|Photo Attribution: return the sun|
I’ve heard that every relationship has a spender and a saver. Assuming that this is true, then I am certainly the spender in our marriage. I suspect that part of the reason is that I don’t get numbers. Quantifying things makes absolutely no sense to me, and math courses were always the lowest grades in any of my educational pursuits. Whatever the cause, I have always had a tendency to purchase things, or come very close to purchasing something, without realizing the impact of how much it costs until I have already spent the money, or am about to spend the money. That has gotten me into more than one situation in my life. Karen is great for me like that, because she understands things like financial planning, and is able to explain the consequences of these sorts of things to me in terms that I can understand.
Now, that doesn’t mean that she tries to prevent me from getting the things that I want, but rather that she questions my getting what I want right now. There are two huge advantages to this: First, when we make the purchase, we’ve planned for it and are thus able to afford what we’re doing instead of just piling on more debt, as is the American way. Secondly, I frequently decide, after waiting a few weeks or months, that I really didn’t want whatever it was nearly as badly as I thought I did in the first place.
Like I said, she’s good for me like that.
Patience, it is said, is a virtue, and I do not have a reputation for patience. The words of my parents ring true in my adult life, however, that you appreciate something much more when you wait for it. Now that I fall victim to the temptation less frequently, I have a clearer perspective on just how much of an epidemic that instant gratification is in our culture. Because we can purchase whatever we want (and, in the case of most media, have it on our device and in our possession) immediately, I think that all of it has less value to us. For example, back when I listened to songs on the radio as a child (you remember radio…that free airwave thing that preceded iTunes?), I used to long for some of my favorite songs on tape, but couldn’t afford the entire album. I find that now, years later, purchasing those songs individually and having them readily available to play whenever means a lot to me, because it’s like I waited years to own them. Conversely, the random new release albums that I buy occur to me later, and are almost forgotten in a lot of cases.
When what we have means less to us, we’re left with an attitude of disposability. That is, when something breaks, we simply throw it away and replace it, because it didn’t mean that much to us in the first place. Because we define our individualistic culture by what we have, rather than who we are, we generalize this to the human plane as well as the material. Thus, when a marriage appears broken, we simply throw it away and replace it. It seems that if we hold something in higher esteem, though, we work to repair it, we don’t just leave it behind.
Just before our daughter was born last year, I eagerly awaited the new season of Haven‘s arrival on Hulu. The first episode of the season had me hooked, as always, and I waited and waited for weeks for episode number two. As we don’t have cable (you remember cable…that overpriced, unreliable subscription model that people used before ad-based alternatives like Hulu?), we rely on Hulu and Netflix for our television viewing. After several weeks, I checked with Hulu to see why no new episodes had been posted. The series details stated that all episodes would be available for streaming at the end of the season airing.
I can’t wait until then!!! impatient Dave cried. I must watch Haven now!!!! So, I opened iTunes, and purchased a season pass. All the episodes to date downloaded, and I began happily watching.
A week later, all of them were available on Hulu.
Now, I had only wasted about $30 in the whole process, but the point is that I could have waited. I didn’t have to watch Haven immediately, and I would have enjoyed it just as much or more had I waited another two weeks. And so, I learned a lesson. When CBS stopped posting episodes of one of our favorite programs on their website or anywhere else, we simply decided to stop watching the program. And, you know, we’ve survived with no complications to our lives whatsoever.
This goes for the rest of life, as well. Waiting is a sort of spiritual discipline, and, as we near a major life and career move in the near future, I find myself appreciating it all the more now that we have waited nearly two years for it to happen. If, then, waiting leads to increased value in things and people on whom we wait, then it inversely (and accurately) places less value on the things for which we didn’t wait. Karen and I are in the process of downsizing our apartment in preparation for a move, and this, too, is a spiritual exercise. Freeing ourselves from the hold that stuff has on our lives is extremely liberating. The furniture that we purchased specifically for this apartment is the first to go, but that bookcase that was willed to me by my grandmother will be carefully looked after.
There’s a friction between the wisdom of reigning in our desire for instant gratification, and the hyper-marketed, materialistic society in which we exist. We all succumb to that friction at some point, but I’m hoping to give in less in the future.