September 22, 2016 by Katia
Last week my preschooler was invited to a birthday party at an indoor playground. I was recovering from one of the worst migraine episodes I’ve had in a long time and sharing a closed space with groups of excitable children of varying ages – each loud in a slightly different way – and the objects of their excitement wasn’t ideal. As we performed the act of shoe removal one performs before stepping on the holy ground that is an indoor playground and made our way in I experienced a divine apparition: rows upon rows of tiny clothing items on racks to my left. Angels weren’t singing, but only because there was no time for that (Oh, lookie, wonder what… oh, hello large pipes and torture slides). Upon further split-second analysis as we made our way to the party room I agreed with the conclusion which asserted that the multi-seasonality and sheer bulk clearly indicate that those do not belong to the venue’s perusers (this suggestion presented itself to me as flickering Dollah bill signs).
It was a familiar sensation. I’ve had clothes, shoes, teacups, scented candles and other less exciting items like shopping trolleys and coat hangers similarly call out my name before, but these were baby and toddler clothing items for GIRLS (I have two boys, a preschooler and a grade-two student). WHERE DOES THIS NAME-CALLING STOP?
The Stuff continued to exercise its hold on me until right before cake time I decided to accept who I was, love it or leave it, and broke left into the little nook of contradiction where I was simultaneously invited to be myself and to shop for toddler girls. I Schwarzeneggered myself out five minutes later with a dark pair of stonewashed denim for my seven-year-old son and with a promise to be back before the party was over and shop for my other one. Sure enough, when I left the party there were two items in my brown shopping bag and a song in my heart that kept playing for a week, but not in a way that makes you want to delete the contents of your brain and restart it but rather like an empowering Ally McBeal theme song. It went something like “sometimes you can buy happiness for $11.50”. The nook was a thrift store.
Can’t put a price tag on happiness, I agree with that statement, but only because the range is too wide. Sometimes you pay $11.50 for happiness and other times it costs $200 bucks and often you don’t have to pay anything. I disagree with the notion that there’s some sort of an inherent contradiction between the materialistic, earthly, purchasable and the feeling of happiness (even if short-lived).
The very expensive heavenly-scented Darphin anti-redness serum I use sparingly feels like a daily five-second-long visit to the top of Mount Olympus.
The loose-leaf lavender tea I buy once a year in a sealable paper bag and drink in the evening or night once everyone’s gone to bed became synonymous with “calm” and “restorative”. The much plainer Earl-Grey pyramid shaped fabric tea-bags I buy at the supermarket signals “me time” and “energize”.
The little succulent plants on a red table outside Katia-whistle “Pinterest” and “Instagram” in a way that only I can hear, and I know exactly what they mean by that. I CAN have nice things, but it helps when they’re on the veranda outside, where nobody can see them.
And then there are books and I’m reminded of another famous quote by Leo Tolstoy:” all happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. If happiness is experienced in the same way then books are the exception, they make me happy in so many different ways. There are the books that make me happy through ties to a previous home or a memory of a loved one or childhood nostalgia, then there are the ones that make me happy by resonating so deeply that it feels as if I should have written them, the ones that are so masterfully crafted that I am left feeling uplifted as I read my way through them and the ones that I ordered from Amazon with my own writing money. There are books by friends and books that I bought as part of an amazing deal at the second-hand store and books that taught me an important lesson, or the ones that I pick up knowing they’ll help make me be better or feel better.
Stuff can function as an extension of us, a self-definition enhancer, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as we stuff in moderation and don’t use stuff as a self-definition tool. Tonight before you go to bed think about your favourite stuff-items and thank them for what they gave you. I’m pretty sure you’ll find it’s usually more than just their direct purpose and functionality.
What are some of your favourite things?
This is the fourth installment in a seven days series. I will be joined by some of my blogger friends who will be sharing their own stories in the near future. If you’re a writer, blogger, or civilian who wants to dig deep and explore the little, over-looked or forgotten things that we love and that make us happy, feel free to leave me a comment asking to join.