I am one of the authors of the “Get Satisfied” book published by Postconsumers, and I take pride in being one of the twenty people in the subtitle who “found the satisfaction of enough.” But I continue to find that important endeavors like postconsumerism are a process, not a moment.
When I was a child on Long Island, the day after Thanksgiving was traditionally the day we went to Roosevelt Field mall, stood in line to see Santa, and did some Christmas shopping. But as I’ve matured, two things have happened. I’ve lost my affection for malls (up until early college I was quite attached!), and Black Friday has mushroomed into nearly a national holiday and, it seems this time of year, the national sport. And have you noticed that now many stores start “Black Friday” on Thanksgiving Day or evening? Or how many emails are offering you “Black Friday” prices beginning at least a week before BF-day?
I have taken some pride in eschewing Black Friday and avoiding anything resembling a mall or box store from the time the turkey goes in the oven until at least the end of the long weekend. So it was odd to find myself in both Kmart and Wal Mart after our Thanksgiving meal at Mom’s place, searching for a tail light bulb replacement.
This was the calm before the storm. Both stores were gearing up for the “door busters” activity later on Thanksgiving. It was a surreal scene—tall, wide pallets of appliances were sealed in plastic in one store, reserved for the diehard shoppers who were to line up that evening.
I didn’t linger long, but I was surprised to find myself just a little bit seduced. Christmas music was playing; bins of colorful “finds” called for me to hunt and gather. I picked up some holiday cards, a magazine on organizing, and a Miracle on 34th Street video. I really only needed one of those purchases, but they were all good bargains; all relatively inexpensive pleasures. There was a part of me that started to warm up to the idea of braving the crowds to get some amazing deals—my budget is tight this year; maybe it would be worth enduring some madness! That part of me had been made pliable by the barrage of emails anticipating the deals to be had Thanksgiving week. That part of me started to feel like I might be missing an essential, one-time-only opportunity.
So, I’m not immune to seduction, but something in me knew that if I were to go back when the official race for the best bargain started that I would buy more than I needed and spend more than I wanted, even factoring in the promised enormous price slashes. Although I think I’m on the lower end of consumerism scale, I am still acquiring more than I need or use, with particular weak spots, like books, glaring at me from the many piles and boxes of unread volumes cluttering my house.
There was one essential, one-time opportunity waiting for me on Thanksgiving Day. The weather was mild, and the sight of the sun just beginning to lower through the trees reminded me that the window for taking a daytime walk would soon close. My son Gavin and I climbed the hill up to the old logging trail in the state forest behind our house. After a day of heavy eating and visits to brightly lit stores, both of us welcomed the sound of birds, the feel of the cool air, and the rustle of autumn leaves beneath our feet.
Today, Black Friday, we’ll enjoy a low key day close to home. The shopping bug, for me, has not been completely eradicated. But I’ll channel it into our local economy, in the town I have grown to love, on Small Business Saturday. The short trip will leave me with more time, perhaps for another walk in the woods, where things seem clearer and more real to me. In the woods, I find myself walking towards, rather than away, from “the satisfaction of enough.”
Photo credit: d.boyd