On the Subject of Tiny Things
I'm a utilitarian by nature. Well, nature's a funny word. I would say I'm a utilitarian by way of anxious nurturing, after years of boot-strap sermonizing. Lately, though, I've been trying to focus on tiny things. My therapist says that's probably a good idea.
Tiny things are, by definition, small. Trifling. Unnecessary. Indulgences or dalliances. A night out and dinner with friends is an indulgence. A bottle of new perfume is an indulgence. A Saturday afternoon spent burning through the last season of Hannibal, and squirming on the couch as Francis Dolarhyde undergoes his transformation into the Great Red Dragon, is an indulgence. I'm not used to indulgences. I'm not used to tiny things.
Indulgences are a confusing prospect, aren't they? They are encouraged because the very nature of procuring trinkets and fleeting sensory experiences costs money. Which tickles that little need for retail therapy, which puts money in the pockets of companies, which makes everybody feel better. They are also shameful, fitful little things, because there just isn't enough money to go around these days. See the above about boot-straps and sermons. Indulgences are tortured little creatures that we chase after, but often feel regretful for. "Damn," you say to yourself. "I really could have used that $10 on groceries instead of that little trinket."
Isn't that always the way?
For me, I've spent a lot of time afraid of indulgences. That money would likely be spent better elsewhere, after all. I would feel much happier if I just left it in my bank account. I would pick something up at the store (small, inexpensive; maybe a pair of floral-print stockings for $5 on sale at Target) then little by little feel the guilt compound as I walked through the aisles. "Do I need this?" I'd ask myself. "Couldn't I just spend that money on food instead?" Weighed down by grief, I would rush back to the aisle to drop off whatever I decided I didn't need and flee, giddy from the satisfaction of my Rational Grown-Up Decision, to the check-out counter.
I realize that acquiring trinkets doesn't make me a happier, healthier person, but to say that we must strip all frivolity from our lives to be Rational Grown-Ups is soul-crushing. Because, as I'm sure most of you already know by now, there's never going to be enough money. There's probably never going to be enough in your checking account for you to do The Thing That You Really Need To Do. So you're going to put it on a credit card, which you may or may not pay off. The same way you may or may not pay off your student loans before you go gray at the temples. We all may or may not live our lives a medical emergency away from poverty.
We're all like Schrödinger's cat, in a way. We are all certainly wealthy and impoverished, in many in different ways, all simultaneously. Comfortable and pained. Held up high and brought fretfully low. Told to chase things we want and told we're stupid for it.
I say this because, not unlike cats in boxes, I'm never certain of anything. I'm never certain if I'm right or wrong to go back to school in an economy that gleefully punishes me for it. I'm never certain if I'm right or wrong to write in an era where poverty-level wages are fairly standard for many authors. I'm never certain if I have a future. I'm never certain if I will ever have enough money in my checking account to feel safe and human.
Instead, I bought a tiny bottle of perfume. It smells very nice, like lavender and honey. This pleases me.
For now, I'm okay with that.