Things don't make us happy
Ohhh, how I wanted that house.
That's all I can think about as David and I ride our bikes past "the house."
"The house," as in, it's perfect for us.
"The house," as in, it was almost ours.
When David and I were planning to get married, we each owned a home. Our plan was to sell our homes and buy one together.
It would have made more sense if one of our homes was suitable for both of us. But he declared my home was too small and his very old home needed too much repair.
So, we went house hunting.
Either he would like a house and I didn't, or, I would like a place and he didn't. We knew it would take a special house to appeal to both of us.
Finally, we found it a house with the floor plan we wanted, a dream kitchen, and plenty of outside space. The waterfront property had everything we wanted, and then some.
I loved the way it had a second floor master bedroom that looked out over water, giving the feeling you were floating in water.
You already know the end of the story because I told you before. We put money down on the house and set a closing date.
The night before we were supposed to buy it, David decided it wasn't a smart move. We still owned two houses and he was afraid owning a third would sink us financially. "What if we can't sell our homes right away? It's crazy to do this," he said.
So he backed out of the deal.
I can remember the exact date and the sick-in-the stomach feeling I had.
Emotionally, I was already living in that house. I had mentally placed our furniture. I even made it a point to meet the neighbors. We hit it off great and were making plans for the get-togethers we would have when we moved in.
You know how you make a decision then keep questioning whether it was right or wrong? We did that, at least I know I did.
The economy tanked right after we walked away from the house and property values in that community fell $100,000. Plus, we would have had to sell our homes for less than we paid for them.
I've had a few friends who got caught in that trap and they ended up losing their homes. So I know David made the right decision. But it took a while to get over my disappointment. OK, I admit it. It took a long while.
When David was trying to make me see the logic of not buying the house, he said: "Things don't make us happy. We wouldn't be any happier living in that house than we would be staying in mine."
He is so right. Things don't make us happy - at least not for long.
Feeling cherished makes us happy.
Living a life of meaning makes us happy.
I know plenty of people who live in big, gorgeous homes. But they are not happy.
I know all this in my heart.
I have never believed for one minute that any material possession can bring us more than a fleeting moment of happiness.
I've said a few prayers of thanksgiving that we didn't get caught in a financial mess by buying the house I wanted. Truth be told, I no longer want to live there.
But that doesn't stop me from thinking "what if" when we pass "the house."
Alert to how quiet I got after we rode past the house, my spouse said, "Come on, tell the truth. Would we have been any happier in that house than we are now?"
The answer is an resounding no.
It's not where we live. It's how we live and with whom we live that brings happiness.
I feel like I bathe in happiness every day of my life because we have so much pleasure built into every day. David and I both thrive on an outdoor lifestyle and we both love the same activities. We both love nature and savor every day of being outdoors in sunshine. Best yet, we share the belief that life should be more than just fun - that we are called to be there to help others. We share the same strong faith and the same resolution to live a life of meaning.
Would a new house change any of that?
Not one bit. After a brief bout of satisfaction, things don't make us happy.
I once had a friend who learned that the hard way. She is absolutely beautiful and her husband adored her. He worked double shifts to pay the mortgage on their huge home and to buy her whatever she wanted.
The problem was, there was no end to what Nancy wanted. After she filled every corner of their house with fine furniture, she wanted gemstones, the kind with lots of zeros in the price tag.
Some people have an emptiness inside them and they try to fill that emptiness with things. Of course that never works. I wasn't surprised when Nancy and Don got a divorce because she "wasn't happy."
Wise old Socrates had something to say about that: "He who is not contented with what he has would not be content with what he would like to have."