G'day and welcome to blog post #5. It's a very toasty Tuesday here in Queensland, with only 34.5hours of shopping left until the stores close for Christmas. Not having been in a "proper shop" for a couple of weeks now, I found myself feeling more than usually stimulated by the fruit & veggie section of Woolworths today. It's like I'm on some kind of sensory-diet, where my levels of stimulation are being lowered - none of that "oh look, orange knit tops!" or "oooh, animal print sandals" or "hey, a sale rack - 50% off everything!". Without that degree of stimulation of a semi-regular basis, my threshold of stimulation seems to be lower, so that being around all that colourful fruit and vegetables is actually kinda interesting. Rather than simply a necessity. I know it's fashionable for celebrity (and wannabe celebrity) chefs to get very excited about fresh, firm zucchini and rocket leaves and organic grape tomatoes, but the fresh fruit and veggie section has never held much allure for me before.
I want! (or do I?) Which has got me thinking about the nature of wanting, and where it comes from. Do we want new things because something in our inner soul cries out for say a new pair of jeans or t-shirt or Converse sneakers? Or do we want things because we've kinda been trained to want them? Maybe brainwashed is a better word than trained. How do we know we want something? And I'm speaking specifically of clothing here, because that's what this 12 month challenge is about, but the question would apply much more broadly than that.
For me, it's unusual for me to know I want something until I see it. On rare occasions, I have discovered a "hole" in my wardrobe and determined it needed to be filled and then I've gone out, in a heat-seeking missile fashion, and found it, bought it, and made it part of my clothing family. More often than not, I don't know I wanted something until my eyes layeth upon it. I was blissfully ignorant that the world even possesed say, a pair of animal print wedge sandals made in France. And then -boom! - I saw them in a shoe shop window in Perth and I wanted them. I recall going into the store in question and saying to the sales lady "I was happy until I saw these shoes". A situation I soon rectified - happiness being a state I obviously hold in high regard because I moved very quickly into action to breach the gap in my newly-acquired state of unhappy-now-I've-seen-these-shoes-and-they're-not-mine and happy-again-now-these-shoes-are-mine-all-mine! (accompanied by a maniacal laugh).
The shoes in question can be viewed above, purchased in Perth in 2006 for an exorbidant sum (from memory, they were over $300 - I blanked the exact cost out of my mind after purchasing them, they were the most expensive shoes I have ever purchased) whilst I was wandering around the Hay Street Mall after running a leadership workshop for a big client. Apart from absolutely leerving them and thinking they were stunning and I'd never seen a pair of shoes like them, a part of me felt like I kinda deserved them, too - I'd been working really hard, yadda yadda yadda, and this was some kind of reward. If you love shoes, you might be able to relate to my desire to acquire them. If, like my friend Jenni, shoes are not your thing (she owns less than 10 pair - which is incredible to me, and she has access to like proper shops and everything, living in the city as she does - it's not as though she lives 8 hours out the back of Chinchilla and gets "into town" once every 6 weeks to load up the ute on household supplies) you probably wouldn't be tempted by shoes in a window and possibly wouldn't have been walking by said shoe shop window in the first place.
Stop watching! So, the nature of wanting and how we are induced into wanting things by the world of commerce, advertising, marketing, the media in general and shopping centre design is fascinating to me. I've been known to be flipping through a magazine, find something I love, then madly seek out the stockists page so I can source the item of desire. Minutes ago, I didn't know The Thing existed, let alone changed my afternoon plans so I could seek The Thing out to buy.
Is the answer to limit exposure to magazines, media, advertising and shops? Images of Kelly McGuinness in the film Witness spring to mind (the Amish clothing had no exposed buttons, because they were deemed to be "proud" - what would they make of my clothing, the primary purpose of much of it being pure adornment?). Nothing extraneous was ever purchased or worn - the plain necessities were all they had.
For someone like me, not being exposed to things like that feels like a punishment - I enjoy the stimulation of shops, movies, television, magazines - all that stuff! I don't want to live in a stimulation-free world, where there is no temptation because it isn't a part of the landscape in which I live.
But maybe part of the answer lies in taking a moment between "oh, isn't it gorgeous!" and "I must make it mine" to ask myself some better questions. My Dad's favourite shopping question is "do you really need it?" which in my teenage years and wardrobe-acquiring 20s seemed like a crazy question - unanswerable almost, irrelevant surely. It wasn't a question of need, it was one of want! Now that I'm on this challenge, I'm wondering if that isn't a "better question" to ask myself (yet again, Dad was right). Maybe some other questions might be "what will this item add to what I have?" and "what will buying this item bring me?" (oh and what about "will I still love you in the morning?"). If the answer is a momentary thrill and a larger VISA balance at the end of the month and not much more, that may be a compelling argument to leave it where it is.
Austerity consciousness? I've done a lot of reading over the years on the power of mindset - prosperity/abundance mindset vs. a poverty mindset. You can't 'spend your way into prosperity/abundance', but part of the thinking to creating more prosperity and abundance in your life is the belief that you have enough. Right now. In this moment. Not repeating the words in a mantra-like fashion, but actually feeling the fullness in your life. Putting your attention on what you have right now, rather than focusing on what's missing, or where you feel your life might be lacking or empty. I wonder if that's a big part of the answer - instead of allowing the stimulation of "everything out there" to manipulate me, instead turn my attention to the fullness I feel "in here". Not removing all stimulation from my life, but equally not allowing the stimulation of the moment to overcome that steadier, stronger, inner sense of fullness that I can connect with whenever I am still for a moment, even if that's right in the middle of a busy shopping centre. It's an intriguing thought. Right?