Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Status Quo

In my family we often joke about "maintaining the status quo." The joke comes from my great uncle, who used the phrase to express his essential intractability. Whenever anyone asked him to do anything -- certainly anything business- or money-related -- he would say he intended to maintain the status quo.

As you can imagine, not much ever changed in my great-uncle's world. At least, not if he could help it.

Despite the fact that I have uprooted my life several times, and made several major changes over the years, I have a streak of that same impulse. It rises in situations both large and small.

For example, yesterday Dave was talking about getting a delivery of manure for the garden, and immediately a million questions popped into my head: Where would we put it? Would it smell? Would it be in bags? How much would it cost? Would it adversely affect the soil and the existing plants? Would it change the Ph?

All of these questions flashed through my head so fast I didn't even have time to ask them. Basically a huge red stoplight went off in my brain.

They aren't unreasonable questions, but it's funny how they come with a side order of panic and immediate resistance. Why can't we just maintain the status quo?

I don't know why I think that way. My family programmed me to be very cautious. Overly cautious, I'd say. It's served me well in some ways -- I tend to be conservative with money and generally careful.

Case in point: When I went to West Africa in 1994, my friends and I debated going to Timbuktu, in Mali. You'd think the opportunity to go to Timbuktu would be a no-brainer. We were already relatively close, in Mopti, and all it meant was a voyage up the Niger River. But politically the area was unstable, with a simmering rebellion by the Tuareg ethnic group and travel advisories issued by our embassy, and I argued against it. My essentially cautious nature said no way!

Chances are, if we'd gone, we would have been fine. I knew other people who went. But at the same time, I don't regret our decision -- there was a risk, and I saw no reason to take it. (From what I've read, Timbuktu is even more unsafe now.)

It's funny how this aspect of my personality can rear its head. It truly is a gut feeling, or a metal stoplight, as I describe above, sometimes warranted and sometimes not.

I get that mental stoplight now when I think about trying to buy a house in London. I see all the problems that could come with it -- the century-old buildings, the insanely high prices, the insurance and other complications. Despite my conservative financial nature, I like renting, costly in the long-term though it may be. I am maintaining the status quo.

(Photo: Discarded boots on our street. People in London often leave shoes out on their garden walls for others to take. It's an interesting custom.)


  1. I'm going to ponder this post.

  2. I've often thought that I must have some cat genes running through my DNA.
    Change always unsettles me, even when I've initiated it myself.

  3. I think I am a bit like you when it comes to that instinctive mental resistance to change. Throw in an flamable imagination and it's exhausting. I do a lot of talking myself through. I actually understand the sense of freedom of renting, especially if you've already been a homeowner. But a home you own can be a nest egg so there's that. If Dave is really taken with the idea of buying my prediction is you'll come around lol.

  4. The saying I inherited from my family is "that's an unnecessary risk". That phrase pops into my head whenever friends suggest an activity that could have dire a trip to Timbuktu.

  5. I am way too invested in maintaining the status quo. I used to hate this about myself but I have come to be more accepting of this trait. I am who I am.

  6. I think you're smart to be cautious and want to be informed. Too many people rush into situations that end up badly for them because they didn't think to ask the right questions.

    This from another cautious person. Obviously :)

  7. nobody likes change but it comes to us anyway. that said, getting a load of manure is not change, it's compost. compost is good. manure is good compost. and no it doesn't smell, at least not like poop.

  8. I love change, I like risk, I love a new adventure, so status-quo though sensible and probably more safe, feels to me like wearing several sizes too small. Buying a house in London however sounds daunting unless you are a billionaire ! Plus the responsibility of "owning",limits flight. I will say this, if you DO buy buy big enough for another pooch and a few hundred friends.You could also do the home away thing to help pay your mortgage. I have been looking at short term rentals - OMG! $$$$$ for just one person it is unreasonable! LONDON! Yikes!

  9. Your precautions don't sound unreasonable to me, and that is coming from someone who was once your polar opposite in the risk-taking department. Life and time have altered that for me. With regard to your compost, I would not worry too much. You'll be storing it and spreading it in the back garden, after all, and its usually doesn't smell bad or like poop, as Ellen has said. You can always call a garden center for more information before ordering.

    As far as buying property, if you two can afford mortgage payments in London, more power to you but in addition there are the taxes and insurance costs to consider as well as your maintenance, all of which always rise. Check the areas you want to look in for crime rates and any special problems (my area here is known for sinkholes, for example) and try to locate a history of the property and have an inspection before you buy. It will not reveal what is in the walls, so always make sure you have a healthy contingency for surprises...

  10. I live with one like you. she has a million questions about the most simple of things.It's not easy for her or anybody else. Buying things are huge challenges.

  11. Steve. Really. Maintaining the status quo with regard to gardens is almost impossible.

    However I understand the mental stoplight that comes on when considering buying a home; this is big consideration, financially and emotionally. Imagine finding yourself living next-door to Mrs Kravitz twin sister!!

    And those boots. They look in top condition.

    Ms Soup

  12. MWA: Don't ponder too much. It's not worth it. :)

    Marty: I think some cat genes are always beneficial. People who have NO cat genes often suffer for it!

    Angella: It's funny how visceral and immediate the resistance is! I think renting is the way to go for now. Dave isn't pushing for a purchase. It's more my own feeling that we ought to not be "throwing away" rent money...

    Sharon: Timbuktu is definitely an unnecessary risk. Despite the exotic name, it's mostly sand.

    Ms Moon: Me too. I see it as a positive, frankly. It keeps us out of trouble.

    Jenny-O: Caution is good! :)

    Ellen: I'm glad to hear it won't smell. I just imagined our backyard smelling like a farm. That would definitely NOT please Mrs. Kravitz.

    Linda Sue: You're an adventurous spirit, which I admire! But yes, prices are insane here. Completely insane.

    E: We might be able to afford the initial purchase, but there are a lot of contingencies. Getting a mortgage is harder here, from what I understand, and the process of buying is less straightforward than it is in the states. And yes, there are all those other expenses to consider afterwards.

    Red: It can be good to ask questions, or it can be paralyzing!

    Ms Soup: Yes, you're right. It's in the nature of gardens to change, isn't it. Just like all things! They were nice boots -- hopefully someone grabbed them.

  13. It has been worth it. I'm not done pondering yet.

  14. I like my routines - especially because I've gotten to an age where I forget to floss if I do the "bedtime routine" in the wrong order (ridiculous!). But I'm always excited & up for something new & I'd rather Mike not throw cold water on it by asking too many questions thank you very much. Or, on the other hand, if he's the one initiating the exciting thing (like our cruise), I'd like it if *I* didn't throw cold water on it. Ha!