Friday, April 23, 2010

Natural-Born Consumer

"Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15).

Fail. Just chalk it up to another fail. I covet all the time. If anyone really knows me, they could describe me as such: covetous. My Wishlist attests to this. It has always been one of my most favorite hobbies to want what I don't have. Life is a game of identifying what I don't have, devising a plan on how to get it, finally owning it, and then moving on to the next item on the list. I keep little lists of things I want to buy, and then I go over my monthly budget and finances, once, twice, more than five times a week to see what it is I can afford to get this time. And sometimes, I just want, want, want so badly that I impulse buy. What a gross admission.

Let's look at what's wrong with this picture: can I really be satisfied with anything when I just want all of the time? Not really. Like I said, there's always something else on the list, and the list never ends. If I acquire one thing, there's always one more item that is added to the end of the list. Ergo, there is always something that, in my mind, I do not have, and I'm just miserable without it. Didn't you get that from my last post?

Did you ever see Confessions of a Shopaholic? Our protagonist describes her problem thus: "When I shop, the world gets better, and the world is better, but then it's not, and I need to do it again." This has been my unconscious philosophy for dealing with life. Just acquire, and you will be happy.

I'm a visual person. I can walk into a bookstore, and all of my problems go away. I am cleansed by the sight of things I don't have, and every book promises to make me into a better person -- more controlled, or more educated, or more open-minded, and of course, much happier. All, I have to do is buy it. Or perhaps I feel overwhelmed or burdened; I go to a bookstore and check my problems at the door. It becomes such a marvelously positive experience that I just have to have a souvenir of my "journey."

How shallow. Let's just all get that opinion out into the open.

I simply have too much stuff for one person my age. I knew that when I moved this past January. I saw myself buried under a mountain of merchandise with no organization to any of it. You know that feeling you get when you look at a gaping hole in someone's flesh? Your friend falls off his bike and breaks his leg with a big bone sticking out of his skin, and you shudder with absolute shock and disgust? That's what I feel when I look at the state of my finances.

So, my strategy for change begins with this mantra: find fulfillment in doing, not having. If you buy a book, read it all. If you buy a DVD, make sure you'll watch it often (may I just say, I recommend seasons 1-3 of Arrested Development for this -- you will never make a better investment for entertainment). If you have an instrument, play the living hell out of it. Write. Read. Think. Those are the cheapest and longest lasting forms of fulfillment.

Yes, I see myself drifting off the road into a ditch, and it is so difficult not to over-correct the steering wheel. In fact, I do that all of the time. I shut off all spending, making myself impossibly miserable. I need a gentle transition back to the road. Finding fulfillment in doing does necessitate spending, sometimes. (I hope this is sound logic and not justification). You have to spend money to travel. You have to buy books you want to read if the library doesn't have them. You have to buy music if you want to be able to play it. Some of that is inescapable.

Now, I'm at the end of my post, and I want to delete the whole damn thing. That would be a shame, seeing how I post so infrequently. So, I'll hit the "Publish Post" button before I think better of it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Santa Baby....

Dear Santa,

Look, I know you aren't due here for another eight months, but we seem to have a good relationship going; I behave, and you bring me stuff. Who says that only has to be one time a year? The Easter Bunny picks up your slack in the spring, my parents and family have to fork out cash and presents on my birthday... from where I sit, it looks like you have it easy. So, let's talk about what I want in the meantime.

Santa, my life is on the line. I am absolutely dying for lack of one of these:

In spite of my best efforts to save up for one, things just aren't moving as quickly as I want. You see, summer is here, dude. Summer is the time to read. Most obligations run away in the warm weather, and school work never seems as pressing.

Reading is a lovely activity. Surely you can see its merits. And my request is very honorable. I mean, how many children actually ask for books for Christmas? I'll bet you've carried your share of Harry Potter boxed sets over the past few years, but other than that, who really asks for books? This is an investment opportunity for you. Here's how the logic of this present goes down: you decide to give me one, and you only have to carry 1.4 pounds to my house; from here on out, the books that I want for Christmas, you deliver wirelessly to my Kindle via Whispernet; the decreased poundage in delivery saves your back, not to mention the countless chiropractic visits you go to on the other 364 days in the year; you give me the Kindle, and I read voraciously; I read voraciously, and become more educated; I become more educated, and I get a damn good job; I get a well-paying job, and you have no need to give me free stuff anymore -- you can just send me post-cards. Brilliant!

Santa, I'm stuck without it. I can't see the sense in buying more books when all the ones I want are available on Kindle anyway. I'd end up buying them twice! So, this is completely up to you: do you really want me to be miserable? Do you really want me to ruin my back by shuttling stacks and stacks of books back and forth from the library?

Sincerely yours,

P.S. If you don't comply with my simple request, then I might just have to march into a few elementary schools and tell as many kiddies as I can that there is no Santa Claus. Is that really what you want?