You might think I’m the last person to worry about bucking society’s standards.
I’m car-free in the country that worships the automobile. I don’t own a television, cell phone, or iPod. I don’t pluck my eyebrows, shave my legs, or color my hair. I spend hours each day writing about dogs without getting paid for it.
But tell me someone is coming to look at my house and I turn into lime Jello full of suspended insecurities.
Is My House Good Enough?
Half my town’s population is students. Which means that every graduation season, there aren’t enough hotel rooms to fit all the visiting families.
Many local residents rent out their homes for graduation for crazy amounts of money.
We’ve thought about it for years but never felt we could get the house ready in time. This year, after finishing some plumbing, electrical, and other projects, we’ve advertised our pet friendly house for rent over this year’s graduation weekend.
I’ve been cleaning the house to show to perspective renters. And it’s making me insane.
I can’t look at my sweet little house without seeing all the things wrong with it. Which means that I’m never finished. There’s always another job to do.
Those of you with old houses know what I mean.
You fix one crack in the plaster just to have another one appear. Paint stays fresh for about a year or two before the dozens of layers decide to let loose from the wood and beg you to strip them off.
Oh, and let’s not forget the Golden fur machine who leaves her mark ten seconds after I’ve swept every surface in a room clean.
The crazy thing is I’m usually very happy with my house. It’s exactly what I would choose for myself.
I know I could take my skills to a private bank and more than double my income instantly. I could go into debt to pay someone to keep up my home. Or I could trade up the house to a newer model with fewer quirks (and charm).
But I’ve chosen work that’s more meaningful to me than money. I’ve chosen to spend my summers sailing instead of doing house chores. And I’ve chosen to fill my home with a lovable, fur spreading entity.
I feel good about those choices. Until I think about showing my house to someone who can afford to pay $40,000 a year in tuition for their child.
That’s when I realize what my house looks like to others with more conventional, American ideas about housing.
And I start feeling bad.
Unfortunately, I can’t look to Honey for help because many dogs also compare what they have to what someone else has.
If You Have It, It’s Better Than Mine
My first dogs, Agatha and Christie, were often jealous of each other.
If Agatha started chewing on a toy, Christie would immediately find another toy and start chewing on it. As we watched, Christie would look up at Agatha. Sometimes she’d parade by her with her toy and slump down on a pillow with a loud whumpf.
Pretty soon Agatha couldn’t stand it any longer. She’d go over to Christie at which time Christie would joyfully jump up, steal Agatha’s original toy, and run out of the room with it.
Honey is an only dog. But we’ve seen the same thing happen with foster dogs.
If the other dog has it, it must be better than what I have.
The crazy thing with me is that, unlike the dogs, I don’t want what other people have.
Stop Looking at Yourself Through Other People’s Eyes
I don’t want a $750,000 McMansion with cheap Home Depot moldings in a
mediocre great room that looks like a cracker box standing on end. I don’t want a television or a car. I certainly don’t want a cell phone. And I wouldn’t change a thing about my cozy house.
But I expect to feel judged by potential renters. It’s already happening and I haven’t even met anyone yet.
I’ve got to stop looking at my life with the attitudes I’m projecting on people who will be looking at my home.
I’m just making myself miserable. And I’m acting like a dog who wants another dog’s bone. Even though I know the other dog’s bone wouldn’t be nearly as savory to me as the bone I already have.
It’s a good lesson to learn, for Honey and for me.
What triggers jealousy in your dog? Do certain things cause you to judge your own life less favorably when compared to others?