When you have a headache, the obvious quick fix is to take a couple of aspirins. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But if your headaches are chronic, wouldn’t it be better to try to cure the underlying cause of them rather than just trying to make the symptoms go away? Headaches are NOT the result of an aspirin deficiency in your body. They’re caused by dehydration or tight muscles or caffeine withdrawal maybe – but not a lack of aspirin.
Likewise, unhappiness is rarely caused by a lack of stuff.
It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that study after study supports the theory that the parents of baby boomers are typically happier than their kids – and have been throughout their lives – despite the fact that baby boomers have a whole lot more “stuff” than their parents ever had.
There are obviously a lot of reasons this could be true besides just the difference in material overload. Baby boomers tend to have more stress and less downtime, more debt and less job security, more expenses and fewer savings, more health care and worse health…well, the list goes on and on. The trouble is that boomers tend to console themselves for all these problems by – you guessed it – shopping.
Shopping has become our solution for everything from boredom to anxiety to depression. It’s the aspirin for our existential headache. And while it might distract us from our pain for a little while, it’s certainly not a long-term cure for what ails us.
But what is? Have you ever left the house because you just have to get out, started down the street, and then thought “Where the hell am I gonna go that doesn’t involve shopping?”
This is the challenge of the simplifier and the minimalist – not just the epiphany that less really is more, but breaking the addiction to shopping as entertainment. Especially since there isn’t much else out there.
So how do we escape the pull of the magical, mystical, magnetic mall?
We have to leave the paved roads and head into the weeds. We have to forget about what we “should” be doing, and what everyone else is doing. We have to find and embrace the eccentric, idiosyncratic, out-in-left-field peculiarities that make each one of us unique and then have some fun playing with them. They’re not out there. They’re in here.
On the surface, we may be paper pushers, retail clerks, cubicle dwellers, or factory workers. We’re taught from a very young age to conform to what society needs because that’s what makes society work. But what’s best for society may not be what’s best for us.
Way down deep inside, we may actually want to be faucet designers, square-dance callers, or greeting card poets. Maybe we really want to be cruise ship dancers, voice-over actors, rodeo clowns, rug braiders, professional bowlers, or clam diggers.
We don’t have to give up our day jobs to explore our individuality. Outside the confines of 9-to-5, we waste a lot of time trying to fill the emptiness we feel because we haven’t met the interesting person we really are yet. So we sit on the sidelines of life where there is nothing to do but crawl the strip-malls…and we shop. But once we discover that life isn’t powered by the energy of “batteries” bought at a big-box store, we’ll never have to mindlessly push shopping carts around like Stepford Wives again. We’ll be able to create our own entertainment.
Our shopping compulsion will be cured – and so will that nagging headache. No aspirins required.