Sweeties, where are we at? Has the fat lady sung already? Is that it?
It is always oh-so-salutary to examine our lives when what we once took for granted has suddenly, and immeasurably, been arrested from our grasp.
Yes, the party is over. That leviathan bubble of expectation, aspiration and glorious excess has finally been pricked. Despairingly deflated, what empties out is a sense of disbelief, disappointment and for many, anger. Acknowledging our loss is a good start, but staying with it, now that isn’t so helpful. Let’s take stock.
We thought we knew what we were doing. We worked hard, we played hard. We were proud, prouder than any post war generation. Gone were the dowdy shamefaced days of the seventies, the over-compensating egregious eighties. From the optimistic nineties we blossomed into confident, Olympiad-winning, boundary-pushing naughties. Then, ouch, suddenly downsized without anyone asking if we wanted to be. Did we fall or were we tripped?
There is no doubt the axis of hype – political, financial, media – have their part to play. But so do we. The blame game has never amounted to much, merely a tedious whine that it was all someone else’s fault. Many of us left wondering just who was going to pay for all the gravy, had our suspicions that the final bill would inevitably land on our own plates, however dressed up with a fancy cover it might be.
We believed too easily what we wanted to believe; we neither questioned nor challenged. Hindsight were you ever more beautiful? Our weakness for instant gratification was more than indulged by our politicians and financiers’ creative accounting, but there is always a price to be paid, and this time the price is steep.
We have become the emperor naked.
So what do we do next? Who do we turn to if our leaders are up to their necks in clay and the coffers are empty? How do we rebuild our personal world so that it has foundations laid not in credit-spawned materialism, but in solid gold inter-personal savings? We turn to ourselves, for we have the answers; we invest in ourselves, for we have the resources.
There are many things that we can do differently to make us feel more in control of our destiny, giving us a sense of both mastery and pleasure. First and most importantly is to appreciate that to truly own a stake in our world, we must pay gladly the healthiest of price tags: responsibility. Our personal level of debt, for example, is one of the highest in the world, but what do we really have to show for it?
Let us take the luxury brand.
Luxuries used to be exceptional moments of gorgeousness, an oasis of indulgence enlivening the endless desert of our more mundane experiences. Luxuries, therefore, become devalued, pointless even, if they are divested of their status by becoming everyday affairs.
Deferred gratification heightens our sense of purpose—a life without goals quickly empties of energy—and invests in our rewards a particular quality, a kind of magic. It is not that we should forgo our love of luxury, like some floppy collared puritan, it is more that we should reinstate it; re-clothe it in it’s rightful rarity so that it means something again. There is a sublime pleasure in saving up for something really wonderful and then, deliciously savoring the object of our desire that we have dreamed about, longed for and now, finally, possess. How much more meaningful than if we mindlessly flash ubiquitous credit only to resentfully pay back month after desultory month, with overpriced interest. We wonder then why this fleeting fancy ends up forlornly unloved, pervaded by our guilt. We didn’t really want or need it, we just felt like it at the time – like a tawdry one night stand, leaving a sour little taste in the mouth.
What about pile ‘em high-sell ‘em cheap? This also holds no answers. Sweatshop cottons and cheap flesh make insatiably cruel and greedy masters of us all.
We simply do not need so much of everything.
Are we really so blind that we cannot see the damage that we do to each other, let alone the world? If we continue so heedlessly, there will come a time when we face far worse than a mere economic downturn.
Likewise our long neglected relationships. Get over your dependency issues; it’s healthy to need each other. Shivering together on our melting icecap, if we are prepared to share the ocean of our experience, our bonds will grow stronger, and the way in which we relate more empathetic and less judgmental. We will remain buoyant if the sea in which we are adrift is one of compassion and understanding, not one of selfishness and greed. Competitive economics do not sit right when we know our neighbour suffers harsh losses. Altruistic economics, sharing what we can, knowing that when our friends and family are back on their feet, they too can contribute, gives a warm feeling inside, keeping out the chill wind of hopelessness.
Happy people are unafraid to show their vulnerability, ask for help when they need it and in turn, give of themselves without expectation. Happy people are prepared to ask questions while having the integrity to be accountable themselves. Happy people know that in their dreaming, as Yeats so wisely observed, comes responsibility. You may notice that there is nothing remotely material about any of these equations. Happiness comes without a price tag; whatever your credit card company may want you to believe.
* Adapted from an article published in International Life.
Dr. Cecilia d’Felice is a clinical psychologist, psychoanalytic psychotherapist, mindfulness and yoga teacher with an interest in how Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy can help us negotiate the complexity of western life. She works with chakra energy and uses the Tarot to help guide her intuition. Her book Dare to Be You: Eight Steps to Transforming Your Life is a guide to skilfull living in a stressful world.You can read more about her at drceciliadfelice.com and join her on Facebook at Dr. Cecilia d’Felice.~Editors: Sophie Legrand/Kate Bartolotta
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