When I bought my house some years ago, my mother asked me just before I went on a vacation: "Dear, how is it that you go travelling and you have not changed the windows of your house?" At the time, some of the windows did not close well and considerable amount of cold air filtered in. Maybe the 'sensible' thing would have been to stay but my answer was "I prefer to invest my money on something that I can take with me when I die". And I still think the same way today.
My windows will stay behind. Also my furniture, my clothing and everything I possess. On the other hand, my travelling, my reading, my learning, my decisions, my daring, my relationships, my memories.... I will take them wherever I go and make me what I am today.
We are in a society that give us plenty of ideas about how to spend our money, that treats the banal as important and convince us that we are imperfect. "You should lose those extra kilos... you should earn more (like your brother)... you should get married before the clock stop clicking... You should be four inches taller... Die your hair because your grey hair shows... You should be a better mother..." Everything around us points that neither you nor I are what is expected, perfect. So now, what do we do? One possibility is to fight back desperately trying to achieve the absurd ideal. We go through many stores and buy clothes that will show our great style; we submit to severe diets and exercise programs, we buy the last wonderful anti-wrinkles products, we live depending on what the famous celebrities do and wear ('because they do know') and above all, we will spend huge amounts of money pretending to be somebody we are not. In the end we will be like the hamster on the wheel: stuck in the same place: In a place very far from what we really are.
Some days ago, a video of Esther Perel I was watching said that, "Self-criticism is the most effective tool in a society of consumerism". Indeed, trying to turn into another person cost a lot of money and eventually we end frustrated. As an ex-publicist, I feel tense when I hear (not often because I usually turn the audio down), all the nonsense and outrageous things that the announcements tell. "If you want to be a good mother you must keep your house unpolluted and give some wonderful powders to your baby that will perfectly substitute your maternal feeding". What does Nature knows about nutrition anyway? The TV knows better! You should also know that the world is full of bad people that wants to get into your home; if in doubt, you should fear them all and, above all, hire a security service that will only wants the best for you. (Don't you dare think that they want to use your fear to profit from you). And since you're there, it will be good for you to buy a car you don't need or can pay for, because it will give you status. Hundred of examples like this!
I don't intend to demonize publicity, only point out that they become party to the crime of enforcing the bases of a sick society with their announcements. And every time you believe what they say you also become an accomplice. Is it easy to get out of that wheel? No. Is it possible? Yes.
To that effect you need to start making conscious shopping decisions. It does not need to be something drastic, just take your time. Small decisions repeated in time are the important ones. The next time you go shopping for creams, clothing or food, ask yourself: 'Do I really need this?' And most important, 'what is the emotion that makes me do this?' If you reflect on that, you may see that behind everything you buy there is fear, lack of self-esteem or the will to pretend. If that is the case, you can save from it." You can make a moneybox where to keep all you save from the shopping you avoid. Then spend it on you: travelling, on healthy cooking or personal growth courses, on massage, therapy or yoga classes, on beer with your friends, a donation to a good cause you believe in or a good book... On something that contributes to you, that, when you connect with the emotion that impels you, will bring joy, love or a connection to you. Many years ago I heard a saying that I love: "He who buys what he doesn't need is steeling from himself."
José Mujica, who was President of Uruguay, explains it very plainly: "When you spend, basically what you are spending is time of your life that is gone". Maybe you did not see it like this before, but money is the product of your work and that work represents the hours of your life you dedicated to it. Therefore, by buying something you are trading hours of your life that you will never get back. Use it for something that's worth it!
If there is something I always feared is getting to the moment I die, look back and realize that I did not understand what is important. Bronnie Ware is the author of a book titled "The five regrets of the moribund". She worked as a palliative care nurse for years. So she was in close contact with many people at one of the most important time of their life, their death. Listening to their worries and reflections changed her life, and she wanted to share that in her book by summarizing the following regrets:
- I wish I had the courage to do what I really wanted to do.
- I wish I had not worked so much.
- I wish I had the courage to express what I really felt.
- I wish I made contact again with my friends.
- I wish I had been happier.
She doesn't mention "I wish I'd been more stylish", "I wish I had a Lamborghini", or "I wishI had a firmer butt". She points out what is important in life: listen to yourself, spend time with your beloved ones, express your emotions so you connect better, and appreciate what you have will make you happier. Remember this every day, and when you reach the time to leave this planet, you will go full of beautiful stories and experiences and, most important, peace.
Originally published in spanish April 4th 2016, translation by Martha Holes McGachie July 13th 2016. Thank you Martha <3