Retailers this year are pushing a lot of “Merry Christmas to
Myself.” Despite the obvious narcissism in that phrase, it’s not necessarily a
bad thing. It’s all right to know what you want and to get it. I know scores
and hundreds of people (unfortunately) who are mostly angry, resentful and
bitter because they’re not getting what they want; the people who are supposed
to know what they want and give it to them aren’t.
The retailers are counting on impulse purchases or anodyne
purchases—buying something to deaden pain, assuage anger or compensate for
illegitimate suffering. That’s not the healthy and life-giving way to care for
yourself. Reminds me of a friend who told me a hilarious story of something he’d done.
Dan was having his wisdom teeth extracted and his wife was out of
town with the kids on the day he was scheduled for surgery. So a friend offered
to pick him up after the surgery.
He drove Dan home and got him into the house. Dan said he
felt fine—was really feeling no pain. He didn’t want to be put in bed. The
friend got him settled on the sofa, gave him another pain pill, fluffed the
pillows behind him, gave him the remote for the TV and said, “Here, you can
watch a little TV.” When he asked if he needed anything else Dan said,
No—everything was fine. So the friend said good-bye and left.
And all was fine until about a week later, when some things began arriving in the mail. First it
was a new scuba diving watch, and Dan didn’t even scuba dive. His wife was a
little mystified. Who ordered this? Dan hadn’t a clue. The next day a shipment
of house slippers arrived, twelve pairs. A week later it was a revolving
Christmas tree, one you set on a coffee table and it twirls around, glittering.
Now his wife was upset. Hundreds of dollars and a house full of junk—what was
Once they noted the purchase date on the invoices, the
riddle was solved. It was the day of Dan’s surgery. Sitting on the sofa,
feeling no pain, he had obviously hit the Home Shopping Network, yet he had no
memory of buying anything.
That’s almost exactly the kind of “shopping” advertisers and
corporations want you to do. Mindless, senseless. Blindly seeking to create
pleasure or joy to compensate for some unnamed emptiness or loss. I call it
shopping under the influence.
So, happy shopping this season. Have fun, but don’t go
shopping under the influence. If you can stay awake and aware, joy will be