Skip to main content

$Monday: Defund Mindless Consumption and Invest in What's Good

Most people and systems don't change until they are forced. This pandemic has forced a lot on us and keeps ramping up, so now is make-or-break time to defund our worst patterns, from the global to the individual, and reinvest in our future. If you have been in a mental fog since March, or if you have been using harmful coping mechanisms to get by, there's no shame in your automatic responses or in your survival strategies. At the same time, we each have the agency and the urgency to shift to sustainable ways of living through hard times that have no quick fix.

Each one of us can and must use the current pandemic and the winds of social change to redesign our ways of life from the ground up, in the unfortunate absence of national leadership. It's sink or swim time, for you and for me and for the whole of our society. And it isn't just a matter of surviving so that we can get back to normal--this is our chance to truly heal some old wounds and to build a new normal that is so much better than the old baseline that we won't even miss it.

A recent New York Times opinion piece lays out the historical and economic precedents for meaningful, lasting changes for good occurring in response to crises. Transformation is not just possible in the aftermath of a crisis, it's more likely to succeed.

“Hope right now in America is bloodied and battered, but this is the kind of hope that is successful,” said Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey. “It’s hope that has lost its naïveté.”

So what do we do with our bloody hopes? First, we need to accept that social justice and personal responsibility are not opposites but rather interdependent conditions. One cannot exist without the other. In an economy built on the premise of consumer choice, how we spend our money and how we spend our time--the most obvious manifestations of our power--determine our fortune. And, plot twist--social injustice means that we don't all get a fair share of money and freedom over how we use our time. That very inequality fuels the urgency to change how we live, individually and collectively. Don't waste your energy blaming yourself for not having been endowed with certain unearned privileges at birth or at any point in your life. And don't--absolutely do not--scapegoat others with less power and privilege than you. Focusing your rage and blame in a backwards direction will only dig us all deeper into the muck. Do recognize, accept, and use the powers you have at any given moment--for yourself and for your larger community. Listen and be compassionate, but also mind your own business and do your own work.

In the United States, our economy is based upon useless and numbing consumption of "future-garbage" products and services that we don't need and which do not make our lives better for having consumed them. The pandemic, economic crisis, and social unrest have set the whole system ablaze, exposing how it has damaged our health and made us, as individuals and as a nation, weak and vulnerable. To come back stronger, we need to come back different. To come back better, we need to take responsibility for our own wellness and happiness by making conscious decisions about how we spend our money, our time, our lives.

Personal responsibility and social justice depend upon each other to exist. Never forget that. When you hear someone using one as an excuse for discounting the other, these concepts are being misapplied. Blaming the victim is never a solution to injustice. Learned helplessness is never an effective response to victimization. We need both justice and personal responsibility to drive systemic change in a positive direction. Social justice empowers individual people with the resources and freedoms they need to take good care of themselves and others, and getting involved in issues that are larger than our individual lives gives each one of us a greater sense of agency, which is essential to our abilities to heal, develop our skills and talents, and thrive. Our psychic wounds are not our fault, but nobody else can heal them for us. Our centuries-deep cultural problems are no living individual's fault, but as my mother-in-law says, "That and a quarter will get you twenty-five cents." We must come together to come within closer reach than ever before to the American dream, to the ideals that we are all free and that every child born matters.

During a regime of authoritarian violence, uncontrolled disease spread, and widening social divisions, it's easy to come up with lists of things we can't or shouldn't do. But this time also provides unique opportunities to:
  • connect with a social movement online to deepen your involvement with demilitarizing police and reinvesting in systems that nurture community health; protecting natural resources and the right to pollution-free water, air, food, and land; dismantling racism; or another cause that moves each one of us to stand up and speak out
  • get serious about attending to our own health--physical, mental, and emotional--so we can continue to show up for our loved ones and our communities, even if "showing up" is just being there for a supportive phone call or doing what we can to mitigate our own children's trauma; for guidance on how to manage your own wellness, read Raptitude's simple advice on "How to Feel Better" and plan your own "Corona Summer Self-Care"
  • set an example of self-care for our friends and family; encourage others to do the same for themselves and celebrate their victories and joys in addition to comforting them in times of grief and sadness
  • use the downturn in FOMO to our advantage, spending less money and time on makeup, haircuts, clothes, travel, entertainment outside of our homes, and all non-essential work we'd normally have a greater need to pay others to do for us, or spend time and energy doing ourselves, just so that we can be a good rat in the race
  • use the best blanket excuse of our entire lifetimes to dump the chumps in our lives, end toxic relationships that drain us more than they sustain us, and quit enabling self-destructive behaviors in friends and family who are not coping well; social distancing makes it easier than ever to prioritize the people and social dynamics that give us life
  • catch up on home and vehicle maintenance to invest in a more secure future with fewer financial and logistical emergencies
  • give back to our communities by donating if we are in a strong position to do so

A lot of the world's chaos is happening outside of our control, but what you do matters, especially to yourself and to everyone who loves you and benefits from knowing you. We're all in this together, even in our loneliness and ennui. The only certainties we have are that the big problems of the world will stick around for a long time--too long to cling to unsustainable ways of doing and being--and that there are always unique opportunities to be found in chaos. So take stock of any ingrained habits that hurt you long-term, replace them with behaviors that help, and connect with something bigger than yourself to overcome self-centered despair. It's never too late while you're alive, and--the sooner the better.


Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

Diversity, Get In My Belly!

Diversity is good! That’s common sense, right? Human physical and cultural diversity is good for developing kids' social skills and self-esteem, good for the workplace, and important in media representation. Diversification is desirable in financial investment portfolios and income streams. Diverse perspectives are good for education, arts, and entertainment. Diverse experiences in life are cool. Expanding the diversity of one's own life skills is useful. Natural diversity of flora and fauna is good for healthy ecosystems.  Inside the human body, diversity is good for the microbiome of our guts.  Diversity!  It's great in the world, in the wild, and inside of our own minds and bodies. So why do so many people think that exclusionary food diets are beneficial? And who am I to judge them? Hello, I'm a lifelong slim person who has never had a chronic condition related to body weight or an eating disorder. I don't think that there is anything magical or genetically frea

Budget Bride VIII: Let the Good Times All Roll Out

My favorite kind of wedding is a joyful wedding. Who cares how pretty the pictures are if the day wasn't any fun? Perfectionism is a big old party pooper. Don't invite it. Instead, minimize fuss and maximize fun. Design your day so that the tasks requiring order and focus (such as formal portraits) come first and aren't too complicated, and build lots of flex time into the schedule so that the unexpected can be handled gracefully and everyone has time to actually enjoy being there, in each other's company. Put some laughs and silly surprises into the reception to signal to your guests when it's time to loosen belts and ties, kick off high heels, and hike up those bustles. You want to create a mood transition between the reverent ceremony and the raging celebration. My wedding day began with elegant, well-rehearsed precision accompanied by live cello and ended with unexpected combinations of people making out in an elevator to gay dance music. That's #goals! If y

Budget Bride VII: The Magic Words

The words of a marriage ceremony describe what is happening ("Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today...") and how it's going to work (the vows). My husband and I, like most Europeans and an increasing number of Americans, had two marriage ceremonies, a legal process at the county courthouse and then a spiritual/social wedding celebration. We got the contractual issues buttoned up at our legal ceremony, so we felt free to be more creative on our big wedding day. Instead of repeating our courthouse vows or writing additional vows, we decided to express why we had already committed the rest of our lives to each other. We used English-translated passages by Spanish poet Pablo Neruda to illustrate the story of our relationship leading up to the celebration of our union in the springtime of the year and of our life together. The Magic Words Love is free. So is expressing it in words. All brides, regardless of budget , can bring beauty, personality, and meaning to a wedd

Budget Bride VI: Party Like an Immigrant

One thing I'm loving about the 2020s is that all of a sudden, Black Lives Matter has gone mainstream, our government representation suddenly has become more diverse, and there has been a seismic cultural shift toward celebrating racial and cultural diversity rather than suppressing it. We are a proud, colorful people! Look around you at those you plan to invite to your wedding. What family traditions would you like to uphold, revive, or remix to celebrate the union of you and your beloved and all the people who made each of you who you are? For a wedding that is rich in tradition yet affordable, both meaningful and joyful, look for the immigrants ! Party Like an Immigrant Budget bride s, now is the time to look deep into your cultural heritage for wedding inspiration and soul. America is a great big progressive potluck, and so are most of our families. Search through your own ingredients to find spice and flavor for your ceremony and reception. Got any Jews in the family? Big Fa

International and Time "Traveling" on the Silver Screen

As the pandemic marches on, one of my favorite ways to escape the feeling of cabin fever safely (and without spending any money!) is to "travel" to different countries and time periods through the magic of historical and international films. I use my library card to access the Hoopla streaming service, which is similar to the Kanopy service offered by some other library branches. Check with your local library about free film streaming services you can access, and then sign in on your laptop, smart TV, Roku, Fire stick, or outdoor projector if you live someplace warm!  If you find that your appetite for international films surpasses what these free services can satiate, here is a list of the 10 best streaming services for international content .  I live in Michigan, which is currently in a beautiful polar vortex, so I fit my movie watching time into the early morning hours before dawn (seriously, one of my favorite ways to wake up, with a hot cup of coffee) and after dusk. Ado

Own Your Sads and Your Glads

All human beings have complex emotions, especially in complicated times. At this moment, we all have things we are sad about and things we are glad about. Every emotion tells us something true--but not everything that is true. There is healing and wisdom to be found in embracing our emotional complexity exactly as it is, not dramatizing, romanticizing, or wallowing in our mood swings and also not repressing ourselves. We don't have to feel guilty about our positive feelings when bad things happen, and we don't have to feel guilty about our negative feelings just because somebody else in the world has it worse.  Instead, we can practice gratitude for all the lessons our feelings teach us about what we need to do and how to make it happen. This peak pandemic winter (with the spring just weeks away), I am learning how to pay better attention to the full spectrum of my emotional responses to life so that I can accept the truths they bring me and the tools they provide me to care fo

Budget Bride V: Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Potlucks are a classic loaves-and-fishes trick to feeding lots of people on a budget, though buffet-style meals are, for sad reasons, quickly going out of fashion in the 2020s. Cue the food trucks! Food trucks can be a great alternative to a buffet because they're mobile, they can serve personally customized meals on-demand, and they come at a variety of price points. "Healthy" food doesn't just mean fiber and vegetables or avoiding fat and sugar. (What fun is that at a wedding anyway?) "Healthy" can also refer to safety from contamination. Plagues and food poisoning can really poop on a party, so I'd err on the side of hot, made-fresh, even fried foods. It's a special occasion, after all!  Heavily spiced foods also lend safety in feeding large numbers of people due to the antimicrobial properties of many herbs and spices. Complex, bold dishes can offer a balance of special-night flair, comfort, safety, nutrition, and price. Check out your local Lati

Every Millennial Is Now an Adult Without -Ing

Millennials are no longer the new kids on the block! (Not to be confused with the boy band NKOTB, who are members of Gen X.) Millennials are all adults now, adults as a noun, no matter what we are doing or how well we have mastered life skills. As a matter of fact, we are roughly 25 - 40 years old, not girls and boys, not yet old olds. After years of riding the "adulting" struggle bus, we have arrived! We are the newest adults in the room, and we are winging it just like every other adult before us. We may whine more. We may cling to our childish fandoms longer. Nevertheless, the time for using "adult" as a verb has ended. We are adults, for better or worse. So has the time also come for us to let go of the laugh-cry emoji, side parts, skinny jeans, and the color millennial pink? Short answer: No! We're the grownups and we do what we want. It's a tough spot because from now on, the harder we try to appear young, the older we look. But it's also a swee

It's BEAN a Long Time

The days are lengthening, and hope is returning to humankind! I feel like starting something new--something that will complement the slow, gradual fade-out of the pandemic rather than put me and my family at premature risk. Instead of making travel plans or even party plans beyond distant daydreams, I'm confidently moving ahead on plans to grow a new and improved vegetable garden this spring. I'll use compost and wisdom that I've collected over the past 15 years on the ol' homestead, and I'll re-start my veggie garden using a mix of tried-and-true and new techniques. Over the years, I've learned which edible plants grow best on my suburban Michigan property: beans, peas, corn, cabbage, onions, garlic, sunflowers, potatoes, tomatoes. This year, I'll continue tending to my fruit and nut trees and only plant a few seasonal veggies that I can trust to thrive--unless a fun opportunity comes along, like when someone gives me a plant as a gift or my daughter brings