Yesterday I received some sad news for me. The are moving from El Medio Bluffs to the Huntington Palisades. I often met up with them and their nanny at Asilomar, and one of the twins who has a limited vocabulary says my name. What an honor to have my name as one of his first words. Now his sister says my name too.
While making my walk from the bluffs, I met up with them and their father and was told they will be moving in the beginning of July. Their dad says it's a good move for them. It's a larger house with a swimming pool. Then we spoke of the trade-off; no one walks around there much and neighbors keep to themselves. He said he would miss the culture of this area. We agreed that the more affluent neighborhoods are that way. I thought to myself is a swimming pool really worth giving up friendly streets? Will the family regret this choice, and, as many who move up do, will look back and say, "Those were better times."?
I've spent a lot of time in front of the television, and the shows I adored were about friendly communities: The Andy Griffith Show, Ed, The Gilmore Girls, Northern Exposure. I always wanted to live in places like those where people knew my name, and I would get to know a whole bunch of people. And now I am living in such a place. People do remember my name--even the little twins who can barely speak. Often people remember my name when I can't remember theirs. I don't know why my name seems to stick with people the first time they hear it, but it does. And they rarely just say hi; they usually say, "Hi Nancy."
In thinking about the move the twins are making, I am reminded of a particularly poignant Northern Explosure episode. Maggie O'Connell doesn't own her own washer/dryer, so she uses the laundromat. However, she finds the machines so dysfunctional that she invests in her own washer/dryer unit. She soon discovers the trade-off; she no longer gets to hear the town gossip. A major part of her social world disappears, and she finds herself lonely. In the end, she gives up the washer/dryer unit and returns to the laundromat. The convenience and good machinery was not worth the loneliness. It's far easier to give up a washer/dryer unit and return to the laundromat than to sell your new home and move back to your old neighborhood. If the twins and their family find themselves unhappy on their new street, the chances they will come back is slim to none.
This recent encounter with the twins also makes me think about wealth and why it is when we attain it that suddenly we feel we have to change our whole lives, move up and move out. There are studies that show that money is essential to happiness to a point, but past that point--as affluence goes up, happiness goes down. It's rather a strange paradox that I don't quite understand, or at least I didn't until today. Perhaps it is not the increased wealth that makes happiness go down, but the choices that are made because of the increased wealth. If those choices add up to greater isolation and loneliness, of course one's happiness will go down. Why, if we are happy where we are, when we become wealthier do we feel the need to make changes?
Perhaps we are taught we will be happier if we make those changes--"Bigger is better." Perhaps we might feel we no longer can relate to our neighbors anymore or we sense their jealousy for our good fortune. Or maybe it's just ingrained in us that this is what you do when you earn more money. You move up and move out. We are taught to be ostentatious and buy all sorts of toys or must remodel our homes. It just seems to be built into us--this way of being. But is that all really necessary especially if we were just as happy without all that?
These are very important questions to ask if you suddenly find your wealth increase. To be able to wisely take stock of who you are and who you were before that influx of money and consciously decide if you really need to upgrade your whole lifestyle could be one of the most important things you can do. It's especially important because, as is the case with the twins, going back may prove impractical. On the other hand, life is full of lessons for us--and perhaps the only way to learn is to make that move and discover for oneself that which truly brings happiness.
I always knew that living in a friendly community would make me happy. I spent nearly 20 years living in Van Nuys--an anonymous place where very few knew my name. There was no center of town and most of my neighbors didn't speak English. It was lonely. So I guess, given that, I can't help but appreciate what I have, what we all have as citizens of Pacific Palisades.
I am sad I probably will never see those twins again, and I will not see them grow up. I am sad that one day they will forget my name, but this is just the way of life. People come into our lives and then go.
I hope they find happiness in their new home and have memorable summers spent in their swimming pool. I hope the choice that is being made for them works out well and the beautiful light in their faces remain. I wish them all the best. They added so much to my life, and I will never forget them and the joy I received every time they smiled and said, "Hi Nancy."