If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about people, it’s that we “want.” And what we often want most of all is “more.” Sometimes what we want more of is the worst thing for us. Boo.
Some will say: yes, dammit we want more and that’s a good thing. We want bigger, better, faster and smarter (well, not always smarter) ...
That this striving for more is to be commended and revered—that’s progress, baby, and it’s the American way.
Others will say: but at what cost, this insistence on more, bigger, better and faster and the incessant demand for it all … RIGHT NOW? Who wins or loses and on whom and what are we willing to trample in this sprint to our arbitrary finish line?
As a person who always seems to want more, I ask myself these questions every damn day. I’ve uncovered some inconvenient truths.
Ugh, self-discovery is a biatch.
Here’s the gist:
Sometimes, actually quite often, more is just more. I can only speak for myself, of course, but I've never been able to figure out a way to wear more than one pair of shoes at a time. I like shoes, you see. I like other things, too. I am a consumer and occasionally I become consumed. It’s never been a good look for me, so I’ve had to ask myself on more than one occasion:
What are you really shopping for?
Yes, I’ve gone down that particular rabbit hole and I’ve had my share of "a ha" Oprah-esqe moments along the way. This one time I went to TJ Maxx in search of god-knows-what only to realize: there’s nothing here for me today.
There’s nothing I can buy, borrow or steal—no kick-ass capri workout pants or quinoa power bars—that will complete me. If I can’t find peace without the things they sell here, I feel certain I won’t find it with them either. Shit, I just wanted to buy some stuff and then I heard Oprah’s voice or god’s. I cannot be sure if it was male or female, but it was wise.
So yeah, I’ve thought a bunch about stuff, and in the process, I’ve eliminated the pursuit of it from my life. Not completely and entirely, but I’ve largely eliminated it to the extent that I cease to use stuff like a bandage or a reward. I can still kid myself into thinking that I deserve the stuff, but the truth is, appeasing myself is the kind of quick fix that hasn't ever fixed a thing.
I’ve also started watching other people and inquiring about their relationship to stuff. It turns out, other people like it, too. The stuff itself tends to differ, but the motivation to desire and acquire it appears pretty much the same.
Lately I’ve been a lot less interested in the folks who seek to acquire the stuff than the ones who don’t. The parties in the latter camp have what I want…in that they don’t seem to want much at all. They intrigue me. Endlessly.
I used to view the non-seekers as settlers. They were satisfied with less—how pathetic, right? I thought them unambitious at best and losers at worst. They didn’t have their eye on the prize or hunger and hustle for more. In my imagined scenarios, I was winning at this life thing, and what was the goal if not to win?
What I failed to realize is that while I was busy acquiring whatever the stuff that winners go after: the job, the look, the goods, the nonsense … Other people out there were playing an entirely different game.
The “others,” they seemed to live in the moment and want what they had. More wasn’t on their radar. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was, but it looked kind of like … joy.
What did they know that I didn’t? Perhaps all along the answer had been: less. Just maybe what I thought would make me happy was never, ever going to.
So, less, please?
I happen to be married to a guy who is happy with less. How that translated into him marrying me is confounding, but that’s his story to tell. He’s an uncomplicated fellow who likes his kids, his routines and appreciates a quiet life in which he appears to be completely present. Sometimes I want to kill him. The ease with which he blocks out the noise astounds me. He makes it look like he’s not even trying … he might not have to.
I have to try and try hard. My default setting is that of annoyance at everyone and everything. Sometimes when you go down a rabbit hole to learn more about yourself, you learn more than you bargained for. It’s a "good kind of more," but the burden of the stuff I learn is mine to carry, and work on and let go of before it proves suffocating.
What I need to change, I cannot buy. Sorry TJ Maxx. I still love you big, but you simply don’t have more of what I need—not today anyway.