Buying things has become too easy. We all know this, right? No epiphany here. But I think it’s almost problematic how easy it’s become. There used to be a time when we had to get into our cars, drive to an actual store and make an actual purchase. There was still a space for consideration between our wanting something to actually owning it. Nowadays, a browser window is the window to shopping anywhere in the world. Even more troublesome is that companies like PayPal and Square are making it that we don’t even have to find our wallets to dig out our credit cards and enter in all the information necessary like expiration date or those random “secret” numbers on the back of the card for completing the purchase.
Recently I came across an article on one of my favorite women’s websites Jezebel. “Things That Won’t Complete You” goes through a list of all the cliched desirables for most women–the cashmere sweater, the expensive pair of jeans, a lifemate. Writer Tracey Moore admirably dismisses all of these things as meaningless and unimportant, and while I agree with her on a philosophical level, I’m having a hard time understanding or internalizing why she’s right.
In risk of getting too personal here, I enjoy purchasing things. I mean, I’m not as bad as most, but I’m not what you would call “disciplined.” I enjoy a UPS notification that a package is on its way, or the endorphin rush of cutting open a box to discover that the thing you’ve desired for so long is actually rather awesome and no, you didn’t just delude yourself into making another purchase. But as Moore points out that this “temporary joy” is not contentedness. I know this, yet somehow there’s always something I “need.”
“Sorry, you might get everything you think you want and find that it’s still not quite enough to make you stop looking,” Moore writes. “This essay about searching for contentedness…because it is so very elusive and maybe we will have to search for it forever.”
On the one hand, I agree that the quest for contentedness is difficult and elusive, but that doesn’t have to be presented as a bad thing. Searching and yearning for meaning is what makes life interesting, but when we associate or attribute that deep rooted feeling of satisfaction to a physical and tangible item, we’re inevitably going to be disappointed. Until we buy something again.
And here’s where we get to the some of you-part. A lot of the questions I get here is about women feeling insecure about their relationships, and how that impacts on their happiness in life. Well, further on in the Jezebel article, Moore references a Huffington Post article titled “Why I Told 150 Wedding Guests That My Husband Does Not Complete Me.” The article which is short and worth reading talks about how even when one finds his or her soulmate, he or she is still not “complete.”
Writer and social worker Akirah Robinson celebrated her one year anniversary with 150 friends and made a speech with included this excerpt: “I’ve got to be honest about something though. As great as he is, Dan does not complete me. He certainly makes life funnier. Busier. Happier. And tastier. (Dan’s a chef.) But he does not complete me. And I do not complete him. Our lives are so much bigger than each other. Today illustrates that in a beautiful way.” This obviously confused her husband and so he challenged her on this proclamation. Robinson admirably responded with a list of why she stands by her assertion:
“It’s true. [My husband] Dan doesn’t complete me. I rather enjoy challenging the things society tells us to believe, especially regarding relationships, she writes. “My life is so much bigger than my marriage. My community, my faith, and my experiences complete me. My relationship with myself completes me. I was created to tell gals that their lives are so much bigger than their romantic relationships (or lack thereof). I’ll take any opportunity I can to do so. Even my wedding reception.”
I guess this is a message we don’t hear often enough. That our completeness or contentment doesn’t rely on one particular thing or person. NO matter how badly we want that pair of jeans or how much we love our significant other, true self worth comes from feeling great about who we are. I recognize that I may have a problem with this and thus I buy things to fill in that void. But ultimately, what I’m doing and what many of us are doing is avoiding the real issue. What is it that we’re trying to resolve? Why are we so dependent on someone else to the point of feeling despondent when they’re not around? Don’t get me wrong–buying things you like every once in awhile is fine, and wanting to love someone so much that it hurts to consider life without them is not a bad thing. On the contrary! It’s human nature and necessary.
But not for one moment should we ever confuse these things as a replacement for the quest to our true inner-self. That part, while tricky, comes with a lot of time…if you’re willing to take it.