Hitting pause

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Ladies and gentlemen(!) it’s that time of year again:

The holiday season

Are you feeling the warm fuzzies? Are you letting out a groan of dread? Some combination of the two?

It seems to be a season that’s all about reminding you of the haves and the have nots; and I’m not (just) talking about social status. It’s the time of year when you really feel it: the effects of the people in or not in our lives; how much money we do or do not have; how life is in relation to where we thought we would be by this point. It can be a very material time of year. People stay up all night to go shopping. People go crazzzzzzy over the latest deals. We’re obsessed with giving and we’re obsessed with getting. Love sometimes being deemed in how much money was spent (or appeared to have been spent) on a gift. How much do you love me, with dollar signs ($$) glinting in our eyes.

I was thinking about this as I dragged myself out of bed at 5am to go to work, having been assigned the arrival time of the bright and early 6:45am (to a night owl like myself). Good golly miss molly(!), I thought, having just watched the CNN Heroes presentation with my parents Thanksgiving evening. I was in awe of the amazing work these people do, selflessly, to better the lives of others and for a while I pondered and raged about what kind of society are we that we will so eagerly camp out for hours in the cold to score a deal on a new TV/sweater/blah blah blah, but we’re so reticent to help others. To really dive in and contribute to truly bettering others lives.

I stewed and stewed about this as I power walked to the train pressing against the cold whipping wind of the morning, damning us all for making me wake up so early because of our greed. Then, of course, I remembered that one of the main things hearing from all of those amazing do-gooders did to me was make me feel ashamed for all of the times I complain about my life in terms of wishing things were different (*ahem* since I was probably more peeved about having to get up so early than our culture of rampant consumerism. Granted, I did think about how it would be nice if families who dragged themselves and sometimes their children out of bed to go shopping also took a day to drag themselves out of bed to do some volunteering. Wouldn’t that be nice?). Back from that I aside: we all do it (the kvetching about our lives thing); but, really, it could often be so much worse. Certainly my life isn’t perfect and I can attest that I’m not where I thought I would be on the eve of my 26th year of life. But. Oh but. The struggle has made me so much better. And I think this whole economic climate has, on the whole, been working to make us better, kinder, and more appreciative of the little things in life.

And going with less has been a surprising lesson to me as a former (thrift) shopaholic, and general lover-of-stuff; as a person who did, in fact, once go on a (admittedly somewhat exaggerated) rant on super practical gifts (like socks). It’s been really interesting. I don’t need as much, and I don’t want as much. I used to buy stuff just because I liked it and now I’ll pause and think about if I really need it. And I’m happy and in, in fact, thankful, if someone feels like getting me socks as a present. I need those socks probably more than I need jewelry (not that I wouldn’t or don’t like it, haha). It’s interesting learning to go with less. It’s not so bad. And I appreciate the little things, and the people in my life so much more. The past year or two have been rough, a shock to the system. But looking back, and in trying to look forward (since time doesn’t stop), all of the shenanigans (both man and situation made) have made me a better, stronger, more resilient person. I think when you have to stop and pause before you buy things you just might find yourself stopping and pausing before you do things and it helps you to better evaluate your life. I think we were all so used to just running, running, running (energizer bunnies beating on our drums!)…. but maybe now we’re allowing ourselves to pause. And realize what’s important. To think about not just where we are going, but who we are and who we want to be. To take a moment and actually be thankful for what we do have.

Because while money does make the world go ’round (all those charities need our money in addition to our time), so do love and hope and friends and family. Judging from some of these lovey-dovey messages popping up, I think others feel this way too. You know something is going on when graffiti is telling you to love more and hate less. A message that, though it might be as cheesy and schmaltzy as all get out, is a good one.

Alright, holiday-ish cheese fest over. Go have some wine.

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