Thursday, July 23, 2009

Housing Appraisals and Poetry Expectations

The other day, my friend and I sat by her pool, drinking yummy wine from New Zealand and bemoaning the state of the housing market. Yes, sitting by the pool, crying in our wine about how much our houses were worth during the housing bubble and how much they're worth now. Part of me has to laugh at that picture: we're luxuriating by a pool, sipping wine from the other side of the world, while we moan about the state of housing. I think of all the residents of developing nations who would be happy to live in our garden sheds, and I shake my head. I think of the dreadful housing years of the early 80's when my parents had to bring money to a closing, and I know that we're really lucky, even if it doesn't feel like it.

I've known people who have gotten distressed when recent home appraisals came back with lower figures than expected: "They say my house has only gone up in value $20,000 in the past 3 years. I know my house is worth more than that." Pre-bubble, most people would be THRILLED to sell a house and walk away with $20,000 in their pockets. But the housing bubble made all of us in South Florida think that our houses should double, triple, quadruple in value every year--because for a few years, in South Florida, they did.

I think of that situation as I survey my poetry progress. If my 21 year old self should appear, she'd be thrilled with what I've managed to accomplish. She'd be intrigued by my publications, but I bet she'd be more interested in the poems that I've written in the past ten years. She'd say, "Wow. I didn't know I'd turn out to be capable of doing this." She'd be impressed with how often I write. I doubt she'd say, "You could do more if you added an extra hour or two of writing and sending out mailings, you know." She'd say, "I'm so impressed with what you do each day. Wow. I should have given up T.V. sooner."

My 44 year old self is not as generous. She looks at some of the poets who are celebrating book publications, and she wonders what is wrong with her. She castigates herself for the days she doesn't write, instead of celebrating the days that she does write. She wonders why she didn't have her first book published when she was 25, and where she would be now if she had.

I need to get to the point where I'm profoundly grateful for my metaphorical poetry house, which is beside a lovely pool of publications, well stocked with a wine cellar of figurative language, where I can invite friends to be languid in the hot, summer sun.

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