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.

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