giving things up to get the gifts

the entry to our small, cozy, wood heated apartment

We live on a beautiful hill in a property that consists of approximately 3500 square feet of renovated space, with  about 900 more to renovate somtime in the future.  There is a large B&B kitchen, a pottery studio, a wine cellar, three large, luxurious guest rooms with ensuite.  When you subtract all those spaces from the total, it leaves about 700 square feet.

That would be our apartment.

Now, had you told me eight years ago, when we bought this property, that in 2010 we would still be living in four not-very-easy-to-heat rooms, none of which is larger than a small bedroom in any suburban house - while running a business out of one of them - I would have sniggered.  Grinned.  No way.  Ok, well, maybe for the first year, but we would get our real space done.  By 2004 at the latest.

Well, 2004 came and went, as did 2005, 2006 and the rest of the years in between.   And we are still here.  Chopping wood for three stoves, keeping the propane heat turned down low, as the guests enjoy the best of what this property has to offer.  We've done it because up to this point, this is what was required of us to make this project a success.

In my mind, when people want to become financially independent, the most failures occur because people are simply not willing, or don't see the absolute necessity, of making sacrifices.  I mean really big cuts in lifestyle. Instead, often they get themselves more in the hole, as if that big nut every month will be motivation to get their business idea off the ground.  As if chasing just to keep up will bring some degree of feeling good about being independent.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

People just fool themselves into believing that they need the things they think they need. They don't need the half of it all. And with the savings they could create their dreams.  I know this to be true.  I know because I have done it.

I often joke that one of the saddest days of my life was handing over the keys of my BMW to its new and rightful owner on the day before we moved to Italy.  It's not really true, but that day does remain with me today because it was the day I really said goodbye to a traditional lifestyle based upon what I thought was living big.  As I watched the lights of my beloved black car with its black leather heated seats and Bluetooth-before-it-was-called-Bluetooth electronics and sassy exhaust pipes drive away on that rainy German night, I felt the spiral of downward social mobility yank inside my gut.

There would be more sacrifices that would dwarf the loss of my beautiful 330D.  Many of them.

But the interesting part of it all was that as things like regularly shopping for clothes and bi-weekly dinners out and comfortable heat out of a gas line got scratched from life's plan, other things clearly came into being.  All of the life's energy that we saved was put into creating a nest. A haven.  A beautiful little spot in the middle of a beautiful big spot.  A place for people to come and find, I don't know, peace?  Themselves?  Joy?

Boy, that sure beats a new pair of jeans every couple of months, don't you think?

So I sit here tonight, dog and husband on the sofa, wood burning stove blazing, warm pot of veal stew bubbling on top of it, thinking, and there was a time that I saw this as a sacrifice.  Living small.

I've changed.  A lot.  Because I really have no desire, none whatsoever, to live big ever again.

Funny how that happened.