The Myth of the Greener Grass

“The grass is always greener over the septic tank.” Erma Bombeck

So why do we long for that which we do not have?

One theory is that we are just built with restless spirits, that we are “prone to wander” as one hymn writer put it. And the theory is perhaps true to some extent. Maybe the longing for more is indeed part of our DNA. We must pursue better lives for the sakes of our families and ourselves. But are we being drawn to a mirage believing wholeheartedly that there is an oasis out there – anywhere?

 An illustration of this kind of longing for more can be found in the children’s story “Three Billy Goats Gruff”. My mother used to read this to me when I was little. I understand that this is where the idiom “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” comes from.

The story is of three male goats. They are grazing one day and look across the bridge that divides their pasture from the next.  They see that it looks greener and better than their own. After a short discussion about the perils of the trip, they decide to chance it. After all, the grass is greener.

As they approach, they encounter the goat-eating troll who guards the bridge and who threatens them if they dare try to cross. The youngest (and smallest) of the three is sent to “test” the bridge and the troll. When the troll threatens to eat the goat, the youngster begs the troll for his life and also promises that there is another goat, larger than he, who will follow him. The larger goat would make a better meal, he tells the troll. And so the troll releases the young goat to wait for the larger one.

As the larger goat approaches, the troll threatens to eat him.  But the larger goat reasons with the troll that an even bigger goat is close behind and that he would make an even tastier meal. The second goat gets a pass.

The third goat is indeed the largest of the three and the troll’s mouth waters as the goat crosses the bridge. However, the goat is big enough that he is able to overpower the troll and toss him off the bridge into the river. All three goats eat their fill of the greener grass but become so fat they can hardly walk home.

This tale has several versions but all of them illustrate the insatiable need for more. The irony of this tale is that the goats grazed in the greener pasture and were over-satisfied to the point of revulsion. The troll’s lust for bigger and better left him empty and unsatisfied.

There. Even fairytales suggest that there’s always been a chase for the perfect life.

Mind you, my chase for “Bimini” is never about my family. I do not yearn for greener pastures when I look at my boys, their wives, their children, my husband. Instead of having an itch for someone better, I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s all real – now for over 37 years. I am blessed!

* * *

He had me at the crooked smile.

The first time I met Dennis he was sitting backstage at the Crystal Pistol playhouse at Six Flags Over Georgia in Atlanta. I had just arrived there as one of the performers in the summer musical review called “America’s Passing Parade”. He was a seasoned veteran – having worked in that show springs, summers, and falls for seven years. That summer, 1974, was to be his last, however. He had finished college and was headed to seminary that fall. I was in between my junior and senior years of college.

A few days before my rehearsals started I went backstage during the weekend show schedule to meet with the wardrobe lady. I was supposed to be measured and fitted for costumes for the show in which I was cast. But who should be hanging out in the costume office? The guy with the crooked smile  – all tanned with a shock of blonde hair swept artfully across his forehead. He looked up, saw me, and smiled. Perfect. Not his teeth necessarily. There was an indent in front from years of playing trumpet and a couple of chips missing from playing baseball for many years. It was a crooked smile but I was hooked.

So, I already have a perfect family and a wonderful life. Why keep looking over the horizon expecting the next plateau to give me a better view of the next perfect spot?

My friend, Claire Cloninger, in her book, A Place Called Simplicity softens the blow a bit by suggesting that we are “Homesick for Eden.” When you put it that way, maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all. It almost sounds noble when you consider that maybe we are really seeking to regain the ideal relationship with our Creator that was set in the ideal place of tranquility and satisfaction.

Okay. Let’s see where this leads.





1 thought on “The Myth of the Greener Grass

  1. Judy Gemmill

    Nan, I finally got a chance to read your blog. We have a lot more in common that I thought. It is refreshing to read your thoughts, and you give a very picturesque summary. I love the sea, too, and it’s always my place of tranquility and visions of writing. Thank you for doing this. It’s very encouraging to me. I’m going to pass along to my daughter, Alli. She started a blog and I think your blog will give her the encouragement to continue. Writing is a gift and it can be the place where hearts are touched and life is expressed and lived. Blessings, Judy


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *