary to waste money on cars. Here’s why. If I had never owned a nice car, I would spend my time dreaming about acquiring one.

Everything Has A Cost

Some of the things I’ve craved have turned out to be positive experiences, like children. Some of my desires have been mostly positive but sometimes negative, like pets. Others have proved stressful, but still worthwhile, like home ownership. Other desires have proven worthless, like luxury cars.

I still develop desires and cravings. These days, my default response is doubt and skepticism. I question what I need to give up in return and ask myself if it’s worth it. It’s a simple cost benefit analysis, and it took me forty-seven years learn that lesson.

Written by

Experimenter in life, productivity, and creativity. Work in Forge | Elemental | Business Insider | GMP | Contact: barry@barry-davret dot com.

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