Thursday, September 29, 2016

STFU: A Serenity Prayer

We moved into our (now not-so-)new house almost exactly one year ago. I like the house a lot, obviously, or else I wouldn't have moved. It has a spare bedroom so we don't have to have sleepover parties when guests come. It's within walking distance of the ocean and coffee shops and restaurants and bars and DM and I ride our bikes around town on date nights.

It's down the street from a dog-friendly park and the elementary school, where they also host a rad farmers market on Sundays. But my children, when they're being grumpy and contrary, say they like our old house better and wish we still lived there. Like that time I sent Jackson Jay to his room and he cried, "I CAN'T LIVE LIKE THIS! MY ROOM IS THE SIZE OF A PEANUT!" Now, they're small children. And change is hard. I get that, and I don't hold it against them (very much). Being so young, I'm hoping they will eventually look back and see this house as the house of their childhood.

But even the man-child that is my husband whines about the new house on occasion. For example, we were recently hanging out with his cousins who moved to town. They're renting an ADORABLE little craftsman bungalow built in 1928 or something. And DM's like, "This place is so awesome I wished we lived here." It is super cute and has tons of personality, I will grant him that. It's in a really charming part of San Diego, close to downtown and surrounded by a fun, hip neighborhood. But it's teeny tiny, and old, and far away from the beach (I mean, at least 20 minutes ;)). It also costs more than our house even though its half the size. It's not just this one enchanting house, though. He says the same thing about other, "cuter," houses in our own neighborhood, or even imaginary houses in some fantastical nether realm ("I really need to stop using the word 'cute.'" - DM)

And in my mind (and sometimes under my breath) I'm thinking, "Are you joking me right now?!? Then why did we go through the upheaval of three arduous real estate transactions and moving and changing schools and all this DRAMA?! You're forty, not four. I didn't make you move against your will. This was a decision we arrived at together, or so I thought." In fact, the whole impetus behind moving was to head toward downtown, to be closer to work and more city-ish things. But we couldn't pull the trigger because we love our funky, beachy, surfy town at the outskirts of San Diego and we just couldn't bear to leave. And thank the lord we didn't because I just got a job a mile away from our [terrible] new house and I walk my kindergartner to school and buy local organic non-GMO fried cheese from the farmers market and we're basically a fucking Normal Rockwell painting here.

So, like, this is it. This is our life. And it's not too shabby. At least, that's how I see it. But apparently, I'm in the minority.

Just the other night we were stressing over the property tax bill and DM said "You know, if we were renting, this wouldn't be an issue." This is basically the equivalent of warning someone about the perils of face tattoos AFTER THEY ALREADY GOT ONE. Like, not helpful. At all. Of course when I say this out loud, DM replies "FINE, I guess I'm just not allowed to have any feelings or tell you what I'm thinking ever again." I mean... when it's about something that is, for all intents and purposes, irreversible (at least without arduous and painful laser treatments)? Yeah, maybe you're not.

I can't get too upset because Daddy Mack is basically the poster child for "the grass is always greener," and "buyer's remorse." At restaurants, or, for example, Cold Stone Creamery, he'll hem and haw and wiffle-waffle and then at the very last minute he makes an impulsive decision that he instantly regrets. He'll sadly consume his baked fish tacos while day-dreaming about the carnitas chimichanga that got away, or hate-eat his strange strawberry-banana-butterfinger-gummy-bear ice cream concoction. But I don't want him to think of our happy new house as baked butterfinger gummy bear tacos, you know?

Don't get me wrong. I loved our first house and feel nostalgic for it too. It will always hold a special place in my heart, kind of like how I imagine some people feel about their vintage two-seater sports car they had to trade in for a family wagon. But, you know, a two-seater sports car isn't real practical for a family of four plus two dogs.

Funny random small-world side-note - one of the partners at my new law firm actually owns our old house! So I suppose if DM and the kids really want to go back, I could send them for a visit :) Or we could arrange a house-swap.

Anyway, this new house debate is representative of a larger discussion regarding whining about things that you can't change. How does the serenity prayer go?

Dear God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I think what God was trying to say here was: Quit yer damn bitchin'.

As my mom always used to say, don't complain about it unless you have an actual solution.

I was talking to my brother and sister about our mom's old adage, and my brother said, "See, I totally disagree. Validation is so important. You have to let someone know their feelings are heard." "Spoken like a true millennial," I said. But then he reminded me about my anxiety and how DM and I learned this wondrous tool from Dr. Psych mom:

Instead of minimizing her feelings, "try to meet your wife where she is in her anxiety and stress. And, like a magic trick, she will actually get less stressed." True story.

So okay, fine, one point for the young millennial with feelings ;)

And, as DM reminds me, not everyone has a blog where they can bitch about things. Some people have to complain the old-fashioned way. And that's legitimate, I suppose.

Still. Pity parties should have time limits, shouldn't they? Like birthdays at those kiddie places where they kick you out when your time's up. Move along people! What's the point of repeatedly grousing about something that just "is what it is?" At what point does it cross the line from being therapeutic to you being a big fat whiner pants?

A couple months ago my BFFs were in town and I witnessed a moment of pure parenting genius. One of Claire's kids was crying about something and she said "Oh man that's so sad! Let's cry about it for 10 seconds and then we need to stop, okay?" Then she slowly counted to 10, and in some mystical feat, the kid stopped crying! (Editor's note: I tried it, and my children appear to be impervious to this particular brand of parenting wizardry.)

I guess that's essentially what blogging is for me, except instead of 10 seconds its 1,000 to 3,000 words :) Like journaling, or writing out your "To Do" list before you go to sleep. It's basically dumping the pity party out of my head onto "paper" so that it's no longer taking up real estate in my brain. And I guess that's how I should think about it the next time some big or little person comes to me to get their grump on. Get it all out. Wrap it up. Tie a nice little bow around it. And let it gooooo.

This place is the WORST.
Reminds me of this crazy friend of a friend we hung out with in the Virgin Islands who would always say, while drinking rum cocktails on a secluded white sand beach with crystal blue waters lapping at his toes, "I hate this beach! This beach sucks!"


  1. You are holding the gratitude and perspective for your family! Along with my husband and daughter, I live in a shoebox in Silicon Valley. We're walking distance to downtown, have farmers markets nearby, great city amenities, etc. If my daughter were to complain about her room size, I'd tell her we should get rid of some of her toys so she'll have more space. If my husband were to drool over another house, I'd tell him how much it cost and to let me know when he's ready to buy it for me. Then I'd suggest some project I'd like to do to the house (that he'd most likely recoil from) as a way of making it more charming/liveable/us/etc. My response would sound very loving because im not trying to antagonize. I'm also not trying to be mean, but I do want them to think twice before complaining to me, and to build up their own sense of perspective.