I’ve been thinking about coping mechanisms. Admittedly, this is a long one.
In this society, we’re sold a few different and related messages, in order to, ultimately, sell us things. In order to sell us a thing, they need to convince us that we need it. In order to convince us that we need it, they need to convince us that we and our lives are deficient without it.
And the thing they’re trying to sell us? It doesn’t just go for items-shoes, food, drink, etc. It goes for the entire consumerist lifestyle. As Ellen Goodman once said: “Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.”
That takes convincing, y’know? That takes a sales pitch.
So, here we are, being drowned in this sales pitch, which comes in ways both obvious and subliminal. And as they pile up in the back of our minds, we don’t even realize that we’re starting to believe it. That life is supposed to be an ecstatic head trip of joy, that every moment of your life you need to be happy, and that happiness-ridiculously joyful happiness-is the paramount guide of ones life. That and productivity. If you think about it, the sales pitch proposes a pretty one dimensional view of life: stress, productivity, and joy. That’s it. And to achieve that ecstasy, to deal with that stress, to be excited, and have fun (which you should be having at all times, because if not, what the heck are you doing with your life??), you need the things that they’re selling. You need to drink often, eat indulgently, get the big house, and the fancy patio set, and the perfect lawn, and the space shuttle car. You need to go out and buy dinner at that hipster restaurant with the drinks that have cayenne and crickets in them.
You certainly can’t just sit outside, consuming nothing more than a cup of tea, with no stronger a feeling than quiet contentment, with nothing in your immediate future more exciting than a little more tea, a weekend outside as much as possible, and a few more cuddles from your pup. Because that doesn’t accomplish anything. Not “joy”, not productivity. It doesn’t accumulate anything, it doesn’t leave anything.
So I’ve been thinking about this. I don’t like feeling like I’m being led by my nose, personally. And when my sweetie and I talk about getting healthier, losing a little weight, and we say “Well, the most efficient way of doing that is to eat clean, and not drink, and move more” and the first feeling is “Well poop, without the fun food and the wine, how’s the monotony going to get broken up? Where’s the fun going to come from?” there are a few questions that come up for me. And I get irritated. Because I bought the sales pitch.
Yes, nicer things tend to make for a more sensorially nicer life. I mean, I’m an artist, and a natural hedonist: I definitely get that. Given the chance to live on a ranch in Napa valley with a courtyard overgrown with wine vines and lemon trees and herbs that I collect to make a meal in my massive kitchen with a wooden chopping block island while I listen to Mercedes Sosa on the overhead speakers…yes, yes I believe I totally would. And I’d be ok doing the work to get this, providing that the work itself is also meaningful to me. And yes, of course, life is about balance, and pleasure and hard work are a part of that balance. There’s a time and place for everything. This is not about not enjoying life, or working hard. That’s just it. This is about taking the reigns and deciding for yourself what you enjoy, and why, and why you work. And yes, you don’t always have the choice of what work you do, or how much of it you do. But you do have the choice of noticing when someone else is trying to make the decision for you of how to feel at any given time about any given thing.
It’s about realizing that while fun and pleasure and stress and productivity are a part of life, there’s a heck of a lot more to it than that as well, no matter what the ads tell you. There’s contentment, and quiet, and hard work you have no strong feelings about but know you have to do. And you won’t always be happy, and you don’t need to always be happy. You don’t need to always have fun. There are other feelings and states of being that are just as important, just as worthy of experiencing.
And before you ask, yes, I’m mostly lecturing myself.