29 November 2010

It's a Commercial Christmas, Charlie Brown

Look, Charlie, let's face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket.
~ Lucy Van Pelt, A Charlie Brown Christmas

I think Charlie Brown would fall over in a dead faint if he could see how truly commercial the holiday season has become. Now I remember why I have avoided shopping malls for the past few years. I feel sorry for the sales people and am a push-over for a good sales pitch ~ a combination which puts retail companies in the black and me in the red. I should leave my wallet at home!

A friend and I were discussing how simpler Christmas shopping was when we were younger. Ten to fifteen years ago, there were only four large shopping malls to choose from here in the greater D.C. area, and most of our shopping was done at local stores in real yet quaint historic downtowns. And that was fine. We were satisfied. We didn’t feel deprived, we didn’t feel rushed and the gifts we gave and received were unique and personal; chosen with love and care and opened with genuine joy and thanks. [Yes, even the socks!]

Now, everything is gargantuan; the large shopping malls of fifteen years ago seem small and paltry compared to the ones that take up several city blocks. The stores have become like some macabre side show: each trying to entice shoppers with their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. “50% off!” “Free shipping today only! Buy now!” And all the commercial hoopla has increased at an exponential rate. Seriously ~ it really was not this harsh fifteen years ago. But what is truly frightening are the attitudes that have crept into our souls, in part, as a result of it.

For one thing, gifts are impersonal: “tell me what you want or I’ll just get a gift card so you can get what you want.” Not to toot my own horn, but most people enjoy my gifts because I take the time throughout the year to listen to them, dialogue with them. Inevitably I found out what their likes and dislikes are; what new hobby has intrigued them; what they wish they had. I listen and remember and usually I find something that is uniquely them [and within my budget.]

Not so with most people. There is no interpersonal dialogue. In our super-techie world, we have gained the ability to talk to anyone, anywhere and in a myriad of ways. But we have lost the ability to communicate, to connect, to be intimate. Technology is only partly to blame ~ the human psyche in pain will always find ways to hide, ignore or run away from itself and those that cause it pain, real or imagined. [More on that later.]

The second attitude is truly insidious: if you can’t find something at one store, you can drive all over creation to another big mall and look for it there. Even if you do find it, there is something inside that says: “I bet I could get it for less at such-and-such a place.” And the reason this attitude is so wretched is that it has crept outside of the retail boundaries and into our personal lives. “Well, this was fun, but you bore me now; I’m going to look and see if I can find a better “deal” somewhere else.” “Someone better might come along, so why commit now?” Or my personal favorite as a hostess: “There are so many events happening that day ~ I’ll wait to RSVP until I decide which one offers me a better networking / dating / fun venue.”

Both attitudes lead to dissatisfaction and aimlessness. At some point, you have to make a choice, you have to make a decision. If you keep wandering around looking for a better “deal” and never commit to anything, you wind up with nothing.

This holiday season, stop running around looking for “a better deal.” Unplug, unwind and truly listen to your loved ones. The gift of intimacy and reciprocity ~ your emotional and physical presence ~ is the gift that is wanted and remembered most.

And the one you need returned the most. :)

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela
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