This week we had a snowstorm. To many areas of the country this is no big deal. However, where I live we don’t “do” snow. We don’t have bi snow removal operations, most of us natives don’t know how or care to drive in it, and everything pretty much shuts down until the melting happens. I like it that way. To me, a snowstorm is a chance to take a break from the hectic pace of life, to slow down, and just enjoy the view. But to hear many people around here cry about it, especially those from areas where snow is not a crippling event, you’d think that a snowstorm was tantamount to a life sentence in jail. They can’t stand it and they’re itching to get out and about.
Case in point: The local news featured a couple that had trekked three miles, on foot, to find an open Target. The reporter asked them if they were in desperate need of supplies. I’m sure he was thinking, “Why else would someone walk three miles through the snow to get to Target?”
I could see hiking three miles in the snow to enjoy the view or to check on family, but to get to Target? Not unless I was in desperate need of something. Well, this couple admitted that they didn’t need anything, they just didn’t want to stay home. They had cabin fever. Now, bear in mind that at this point we’d been snowed in for all of half a day. And this couple had cabin fever so bad that they had to hike to Target.
Of course, they didn’t hike there for the simple joy of it. They bought several bags of stuff while they were there. This couple that wasn’t in desperate need of anything had managed to find five bags of stuff that they had to have. The reporter asked them what they bought.
They had some DVD’s, junk food, a video game, tchotchkes that were on clearance, and some magazines. While you could argue that some of that would provide entertainment during the snowstorm, I’m willing to bet that they had DVD’s, magazines, video games, and junk food at home already. They probably had enough entertainment at home to keep them occupied even if we ended up snowed in for a week. They also admitted that they’d had lunch in the food area because they just didn’t want to eat what they had at home. Now, none of this is life saving stuff.
So why couldn’t they just stay home and enjoy their time off from work? Why couldn’t they be content with the stuff they already had and just enjoy a day when all spending comes to a grinding halt? Why not take the snow day to actually save money?
I think this couple represents a larger problem in our culture. We just don’t know what to do with ourselves if we’re not able to get out and run errands and shop. We can’t stand a day at home because we feel like we’re somehow missing something if we’re just at home. Never mind that most of us have enough stuff in our homes to open a small department store of our own and we have enough food to feed us for days. We still have to get out and get more, even if the weather is terrible. Never mind that most of us plead for more time at home, more time to relax, and more time to have fun with our families.
We obviously don’t mean it because when given just such a day, we can’t stand it and we have to rush out in the snow to shop. Somewhere along the line we’ve lost the ability to entertain ourselves without spending money. We’re not content with having enough; we have to have more, no matter what we have to endure to get it. We can’t just “be.”
I don’t really understand this mindset, personally. I relish my time at home. A good snow day gives me a chance to catch up on my reading, to do some organizing, to make a good meal, or to watch a DVD that I’ve been saving. It’s a day that I can just enjoy myself and my family without constant interruption from the outside world. It’s also a day that I know I don’t have to spend money because there’s nothing to spend it on. I’m not tempted by fast food or a trip to the mall. Even if I think of something I “need,” it’s never life threatening enough to justify running out on dangerous roads to get it. I can just wait for another day. It’s a liberating feeling to sit at home, safe, secure, and to know there’s nothing that I have to do or get.
But most people aren’t like that. Many rely on outside stimulation for their entertainment and comfort. They think that the newest thing will make them happy and content if only they can get out to buy it or see it. They’ve become addicted to that feeling of hunting and then acquiring the desired object. Of course, the desired object doesn’t bring happiness because it was never about the object. It was about the feeling of getting the object. People are addicted to that feeling and they have to have it, no matter the weather. The only places to get that feeling, of course, are at the centers of commerce. It means hanging out at the mall or Target. It means heading to the movie theater every Friday night. It means heading out with the flu or a nasty cold. It means trekking three miles to Target in a foot of snow. It means spending money needlessly on junk that will never be used.
Is there a cure? I honestly don’t know. I think the recession has helped some people overcome this addiction, simply because they haven’t had the money to keep fueling their addiction to outside stuff. They’ve had to learn to be content with what they already have. They’ve rediscovered the joy of staying home, in good weather and bad. They’ve realized that they can entertain themselves with stuff they already own. Other people, like this couple, are harder cases. If you told them that they had to stay home for a week they’d collapse. They just don’t know how to survive without outside stimulation and buying stuff. They can’t entertain themselves, despite a ton of entertainment at home. They have to be out in the thick of commerce to be happy.
If you have a good snow day this winter or if you get sick, try staying home for a change and not rushing out to spend money. Just for one day. You’ll find that it won’t kill you. You might even find that you like it. If you look around your home you can find plenty to keep you busy and entertained. You’ve probably wished that you had time to take care of some chores around the house or devote yourself to some
creative project that never gets done in busier times. Take the day to make that wish come true. Don’t give in to the urge to go out. Just spend one day enjoying what you have and the time with your family. There’s nothing wrong with just staying home, contrary to what our culture seems to demand.