De-Consumption Drives New Questions

Lately, I am motivated more and more by less and less in every aspect of my life. Eating less food, buying fewer items, and worrying about things I cannot change.

I call this a life de-consumption.

I’ll admit, coming of age in the last century, the society raised us to consider consumption our default function – buy, use, dispose. Repeat often as possible. The newer, the cooler. the bigger, the better. And the flashy the more likely to project success and happiness.

But as I’ve grown older and put a few decades behind me, I realized this formula is as accurately representative as the bowl of cereal in an advertising photo. The lasting satisfaction from grabbing consumption trophies is no more real than the glue in the container holding each breakfast flake in the perfect photographic position.

I’ve also learned over time the relationship between the number of possessions and happiness if false. In increasingly wonder if the volume of consumption isn’t merely and reflection of filling an aching hole in someone’s inner self.

The happiest people I’ve met in the world comparatively have the least in terms of possessions.

I once in a novel, the writer wrote something along the lines of “growing up we never knew we were poor until we were old enough to know we were poor.” I guess, to a certain extent, we can all relate to the day consumption fever takes hold. No matter your station in life, you one day discover worlds out there – both higher and lower than yours. And from all outward indicators, the former is where all the trappings of success and happiness are rooted.

Unwinding this cultural programming is difficult. I’ll admit the fever infected me coming of age later decades of the last century: bigger houses, more clothes in closets, the need for 3 or 4 slot garages.

Today I find myself actively unwinding this ingrained expectation. No longer do I feel the need to consume without a genuine need. Replacing the mailbox house becomes a challenge of whether a different coating of paint does the job. Big and small, these little decisions are taking over, impacting what comes and goes under my roof and life.

Buy a new shirt? Take two to the Salvation Army. New shoes? Same. Tip generously, flood the world with kind words and always be on the watch to help someone else.

De-consumption is about turning an existing formula on its head and asking what do you need? What can you do – or do without – to make the lives of someone else better? How many coffee mugs does someone need?

Today I spotted a colorful doormat for sale. The colors teased, encourage me to reach down and carry it home. But then my de-consumption kicked in asking me if I already had one at home, and could it be cleaned up or possibly redecorated?

The colorful doormat remains for sale. Me? I’m learning to de-consume and happier because of it.


Bride And Groom Wear Age Proudly

The new bride is glowing from the inside; the groom so proud he can hardly get the words out fast enough.

“We’ve been married exactly 2 hours,” he said. “My first and her last.”

True love does not arrive on a schedule convenient exclusively to the young.

I’m standing outside a hotel, valets moving back and forth like leaves swirling winter breeze.

“We both last saw each other in high school,” he said. “If you flipped the pages of the yearbook, there we were together.”

She tells me how they were good friends years ago before they went their separate ways – she created a life and family one world, and he went off to Europe and other faraway places. They reconnected recently.

They are heading out for their first dinner as husband and wife. There is no flowing white wedding gown or stuffy black tux in front of me. On the contrary, they are entering the world this night as man and wife dressed with confidence gained experiencing life.

My wife and I share hugs with them and head inside the hotel, leaving the newlyweds to their night. I can’t help but feel as if all is right in the universe this night and I’ve seen something special.

Love is strange. Hard to define, difficult to accurately describe, but when you see the real thing, you know it instantly.

“Youth is wasted on the young,” so goes a saying handed down from one generation to the next. And as each of us gains another year on the calendar, we tend to agree more. “If we only knew then was we knew now,” we say to ourselves.

Love is one of those areas, too.

The other day I found myself apologizing to my wife for my immaturity early in our relationship. And as much as I realize I am not the only husband wearing a badge for selfish behavior, that does not relieve me of self-aware guilt I carry for my actions.

“Hey, you’re here now,” she says. “And we’re here now.”

When young, you feel as is if love is something magical, bursting into fire and forever burning in hearts. But the truth is, as intense are the fires of young passion, so are dangers of inexperience in the hands of youth. Many of us do not have the needed toolset to manage and navigate the fierce heat of passion. Too often, we find our immaturity dousing the embers with self-inflicted mistakes, sucking out the oxygen, a critical ingredient for the fire to continue.

Love is like a campfire. A good one burns long and healthy, putting off the needed energy to cook a nourishing meal, providing warmth to cut the chill on a cold night, and offering an added layer security from threats or predators.

As for the newlyweds outside the hotel, I’m betting they are in a better position to navigate the unpredictable road of love. As I said, when you see the real thing, you know it.


Brown Thumb A Real Affliction

Last week I watched a potted lily jump from a store shelf and onto the concrete floor below in hopes of discouraging my wife from putting the plant in the back of the car.

I might be a bit incorrect in my first assumption, but I fear the word is out: my wife can kill a plastic plant.

We all have our God-given talents. You won’t find a more beautiful and caring heart than the one beating inside of my wife. Tough as galvanized nails when need be, her heart also swells ten times, large enough to absorb all the pain from the person in her arms.

But plants simply do not have a chance.

Know this is a time-honored fact in our family. Our kid’s regularly mentioned her brown thumb. And the sight of an empty dirt pot around the back of the house is viewed with a little surprise as walking across a tombstone in a graveyard.

There does not seem to be a logical reason for the untimely demise of the botanical wonders. She gently showers them with water and fertilizes them with encouraging words of love. One day the branches are flowering and pushing upward into the sky and the next are jockeying for a spot in the long lineup against the back of the house. I quietly fear if plants can spawn ghosts, we are in some serious trouble.

“Shh,” she said to me last spring as we walked into the house. “Don’t look at it, but the Crepe Myrtle has some blooms on it.”

This roots from her planting one in the yard at our home in Georgia. It never bloomed – that is until the year we sold the house. All I can figure is the plant was trying to not call attention to itself.

The chronicles of plant deaths read like a Stephen King novel. One time when in college, we walked into her apartment to find a bedroom window blown open. As we wiped the snow from our shoes, I found the plants frozen so stiff the green leaves shattered with a single touch.

The deck of our first apartment after getting married was decorated with a gas grill and depository of plastic pots – absent living plants of course.

But she won’t give up. We stop along the streets and study landscapes, searching for the perfect blend of color, low-maintenance, and impossible to kill with water, love, and attention.

To this day a visit to a nursey is accompanied by the phrase “so who will your victims be this year?”

Recently she ran across a vine-inspired flower that reproduces with the productivity of a tank of guppies and seemingly can’t be killed with $20 gallon of weed killer. Maybe there is a positive to this genetic engineering after all.

My wife has two remarkable children-now-adults to her name. God blessed her with a heart like no one else. But when it comes to plants, I am convinced that plant jumped.