I don’t know about you but the holiday season is kind of bringing me down. It’s dark up here in Alaska, and it’s winter, and the birch trees outside our windows look so bare and bleak that I want to knit them all sweaters, except that I don’t know how to knit.
Plus, all of the holiday ads, the holiday flyers, the commercials, the sales banners hanging from every store window screaming for me to pull out my credit card and freaking buy, buy, buy–I wish all of those ads would shut the f*ck up.
I’ve been trying to live a more minimalist lifestyle this year. I want my life to be about living, not about things. I don’t want to have to work long hours at jobs I don’t love just to fill my empty spaces with shiny stuff.
I’d rather work less, write more and the hell with the shiny stuff. Because, face it, stuff doesn’t make us happy. It may distract us from our loneliness or pain or bad decisions or boredom, but when we’re ninety-nine and lying on our deathbeds, I doubt that any of us are going to cry out: “Oh, if only I had bought that plaid blouse with the clever buttons!”
Yet, I’ll admit that I sometimes become caught up in the whole holiday buzz, especially when it comes to books and running shoes. Oh, how I want, sometimes! (What I really want is a pair of running shoes with passages of my favorite books written over them. Then I could finally, finally run with my dear friend Jane Austen.)
I’m thinking about stuff because we’re leaving to Tucson next weekend and I know I’ll pack too much. I always do. Yet I need so little: A bit of clothes, running stuff, electronic gear. I have tons of books on my Kindle and can borrow what I don’t have from the library. I can buy whatever clothes I need for next to nothing at the used shops sprinkled around the university area.
Last winter I was in Tucson for close to eight weeks and Philly for another two. I lived out of one suitcase and was more than content. I didn’t miss what I didn’t have. We rarely do. Yet where does this idea come from, this idea that if I surround myself with enough stuff, I’ll be happy. I’ll be lovable. I won’t be lonely. When and where did that idea get implanted inside my brain?
So this year for the holidays, I’m buying less. I’m still giving gifts, of course, but I’m trying to only give what I know will be used, what will be appreciated and cherished.
What I want in return is simple (besides running shoes, of course. I always, always, always want running shoes). I want books, used books. Books that have already been read and loved. Or Kindle books already purchased and simply shared. If you’ve read a book and loved it, pass it on. To me. Or to someone else.
I know as an author I should support book sales, I should want people to buy more books because I want people to buy my books.
But as I look around this world of ours I see too much stuff cluttering our lives, and our resources. And it kind of makes my heart hurt.
I don’t know where I’m going with this post. Maybe I’m rambling. It’s late at night and I can’t sleep, and each time I open my email I’m bombarded with messages promising 10% off this or 20% off that (how in the hell did all of these stores get my email address?).
I wish I could give everyone I know a poem for the holidays, ripped out of one of my favorite poetry books: Kristy Bowen here, Richard Siken there. A little bit of Emily D. A little bit more of Lyn Lifshin. A smattering of Sam Hamill. And lots and lots of Adrienne Rich.
Imagine that, a world where everyone gave a piece of their favorite writer or favorite artist or favorite recipe or favorite flower or favorite pretty stone or favorite plant or favorite sweater as gifts. Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t that be just about perfect?