The season of stuff is officially upon us and it’s hitting me like a fever. The constant assault of advertisements and marketing emails is wearing me down as it often does this time of year. It’s like the water torture where little drops are rhythmically hitting you in the forehead. At first you might be able to ignore it, but eventually, it drives you insane.
The first desire was for a new watch, triggered by REI emails promising 20% off one full-priced item. Thankfully, GPS devices were excluded from that promotion. I then hunted around and discovered I could get the watch through a pro-deal for even less than the coupon would have allowed. Once I found this out, my frenzy dissipated. If I could get the watch at a good deal anytime, suddenly it wasn’t at all important that I got it now.
This drove home for me the fundamental marketing lesson of scarcity. Make people feel like they’ve got to act fast or else they will miss out on a deal. If I really needed the watch, I’d buy it whenever at whatever cost was required.
I wish I could say that getting past my moment of intense desire over buying a new watch allowed me to let go of it completely, but I still want that damn watch. Do I think it will make me run faster and with more stamina? Will it’s smaller size look more stylish on my bony wrists and not accentuate the skinniness of my arms quite so much? Surely knowing my heart rate by simply glancing down at my wrist will make my life better. Right?
My current big desire is for a new iPhone, and of course it needs to be the more expensive model. It’s got three cameras you know, because…, because…,
…because three is more than one?
I can justify a new phone more than the watch. Last April while living in New Zealand, I dropped my current phone onto the pavement and severely cracked the screen. But that was seven months ago. The phone still does way more than what a phone is supposed to do.
No, it’s camera doesn’t take great pictures in low light and I can’t just look at it to unlock it, but would these things have any tangible impact at all on my satisfaction with life? Meanwhile, the retirement funds are not yet topped off for the year, and I DO want to retire someday.
There are plenty of less expensive wants as well. New Bluetooth headphones (noise-canceling of course), an Apple pencil so I can doodle even though I have paper and pencil and still rarely doodle, and a bicycle. Ok, that last one is kind of expensive as well.
None of it will make me happy. This I know, and yet it is hard for my senses to internalize this knowledge. The want of stuff causes the heart to speed up and breathing to grow shallower. Fondling a new device at the Apple store feels like being on a date and wanting so badly to give them a kiss.
As I wade through these powerful feelings during the season of stuff, I hope to be mindful of my urges. I want to be able to ask myself some simple questions.
- Does it serve a useful purpose?
- Does it provide joy?
- Do I already have something that serves this purpose or provides joy in this way?
- Can I get more value from the things I already have?
Like all feelings, the ones these objects of desire incite will rise and fall. I need to remember this. I need to hold on while the waves pass. I need to remember that the times in my life when I’ve lived the most are also the times that I’ve had the least.