I’m trying to be happy with what I’ve got.

Since we moved out of our flat in London six years ago to the utopian experiment of Letchworth Garden City I have wanted to extend this house.

I have note pads full of little hand drawn plans and ideas which all culminated into a fabulous design from local architects Pentangle Design. Then the long process of planning was finally granted shortly after I began my DIY and décor blog Whack It With a Hammer.

Then we got the builders quotes…

As we looked at them our hearts sank, they were all about the same amount and all too much. Then we looked closer and realised that these quotes were minus VAT, a kitchen, bathroom and flooring.

Everyone in this town seems to have had or be having an extension and they all give the same warning – “It’ll cost more than the original quote.”

“Why can’t we just be happy with what we’ve got?” sighed my husband.

Yes why? We both grew up with siblings in houses of a similar size, no ensuite, no playroom and didn’t feel we missed out on anything so why can’t we happily live here? Does the kitchen diner have to be the ‘heart of the home’ as trotted out by every wannabe interior designer or is it really about the people in it?

The friends I have told about this conversation have had many different reactions ranging from; head to one side, “Being happy, bless him. He’s so sweet.” to, conspiratorial whisper, “We can’t afford ours either! I mean is it worth the debt? I’d rather buy a sports car!”

I resolved that rather than listening to the suburban housewife in my head nagging about what we haven’t got I would embrace the inner hippie that still sings in my heart and think about what we have got – a lovely family, enough food, good friends and a pretty house.

I would practise mindfulness.

After the school drop off I sat, eyes closed and tried to concentrate on my breathing but I knew it was nearly time for Homes Under the Hammer and that made me feel agitated (if I’m going to sit on the sofa doing nothing I may as well watch TV right?).

My phone buzzed, PPI. I scrolled through my Facebook feed and my eyes jumped across memes of wellbeing about ‘today being a gift’ so you should ‘do something amazing’ and how ‘strong people are sad too’ or was it ‘sad people are strong too’ I forget. I should be mountain climbing and eating quinoa while being knocked down and getting up showing my scars as a badge of honour. The thing is, I have to go and buy potatoes and toilet roll.

I wander into town and browse in the amazing David’s Bookshop because its a nice place and I can. I feel calm around books. Look at me browsing in a book shop on a sunny day, I might go and buy bread from the bakery and pretend I’m French. Then my eyes are drawn to the adult colouring books. This makes me inexplicably angry. I try to work out why. I think its because someone has thought of a way of taking something most of us enjoyed doing as a kid and sold it back to us for £6.99 with added bullshit. The happiness industry appears to be catching up with the sliming industry.

I go home, agh this house gets on my nerves. The walls are grubby (that one will be knocked through when we extend) the furniture doesn’t fit (we’ll custom make it when we extend) the floors are scratched (no point doing them until the builders have finished)

I need to do something. Out comes my hand sander and walnut floor varnish and I start work at the top of the stairs. As I listened to the radio and varnished the floor one board at a time first to one side then the other I started to calm down. As I saw the orange scratched surface transform into a deep dark brown I felt a sense of achievement, happiness. On the third coat I imagine Mr Miagi from Karate Kid is training me for a life changing fight. This is my mindfulness, this is my adult colouring, wax on wax off. I can make this house work for us without getting in debt for the next twenty years. There’s a lot to do and it might not make the pages of Ideal Home but I’ve worked on a makeover show so I know how these things are faked for the cameras. I can try and fall in love with this house again.

So, the moral of this story is, if you really want to find inner peace and feel a sense of self worth you can’t buy it so don’t fall for the soft manipulation of the happiness industry you should just come on over and help paint my house.

(Well it was worth a try, I wonder if I can get David Wolfe to make it into a meme).



4 thoughts on “The Stairway to Happiness

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