Let’s be Friends

Dear Black Friday,

Let me put this right out in the front of my letter – we aren’t friends. I’m sorry but it’s true. You see, you represent dark and dirty consumerism. You encourage people to fill their lives, and the lives of others, with more junk. You represent financial gain, self-interest, and greed. And, as if all that wasn’t bad enough, you arrive the day after (or the day) we celebrate being thankful for what we already have.Please tell me you see the irony? Your so often successful ploys to pull people out of their beds and away from their families makes me clench my fists. Shop! Buy! Save! Be Happy! you say to people. As if that $30 tchotchke is what’s going to push them over into nirvana. (Hint: it won’t).

Here’s the thing though… I don’t think you want it to be this way. I think consumers and the media have pushed you into being a big jerk. Perhaps they sold you a sob story about how the economy is hurting and it’s more important than ever this year to really put yourself out there. Or, perhaps they appealed to your more logical side and said how “doorbuster deals” would be a mutually beneficial scenario for both consumers and sellers. Or perhaps they just sit in the back of the room and repeatedly jab you with a hot cattle iron. I’m not really sure.

Whatever it is they’ve told you though, I just don’t think your heart is really in it anymore. Which is why I’m writing this letter to you. I want to offer you a deal — Let’s be friends, okay?

I mean it, real pals. The kind who will catch a movie or sip lattes in Starbucks together. I’m willing to give you a pass on the monster you have become and we can start fresh – a clean slate. If you promise to be reasonable (for example not starting door busters on Thanksgiving MORNING) then I will promise to purchase a few needed items during your sales. I’ll also do what I can to support local small businesses throughout the year, because I know we’d both like to see them do well.

I’ve been very honest with you in this letter so I can understand if you have a certain hesitation when it comes to considering a friendship with me. That’s why I wanted to get a head start on our deal from above. Yesterday I put in an order for a few items I’ve been holding out on buying. I took advantage of your deals to better support my needs – see, mutually beneficial. I supported a number of small businesses by purchasing from them and I even ordered online so as not to place an undo staffing burden on stores. Please except these orders as a gesture of good will.

I guess that’s all I have to say for now. I do hope you’ll consider giving our friendship a chance but don’t feel like you need to answer right away. Take some time to think about it. I’ll check back in with you next year.

Take care and get some rest.

With love,

Bear Necessities

I’ve been talking to a co-worker (let’s call her A) about how a lot of humans have turned away from their animal nature. It seems a lot of us have taken modern day conveniences and expectations and used them as a wedge between us and our inner selves. This conversation came about one day when we were talking about the unfortunate amount of stress and mental anguish people around our office seem to ascribe to. They run around mumbling about how they’re so busy and there just aren’t enough hours in the day, when in reality, so many of their hours are filled with manufactured preoccupations. More things they’ve created to feed this never ending cycle of feeling busy, important, engaged, involved. For some of them we start to wonder if sitting for a few moments of peace would actually cause these people to unravel.

I think we all know someone like that. More charitably I refer to them as “full platers” – people who always need to feel like they are making the absolute most of everything, in every direction, at all times. Less charitably I refer to people as “crazy makers” – people who always need to be in charge, in control, feeling valued, and making something dramatic happen. In moderation, both attitudes have value. In abundance, either attitude will destroy you.

For whatever reason, A and I seem to have missed the day in school where we were taught to feel overwhelmed and under accomplished. Now don’t get me wrong, we both have goals and both have high standards when it comes to our work. We just, unlike the others in our office, understand that humans are not made to go go go 24/7. It isn’t healthy for our bodies, or our minds. We highly value our physical, social/emotional, and professional needs and understand that a healthy life balances all needs, instead of focusing on just one.

This most recent leg of the conversation came up when were talking about the relentlessness of working folks in the winter. People around us use the lack of summer sun as a reason to burn the midnight oil even longer. It’s as though they are pushing their nose ever closer to the grindstone in search of warmth, when really,  if they stopped for a moment they would realize they have all the warmth within themselves.

In stark contrast to the furious runners around us, A is her own warmth. She is the black bear. Calmly going about her business to prepare for the winter, knowing that if she works hard to set up her environment appropriately she will be the one to keep herself and her cubs warm. The black bear, you see, doesn’t run around shouting that there aren’t enough hours in the day to eat, sleep, and tend to her children. She just makes it happen. She gets what she needs from life and gives back to life as well. A says I am the cub. I am significantly smaller and newer to the world, but I have the big bear instincts within me. It’s a wonderful feeling to have found someone else who walks the same walk and is able to see past the chaos.

Oh Baloo, you knew it all along.

It’s all just a memory – or is it?

I met a friend for lunch today. We hadn’t seen each other in a while so it was nice to catch up. We talked about the usual suspects – kids, spouses, work, our spouses’ jobs, that sort of thing. It seems like at least one of these topics will always lead one of us to getting lost in the fanciful nature of life. Today it was a story about her eldest child. I’ve known her oldest kiddo for his entire life and I have loved watching him grow up. (Fun fact: I 1st met my friend when she was 8 or 9 months pregnant with him). I used to teach in his school when he was younger so I had also had the luck of being able to take part in his day-to-day care. Those days are long gone now but I still consider myself invested and interested in his development.

Anyways, back to the story. I don’t remember how the topic came about but she was telling me  how his memory still seems a little spotty. He can’t always relate events at school as they actually happened but will occasionally bring up events from months ago with amazing detail. This is a pretty common phenomenon for preschool/early elementary aged kids and it is something that always makes me smile. We started talking about how probably a lot of the things he does say he remembers are actually just stories that have just been repeatedly reinforced by adults. Really, we went on to say… isn’t that the case for all of us? How many memories are uniquely made by us and are we even able to tell the difference between those two things?

“When he gets older, what do you think he will say his earliest memory is?” I asked her
“You know what,” she said, thinking distantly “I don’t actually know. That will be interesting to see”.

We continued to talk for a bit about how far back we think we have legitimate self-made memories and what sort of stories we were told, or what documentation our families had for us to be reinforced with. We both agreed that we have little to no actual memories before the age of 4.

“You know what that means, right?”
“What?” she looked at me curiously
“That means, when he gets older… he won’t remember any of this. The little boy we have known for his entire life up to this point… will never have existed to him.”

We both stared at each other for a few minutes. Then we continued talking about that crazy thing we call a brain and just how weird it is to watch a little human develop. It’s such a pure and open look into how a mind develops. It’s almost otherworldly.

The conversation ended hours ago but I still can’t stop thinking about it. 4 years of living and being present… 4 years of knowing, learning, seeing, feeling… In 2 or 3 years the details of memories will become distant and questionable for him. Two more years after that? The memories will be nothing but background noise… if they are even anything at all. How crazy is that?

The human brain is truly an amazing thing.