Sunday, July 25, 2010

None of My Business: A Friend Considers a Move

I have a close friend who I have dinner with once a week by regular appointment. After we eat, we often have long, sprawling conversations in which I take stock of my life and if we have enough time to talk, I sometimes make interesting discoveries and get put together ideas that have been swirling in the back of my brain, but that I wouldn't otherwise be able to access. I am a highly verbal person and do my best thinking out loud.  It's rare that I find someone patient enough or willing enough to allow the safe space in which to let my brain use its full potential, and I really enjoy these evenings on a deep level. A lot of times for me our conversations are a cross between therapy (in the psychology sense) and personal development. Sometimes they are more ordinary conversations, where we just allow each other to vent about annoyances and catch up on recent events in each others lives. It depends on how much time we have and what mood we are in.

A couple of weeks ago, I brought up a suggestion for my friend in one of our weekly talks. I knew that there was a condo for sale in my complex, and I thought she might want to consider purchasing it. I told her about it and during the course of the evening we both got excited by the idea.

After that conversation, my friend has been coming down and actually looking at condos in the area. Last weekend she viewed and rejected the condo I had suggested, but was interested in a different condo just across the street, which would still have been in the same complex. Today was my daughter's birthday party and my friend came early with her mother and her real estate agent and they looked at some more properties. She found one that she likes and seems to be giving it some consideration. She showed me the general location and described the place and some of the features that make it desirable, and also sketched the general floor plan for me. My friend was obviously excited, and I assumed from her comments that she preferred this last property to the others she has seen.

So, I was woken just now and was lying in bed thinking about this whole moving business, and I am surprised to find myself upset. This whole thing stirs up deep and unexpected feelings. I thought, "Aha, perfect item to practice writing about."

The thing is, I haven't given my friend my true opinion on any of this, with the exception of the first conversation in which I made my suggestion. But, on reflection, I don't think my friend has asked me my opinion directly. Instead she just tells me about her own feelings and observations about the places she is considering, and I just listen and register my general support and approval.

Thus the header. I am thinking that this whole moving thing has now moved over into the category of "None of my business." After all, my friend is an independent adult and has her own thoughts and feelings. She is perfectly capable of reviewing her choices and making an adult decision about where to live and what to buy. She hasn't asked me directly for my opinions.

I just happen to think she is making the wrong decision. I think she has gone off track, and it hurts my heart to see it. I want to say something, because she's my friend. I really care about how this whole thing comes out. I also see it as partly my responsibility, because I set the whole thing in motion. Also, if you hadn't gathered, I'm not the sort of person who is comfortable sitting on my tongue. It doesn't help that in this case that I do have strong feelings and preferences, and that they are complicated by my own decisions about where to live and what to buy. They are colored by feelings about how to live, which is partly where I am upset.

Adding to my frustration is the fact that when a family member recently was considering buying a condo, I caused all sorts of ill will and lasting damage to certain relationships by getting involved when I shouldn't have and offering opinions when they were neither asked for nor wanted. I was told in no uncertain terms that it was none of my business, and I really had no defense in the end except to offer that I had good intentions. I don't want to get into a similar mess with my friend.

I think I will work my feelings out here in writing if I can manage it. I feel my lack of skill at this the most when I feel most strongly about what I want to say.

First of all, the condo that I live in is nearly identical to the first one my friend rejected, so it's hard not to be emotional on some level. My home is a one-bedroom condo measuring a grand total of six hundred and seventy two square feet. It's about as tiny as you can find in our area, so in terms of available property to purchase I assume it will always be at the bottom of everyone's real estate listings here. Just about anything in our area will be bigger or better in some way. I feel the psychological weight of this as I drive around the neighborhood, where giant houses with three car garages dominate the landscape. Even the apartment complexes close by have two and three bedroom apartments, and their monthly rents run higher than my current mortgage payments. So I realize that I am nearly at the bottommost end of the market, and I'm sure that the resale value will suffer as a consequence.

I was only able to purchase this home at all because I saw the listing during what I hope was the absolute bottom of the 2008 real estate crash, and the property was a short sale. Even so, I had to have a lot of financial help from my family to be able to even qualify for the loan, and it was tumultuous seven months between seeing the first listing and actually getting the keys.

So my decision to live in a small condo is driven almost entirely by economic forces, and everyone who knows me probably thinks of it in those terms. I needed to get out of my cockroach infested apartment and to move close to my extended family. The smallness of the condo was reflected in its price, and the low price enabled us to buy in to this crazy housing market. For most of the people I know who have lived in the Bay Area and experience the cost of living problem, this is an adequate explanation for why I would move two adults and two kids into such a "small" living space.

I'm grateful for the economic necessity that forces me to live in a small space. Because of it, I've made some discoveries about the materialistic culture that surrounds me that have surprised me.

I think my friend is making a big mistake in considering getting a bigger place in a condo farther away. She is looking at the benefit of having a two car garage, plenty of storage space, and more room inside her home. She talks about the big kitchen and having people over to entertain. I guess as I list these things, I can see that she simply values different things than I do.

I just really love where I live. I love being able to walk to the coffee shop, the grocery store, and to the elementary school. I love our shared pool and hot tub. I love our beautiful landscaped yard and the mature trees out front.

If I could offer her my real opinion, I would say buy the other one bedroom condo, rip out the whole interior and redo it to her taste with the money she would save between the cost of the two bedroom place and this one. I think she would discover, as I have, that she doesn't really need the extra room. I think she would be better off throwing out half the stuff that weighs her down and having less storage space. I think she would be better off living so close to me and to my children.

But, I have to consider that I might be completely wrong. It wouldn't be the first time I was completely wrong about what would make someone else happy. The thing is, it hurts to hear her reject the condo that is like my own, because I feel that as a rejection of the way I am living and choosing to live. I feel the bite of the subtle criticism and the nagging suspicion that maybe if my friend feels that way, then probably my neighbors think less of me because in their eyes, I have less. I have less stuff. I have less space.

I need to remind myself that this is not about me at all. It's not about how I live or what I choose to do. I am still free to choose whatever I want, regardless of what my friend decides. If I could take something positive out of this, I think it's a defense of my own choice and way of living. I love living simply. There are a few things in my life that I feel like I am doing right. One of them is my home. I'm proud of this. Maybe another night I can explore that thread more fully.

I am finding this whole excercise soothing. I think that it may have saved me from blurting my opinions inappropriately to my friend. I hope I don't undo all the good of it by spilling the beans in this week's conversation!

I definitely have to ask myself if there's more to this story. Why was this keeping me awake at night? I just don't have the skill yet to really tap in to these issues.

1 comment:

  1. I did not spill the beans, though I have no doubt that my friend will read this someday.

    By the time we had dinner last night, I was able to let go of 90% of my upsetness and to be genuinely happy for my friend, who has made up her mind and seems satisfied with her decision.

    I continue to be thrilled that she is moving to my town. I think I was right to intuit that it wasn't the time or the space for me to insert my opinions.

    I also think the whole thing was useful in affirming my own desires and giving me some insight and clarity about how I want to live my own life, so I am actually grateful to my friend for snapping me out of my "business as usual, status quo" frame of mind and enabling me to better define my own emotions.