The thing about tolerating a cold is that in between blowing the nose and hacking up phlegm balls, you have quite a bit of time for thinking.
On November 19th a cold took hold at 38,000 feet over the Pacific when a stranger a few rows behind let loose with a wet and righteous sneeze. At the time I remember calmly telling myself, “I’m going to get that.” Repeated slaps to the forehead while silently screaming “NO NO NO NO you idiot WHAT were you thinking?!?!” were not enough to talk my immune system down from the inevitable and, sure enough, on the evening of Tuesday the 20th while watching a DVD with my friend, I began to cough.
By the following morning I had a full-blown excuse for staying in bed with the duvet tucked tight for the next seven days.
But, like I said, it gave me time to think. Perhaps it was feverish delirium, but the one thing I thought most about were the two flowerpots full of pens I keep on the right hand corner of my desk next to the twelve spiral notebooks I keep stacked at attention in the event I should have just one brilliant thought worth noting (there at least a dozen more notebooks awaiting active duty in a dresser drawer). “Why on earth,” I muttered, “do I have so many pens and notebooks?”
I’m a pen snob. I prefer an ultra fine Pilot G2 gel point in black. They have good glide.
I’m not as picky about my spiral notebooks, although I prefer the 9 ½ by 7 inch Callbers. Yes, I have a couple of those fancy black notebooks – the one Hemingway preferred – but I’m afraid of them. They’re a bit too pretty. I wouldn’t dare deface them with my chicken scratch – even with a black inked ultra fine Pilot G2 gel point.
Yes, I recognize my obsession with notebooks and pens is a symptom of something more troubling.
When I recovered from my cold I took a good look around me. In my medicine cabinet were six different brands of hair ointment all promising to do the same thing for my curls. In my closet? Sixteen pairs of shoes. There are three more pairs in a basket by my front door. Four tubes of toothpaste. Five brands of antiperspirants. An assortment of travel sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer.
You see where I’m going with this. I feel a little New Year’s challenge coming on.
I’m going to try to survive 2013 without making any new purchases.
Before you think I’ve gone around the twist, here are the guidelines:
Obviously I will need to pay rent, purchase food, gas for my car, electricity. I will also be spending money on books and tuition this year as well as airfare for a trip back East.
What I won’t allow myself to buy is any item bought to replace an item that I already have and that is still in good working order. I can only replace personal care items like soap, shampoo, deodorant and moisturizer when what I have is within a use or two of running out.
No new pens or notebooks.
No new clothes or shoes – I have more than I need.
But what about entertainment? Meals out? The occasional over-priced coffee?
I’m not trying to live the life of an ascetic. I still want to live well and enjoy life fully. I will set a budget over the next few days to accommodate life’s little frills.
This is a simple exercise in mindfulness. Ours is a greedy and wasteful society. I want to pay better attention to how much I waste and what I truly need.
Anyone care to join me?