Sighing a Sigh of Retail-Based Contentment

Oh what a weekend.  I was very productive.  I went to the gym twice and I made a gigantic dent in my Christmas shopping.  I’d say I’m at least 85% finished.  Oh, and it was so fun.  Aside from the mall and bookstore (I am naturally bookish and tend to gravitate to the bookstore for presents.  I sometimes have to remind myself that not everyone likes to read), I attended a fabulous visual feast of a craft fair downtown.

Generally speaking, I have a strange relationship with shopping.

On the one hand, I am a practical sort.  I don’t like to waste money and I tend to feel guilty buying myself anything other than food, as that money could better go to paying down the mortgage or traveling somewhere fabulous or helping some worthy charity or something.  I also think that as a society, we have been brainwashed into becoming these consumerist drones who just shop for shopping’s sake, replacing things — not because they need to be replaced — but because we are bored with them.  I think this leads to ridiculous waste on both a monetary and environmental level and I find that distressing.  Also, a crowded mall is possibly the most depressing and life-sucking thing in existence.

On the other hand, I love new things.  I love soft things and pretty things and things that smell nice.  I love wandering through perfectly lit shops or markets or craft fairs where profound attention has been paid to attractive display techniques.  I love looking at and touching all the lovely things.  And yes, I do love buying a nice new thing and enjoying its wonderful newness.

How do I reconcile these two opposing sides of myself?  In a word – Christmas.  Because yes, while I can only justify buying myself new shoes when my current shoes have holes that allow you to see the colour of my socks and that let water in, all of my consumerist guilt somehow dissipates if I am shopping for other people.  Presents apparently fall under my category of acceptable and guilt-free ways to spend money.

I feel that this is an excellent compromise where lots of people win.  I get to buy lovely new things without feeling guilty about it and my people get to receive lovely new things.

Ideally, I like to get my Christmas shopping finished or nearly so by the end of November, so November 13th is excellent work and I am feeling like a bit of a Christmas shopping rock star at the moment.   My motivation is not just avoiding crowds and line-ups.  Experience tells me that if I do the bulk of my shopping in December, no good comes of it.   I end up spending too much money to compensate for presents I view as inadequate in thoughtfulness or sentiment.

See, I put quite a bit of pressure on myself with present-giving.  It’s where the people-pleaser in me works overtime.  Gift certificates are unacceptable (even though I never seem to have a problem with getting them.)  I really really really want to find the perfect thing.  I don’t buy presents for people at work or my mailman or hairdresser or anyone like that.  The people on my list are people I love.  I would buy them presents every day if I could, but I can’t, so I funnel all of that desire into Christmas and birthdays.   I put a great deal of thought into what they would enjoy before buying anything.  I aim to delight and am quietly devastated if I don’t.  So settling on presents that are only okay simply because it’s December 20th and I’ve become desperate makes me intolerably sad.

On the other side of that though — and why I start shopping as early as I do — when I am able to find a present for someone that I know will make them smile, it gives me monumental happiness that I’m not sure many things compare to.

And that was what my weekend was full of.  I am deeply content.

Next weekend – wrapping!

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