For several years, my wife and I lived in our house and did little work on it aside from cleaning and basic maintenance. It seemed to go on almost by itself, keeping us warm and comfortable. Then, something major went wrong. We needed a new heating system and to fix the roof.
My wife started watching HGTV, the home building channel, and I joined her. We saw houses changed from rat traps to beautiful mansions in a few months and at relatively affordable prices. Once we watched such programs, everything in our house seemed in need of improvement.
We didn’t realize at first that these programs were basically long commercials created to make viewers dissatisfied with their homes, so they’d invest in new ones or renovations. All of a sudden, we were noticing things that “needed” to be fixed or updated. The ceiling was cracking, the kitchen didn’t have enough counter space, the deck was moldy, the living room was too dark, and the bathroom too small.
Before watching HGTV, the idea of an out-of-date kitchen or bathroom had never occurred to us. One minute, we thought of the house we lived in as a home, complete and satisfying. The next, it was deficient and lacking. Once we began to look through the lens of some image of perfection and think of our home or the world as needing to be fixed⎼ or we expected things to remain as they once were, new looking, young looking⎼ everything began to look old.
Then we actually undertook the needed major renovations, and we realized the prices on tv were shockingly low and timelines unbelievably short. The images of perfection were deceptive.
This experience pointed out that I could do the same thing with my life as a whole, or with myself, that we did with the house. Suddenly, I felt out of date. If I started thinking of my life in terms of characters in movies or tv, or myself in terms of how others appeared to live, I could get lost or feel lacking in some way. If at the gym I compared how many lifts I did to some of the bigger, younger men, or how long I did aerobics in comparison to other people, I would lose a sense of what my body was able to do and needed to do in that moment….
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