These last few months we have been in the aftermath of buying our place and having our wedding. These both were hugely happy events in our lives. But they were also impactful in other ways. Our stress levels and our finances have taken a beating in the last year. Whilst we have made an effort to recuperate ourselves in mind and body, making sure we keep things relatively low key after the hecticness of the last 12 months, it has been harder to recover from the financial hit we have taken. And in an effort to get back to a place where we feel like we are more comfortable we are making as many cents count as possible.
During this time there have been moments when I’ve sat and felt miserable.
How stupid is that? I’ve just got married. I’ve just had a wonderful time with all my loved ones visiting us, spending happy days together. I have a beautiful home with my new husband, that we can call our own. And to top that we also have my stepdaughter as part of our family home now, and my nephew coming over from the UK in a couple of weeks. I even have more time to myself because I am not spending so much time running around viewing properties or doing wedding prep. I can pick up a book and get lost in it for hours, guilt free. I can have a lazy evening on the sofa watching crap telly without worrying about whether I should be using my time more productively… unless the cleaning needs to be done or the lunches made…
So, it is frustrating to me that I can get bogged down with the weight of materialism. Because, let’s face it, that’s what it is. Whether I’m feeling upset because we can’t have that holiday to a tropical destination that we’ve never had. Sometimes I get stuck in a rut worrying about how we can never invite anyone over to our place until we have the fancy pendant lights, the modern sliding door, the new tiling, that posh dining table, timber floating shelves, exposed bricks, expensive artwork, and the list goes on. Or maybe we can just never have anyone over again because our home is just too small and we’ll be judged on the square metres we have our name against. Occasionally I just look around the shops and think to myself that I would feel far better about myself if I just purchased those Wittners boots or that Kate Spade bag. And maybe I would. Until the next thing I wanted comes along, until the glamour and dazzle of a new purchase wears off.
How often (especially when we are watching the pennies) does it cross my mind ‘everything would feel better if we had nice things’.
It makes me want to slap myself in the face.
Of all the shallow things to think. Where does this ridiculous way of viewing life come from?
Well, in my defence, I don’t stand a chance. Because it’s everywhere.
Every day when I read the paper there is some kind of article about the rising cost housing in Sydney, of the investors domination in the property market. Every time I turn on the TV I see The Block – where all the homes are furnished with precise style and top of the line accessories. Everytime I drive out of my driveway I see huge houses with several-million dollar views and perfect families who always have enough money to fix their car, or go on amazing overseas holidays, or renovate the kitchen.
Everyday society tells me that we must go to work, sit at a desk talking to people we don’t necessarily want to talk to, and keep earning more and more, to keep buying more and more things… just things. Everyday we must work hard so we can buy a bigger house, a nicer car, a better holiday destination. And at some point you have to stop and think ‘Why?’.
There is a stigma attached to being a certain age – that you should by now have ‘achieved’ specific things. By my age I should have the good car, the nice home. And I should be travelling to exotic destinations as an escape from the daily grind.
Oh yes, because by my sensible age it’s also expected that I should happily be getting up early every day to join the swarms of people walking in the same direction as every other person. And I do. I find myself fighting to get ahead of the crowd, tutting at people who are getting in my way, pushing through the throngs of people because I’m in a tearing hurry… to do what? Why do we do it? We sit down and do the same thing we did yesterday and the day before. I look around me sometimes, at all the people dashing along the street in the same direction – all in a huge hurry to sit at their desks. All in a major rush to stare at a screen all day. In a big dash to get to that meeting to talk about why this business needs that solution to make them do better business.
But what does it all really mean? I mean, in the grand scheme of things, what are we all fighting for?
How has it come to be that I feel inadequate if I haven’t got the Le Creuset pans, if I haven’t got 1000 thread count sheets, a Fisher and Paykel double door fridge, a smart TV. And that’s not even the half of it. Since when was it NOT OK to shop in Ikea – as I read in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald the other day. Well, sorry to disappoint… but my bank balance likes it, and it works for those of us who area little tight on space… in other words it’s practical. So, bugger off media telling me I shouldn’t be buying Ikea products now I’m in my 30s. Mostly because I don’t see an alternative. Especially when I don’t have the time (or skill) to stylishly up-cycle old furniture for myself -thanks to my hours spent in my job to pay for all the other things I need to compete in this society.
I call bullshit.
It’s time to stop feeling this pressure. Time to stop adhering to the habits of this yucky material world. Time to go to work and enjoy it, and come home and enjoy it. Time to live life without this constant driving, gut-aching, destructive desire for more STUFF!
I have to take that into my own hands and I know, just like with positive thinking, all it takes is a little attitude adjustment. I need to shut down the making of comparisons, block out the materialism, focus on the THINGS that matter.
First of all it’s about perspective, right?
This article did wonders for adjusting my mindset, in understanding that maybe I’m doing good just by paying the bills, having enough food, having petrol in the car, doing a good day’s work, looking after my health and looking after my family. It’s a blog called 20 Signs You’re Doing Better Than You Think, and it’s worth a read. Especially if you can associate with what I’m saying so far!
Secondly, it’s about understanding that Madonna was right – we are living in a material world. But unlike her, I’m not a material girl. It just doesn’t suit me. It makes me feel like absolute crap. I get my most long-lasting waves of sheer happiness from time spent with good friends, quality time with my family, doing an above average job at my work, training, seeing a sunrise, being outdoors, being totally hooked on a good book, or a nice (not necessarily expensive!) bottle of red… and seriously, who cares if it’s a vintage? I really, really don’t.
There is a certain precedent set by the media and society today that we must strive to prove we have money: if we are buying Christmas gifts from David Jones or John Lewis instead of Kmart it becomes a kind of status symbol. It seems that you can’t even always apply the “don’t collect things, collect experiences” perspective because even experiences (to a certain extent) tend to divide those who can afford that luxury boat trip or wine tour or yoga retreat and those who must miss out to pay the mortgage. Of course and if our Treasurer is to be believed then all it takes to get these things in life is a well paying job. Well, Mr Hockey I have a good job and it is not a magic cure.
This article from Womankind magazine can help put it all in perspective. ‘Yes!’ I cried as I read this paragraph:
“As consumers, goods define us and tell our stories for us. We relate to others through our clothes and accessories. We are pitted against each other in suburban streets, and as our houses bulge and carports fill, we commit more hours to the drudgery of work to pay for it all.”
And isn’t that a sad state of affairs. I suddenly realised that I wasn’t alone – that this fight to compete in having the best consumer goods or making sure my home is styled with modern, cutting edge, “look at how much SPACE I (don’t) have” decor, is affecting all of us. All we ever do is consume! It’s why we have so much waste, why things are not built to last, why we’ve landed the term “throwaway society” and why we are very quickly speeding up our time left on this beautiful planet.
So, I think Womankind hit the nail on the head in their article, but in particular in saying the following:
“When thinking back on your short life, which moments do you think will stand tall as the happy times? Will you smile lovingly at your bank balance, remember fondly that pay rise you received, get dewy-eyed about your electrical appliances? It’s unlikely. It will be moments in time, free from the slavery of money and status and the accumulation of stuff that will rise to the surface as the happy times, the times worth living. So, aren’t these the moments we should be pursuing?”
For my part I think there is a distinct advantage to filtering out the materialistic tendencies of the world around us today and focussing on the bigger picture. Tune into my next blog for more on that bigger picture…