The year was 2001 of the new millennium. We survived the Y2K scare, which was a big deal for software developers like us. The world was looking bright, shiny and new, with unlimited possibilities. Money was flowing into our bank accounts. More money than either of us had ever seen before in our lives.
We were having so much fun buying fancy new vehicles, a new camper for our travels, a big house with a master suite and three other bedrooms, two living rooms, a sun room and a big dining room. The kitchen was huge, about the size of our first apartment, which was really a joke because neither one of us cooked. But what the heck, it came with the house.
We put the house on 35 acres with an unrestricted view of Pike’s Peak, a 14,115 foot snow capped mountain. Herds of wild antelope run through our land. Covey of quail circled the house in the morning light.
We had furniture made to order, designed to survive the dryness of the Colorado plains. Two six foot couches barely made a dent in the space of our family room. We could have played football in there.
The artwork scattered around our home were all numbered and signed limited edition prints and sculptures. Our home was a place of beauty. I know it had the “Wow!” factor because that was the first word out of any visitor’s mouth.
We had MADE IT.
Then March of 2001 rolled around. My wife, Cee, fell critically ill, went into a four month long coma with multiple organ failure. In a heartbeat, everything changed. The company we were working for went into bankruptcy. We lost our medical insurance. Cee was kicked out of the hospital before she could even sit up and feed herself. I needed to do all of her nursing and physical therapy so I wasn’t able to look for work.
As we defaulted on payment after payment, I knew we had to take action before we were living under a bridge somewhere. I started liquidating everything, turning it into cash so we could walk away from our dream home and start to rebuild our lives. The last thing to go was the custom furniture. After the buyer had loaded it all into the moving van and driven off, we sat in the two remaining chairs, looking around the echoing, empty house. We had thought we’d be devastated, depressed, sad… but instead we found ourselves laughing. Really laughing. Hurting in your belly, rolling on the floor laughing.
When we could finally breathe again, we started talking. There was a lightness to both of us, a freedom that we had not anticipated. All those things were beautiful, and we enjoyed them, but they weren’t us. We had been keeping up with the Jones’ and we didn’t know we had been doing it. We didn’t even know anyone named Jones. We just had a lot of money, and did what people do when they have a lot of money. We surrounded ourselves with stuff. More stuff than two people could ever need or want.
Now we live in a 2,000 square foot house, which is just right for us. We have just the right amount of furniture, just the right amount of stuff. We have plenty of room here to stretch, both physically and spiritually, not being weighted down by all that stuff.
I’m glad we had that lesson ten years ago. I like the people we’ve become. Life is good. Life is fun. Life is simple.
Written in response to the WordPress Daily Prompt: Keeping up with the Jones’.