Where Do You Go If You Don't Want to Consume Anything?

Where do you go if you don't want to consume anything?

I asked myself that question last weekend when, for the first time in a long time, I went downtown to the Rideau Centre; the biggest mall in the city.

I used to spend a lot of time shopping in that mall; I worked downtown and every day on my lunch break I would go to browse. I saw it as an excuse to leave my desk and take a walk - I wish I hadn't needed the excuse because I spent a lot of money on a lot of things that I didn't need.

To be fair, I did use most of those things that I purchased; clothes, shoes, beauty products, etc. But I used them in order to get dressed up to go to my job...where I spent my lunch hours buying things I used to go to my job...

The circle of (consumer) life

Now after working from home for two years, most of those fancy things have spent a lot of time in the closet. When I'm not busy trying to impress people I work with, suddenly there seems no reason to wear most of the things that are in my closet.

I don't know if it's because of the pandemic, or getting older, or a combination of both, but I've developed a serious intolerance to being uncomfortable in what I wear. (I have stilettos in my closet that I've eyed wearily and thought "Why did I ever do that to myself?")

I've also begun to care so very much less about what other people think of me. I’ve started to gauge my self-worth on who I know I am, versus what I own or what I wear.

I know the people who truly care about me don't care what I look like. I know because they've told me so, and because I feel the same way about them. I don't notice at all what my friends are wearing when I see them; I only know that they are there and I'm happy about that. Nothing else matters. I imagine they feel much the same about me.

I've also discovered the truth. Truth with a capital T, and that is that no one is really paying attention to what anyone else looks like.

I discovered this as a result of an epically bad haircut I got last spring. This haircut was so atrocious that it caused me to wear my hair in a messy top bun for five months. No one commented on this, evidenced by the fact when I did get my haircut, again, no one commented.

Meaning, they saw absolutely no difference between a messy top bun, and an absolutely beautiful haircut. Meaning it just didn't matter.

Maybe it didn't matter because as I said, for the people who care about me, what I look like is of little consequence.

Or maybe it didn't matter because people generally aren't paying attention to anyone but themselves. I don't mean to imply that people are selfish - although to be fair some are - but I mean that we are each ultimately the centre of our own universe and therefore pay very little attention to anything or anyone that doesn't immediately affect our universe.

All that to say: I don't need new things. I would guess that at this point in your life (if you've been here for a while) you've amassed your fair share of stuff and don't need anything else either.

My purpose for being at the mall last weekend was to purchase consumables; that is to say, things that I would eventually use up which wouldn't leave a trace in my closet or on the planet.

(I went to Lush to buy all of my favourite natural bath and body products. Winter in Canada is coming and when it gets that cold, bath time is a nightly occurrence for me in order to shake that bone-deep chill.)

The only clothing store I went into was Anthropologie; besides the Gap, it's my favourite store. The Gap has all of my staple pieces, it's the foundation of my wardrobe because I know what fits and what doesn't so I don't need to fuss or spend a lot of time shopping. But when I want show pieces - the kind of items that pull a wardrobe together - I go to Anthropologie. When I walked in last weekend, there were so many pretty things that I would have liked to buy. Things that I could have bought if I had wanted to.

But I didn't. Because my current life has me home most of the time and I just don't see the use of hanging around the house in fancy clothes. More power to those who have the desire and motivation to do that, however I do not.
Let's watch TV! In our suits...?

Something else the pandemic made me realize is that the best thing you can have in an emergency is an emergency fund. Money that will allow you to sleep soundly at night because you know for sure you have the money to pay your bills.

That emergency fund is more important than the stuff. I've often looked into my closet and wished that I could get my money back on some of the foolish purchases I made. But since I can't, the only thing I can do is not make foolish purchases from this point forward.

The other thing I've realized, finally, is that marketers and advertisers are lying to us. Big, fat, liar liar pants on fire lies:

There is nothing we can buy or consume that will change our lives or change the way we feel about ourselves.

Unless a purchase solves a problem - i.e. I didn't have winter boots, so I purchased winter boots, and now I can go outside in winter and keep my feet warm and dry - then no new purchase will change your life.

Needs sustain you, wants entertain you.

This has been greatly disappointing to me, because I was convinced that if I had the right clothes, the right shoes, the right purse, the right make-up, the right whatever, I would be better, my life would be better, I would be happier, and I would love and accept myself more.

This has not proven to be the case.

The way I feel about myself has changed only through a process of getting rid of negative self-beliefs as imposed by my family and my past. And that has nothing to do with what I'm wearing.

Only a nation of unenlightened half-wits could have taken this beautiful place and turned it into what it is today, a shopping mall. A big, fucking shopping mall... That’s all you got here, folks. Mile after mile of mall after mall. Many, many malls. Major malls and mini malls... One big transcontinental commercial cesspool.

And how do the people feel about all this? How do the people feel about living in a coast-to-coast shopping mall? Well, they think it’s JUST FUCKING DANDY! They think it is as cool as can be. Because Americans love the mall. They love the mall. That’s where they get to satisfy their two most prominent addictions at the same time. Shopping and eating. Millions of semiconscious Americans day after day shuffling through the malls shopping and eating.

George Carlin - Dumb Americans

Last weekend I power walked through the mall. As per usual, I had a list; the stores that I planned to visit and what I was going to purchase in each of them. I did not deviate from my list because I wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible. But as I walked, I observed the many people lingering, shopping, eating, consuming.

And that's when I asked myself a question that I've asked again and again, and more and more in the past few years: if I don't want to buy anything, and if I don't want to eat or drink anything, then where do I go? In North America most social plans or get togethers seem to be based around one of those two things per George Carlin: shopping and eating.

I'm an introvert and the two hours in the mall absolutely exhausted me. So many sites, sounds, smells, people. After two pandemic years, I found it overwhelming; I couldn't wait to get away.

As soon as I got home, I put on my walking shoes and went for a long quiet walk. Just me in the sun, with the sky and the wind. 

No sounds except for my own footsteps.

Christmas is coming and I'm not buying anyone any gifts. I will make things, or I will re-gift, but I am not purchasing anything. (If you're on my Christmas list, take note.)

I still don't have an answer to the question: where can we go when we don't want to consume anything? Where is that place?

Nature is it I suppose.

But then what does it look like to be around people who aren't in the throes of consuming something?

What does one do when one doesn't want to do the things that society is doing? When we finally discover that there is nothing we can buy, nothing we can eat, drink, or consume, that will ever fill the hole in our hearts the way that peace within ourselves and true connection to others will?

I don't know. I don't have the answer for that. Yet.

But I know I will find an answer, I will find a place.

And if I don't find it, then I will create it.

The way we are living in this world is not in line with what is best for our soul's happiness. And I refuse to live in a state unhappiness; out of alignment with the things I know that will help my soul find true peace.

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the
subway walls and tenement halls
And whispered in the sound of silence"


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