Nov 19, 2010

Thanks-Christmas? What about Thanksgiving?

If you read last week’s blog, you understand that it wasn’t an easy week for me. If you didn’t read last week’s blog, I’m not going to re-hash it, but what I will say is this—losing a pet is hard.

So, when life dishes out something that is difficult, depressing or tiresome, I think we are entitled to a break. We are allowed to reward ourselves for surviving and getting through a particularly hard time. The problem is that life isn’t always fair. Just because you’ve made it through something hard doesn’t mean it will be offset by something wonderful. The Yin and Yang of the universe are not in perfect harmony. There is the “unknown” that we must factor in.

Dare I say it, but sometimes when things are hard, it only means more “hard” is right behind it. This is why I believe that when life offers a “break in the action,” even if it’s just a few hours, we should grab onto it with both hands. During this proverbial “break,” I think we are entitled to something nice.

In 2010, during a time when consumerism makes the world go round, what better way to indulge in your break than participating in what I call “Retail Therapy.”

I would define this as the action of going out to a store and buying something to make yourself feel better. I’m sure some would argue that buying a material “thing” is not a good coping skill. Maybe, those people are right. You probably shouldn’t be out shopping for a new boat or a house just because you endured a rough day. However, what I’m suggesting is indulging in something small and cheap. An easy quick fix to change your mood, but won’t infringe upon your life savings.

As much as I love designer clothes and shoes, expensive jewelry and booking trips to exotic destinations—these are NOT what fall into my category of retail therapy. Instead, last week, when I needed a little “pick me up” I headed over to the drug store.

As I walked into the entrance of my local CVS pharmacy, I squinted my eyes in an attempt to shield them from the fluorescent light beaming through the threshold. It was a stark contrast to the dark sky (which sadly occurs around 5:30 these days—damn daylight savings). While my eye’s adjusted, I grabbed a cart and leaned onto it, as if the cart could temporarily carry the weight of my day. I walked slow, dragging my feet behind the car and can feel the stresses of the day dissipate as I roamed from aisle to aisle.

I am usually in a hurry, crunched for time, under a deadline; but in this moment, with the tacky love songs blaring through the store speakers I let go of those constraints for a few minutes and wandered aimlessly through the store. I wasn’t there to purchase anything that required the assistance of a cart; but I pushed it anyway. After about 5 minutes of wandering, I ditched the cart and walked to the back where the stacked shelves house my glossy, beloved “trash magazines”. Most commonly known as celebrity gossip magazines—In Touch, US Weekly and STAR.

These are my more common purchases when indulging in retail therapy. I call them “trash magazines” because they serve no intellectual purpose, are poorly written/put together, and once read end up right in the trash. People rarely keep them to read twice. Yet, despite their lack of academic, intellectual or accurate content, these “trash magazines” are my guilty pleasure. They are my “break in the action.”

They allow me to indulge in the good ole’ past time of mindless boredom. They provide an opportunity to clear your head of all “heavy” thoughts, give your brain a moment to rest and escape the annoyances and commitments of every-day life.
Usually this works, but this week, as I roamed through the CVS I couldn’t help but get ticked off.  I should have been thinking...

Yummy food, pumpkin pie, counting blessings and lying, on the couch watching football. Instead, it was jungle bells, snowmen and red and green mayhem. The Holiday pushing was out in full force!

Thanksgiving is in a few days, but sadly you wouldn’t really know it… The Christmas season has pushed its way in and overshadowed the feast that is Thanksgiving. You would think Christmas could be gracious—giving that it has all the religious adaptations: Kwanzaa, Chanukah and Ramadan. It even gets an “eve” and a “day.” Even more, it is referred to as a “season” not just a “holiday”.

It’s definitely the holiday with preferential treatment and it seems to be socially allocated enough time… but NO! Christmas has to go and step on the toes of poor Thanksgiving. Well Bah-Hum-Bug! How am I supposed to distress during my retail therapy outing when that smiling reindeer is staring at me and seems to be mocking me with his red nose—reminding me of all of the shopping I haven’t started yet.

I am a huge Christmas fan, although from my preceding paragraphs you probably don’t believe me, but it’s true.

I love Christmas; drinking hot cocoa while watching "The Polar Express" and watching “A Christmas Story” on repeat for the 24 hours leading up to Christmas Day. Wrapping presents, decorating the tree, and baking cookies. Listening to the radio as it tracks Santa’s sleigh and plays endless Christmas tunes.

I am confident that for another consecutive year I will overplay—no that’s not strong enough—I will absolutely kill the Mariah Carey song “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, so much that anyone who steps foot near my car will roll their eyes in disgust wondering how I could be content listening to it over and over. I’m telling you, I love Christmas… I just don’t love it before it’s scheduled to arrive.

I want to ignore it, I want to look away and just enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, but it’s virtually impossible when the stores fronts, drug stores and supermarkets are bursting with red and green just hours after Halloween has passed.

Maybe, in a society of consumerism, the problem is that there isn’t much to “market” by way of retailers for poor Thanksgiving.

  • Halloween = overpriced costumes
  • Valentine ’s Day = overpriced greeting cards and giant overpriced stuffed hearts with creepy adorning arms or 4 foot teddy bears (all of which you donate to toys-for-tots a few weeks later. I mean who has a place for a 4-foot bear?) 
  • Fourth of July/Memorial Day/Labor Day = we drop loads of money on red, white and blue EVERYTHING along with smuggling fireworks and all the dressings for a BBQ.

But Thanksgiving is really only about food and giving thanks. No trinkets to buy, gifts to wrap, costumes to wear or fireworks to set off.

Maybe this is where “Black Friday” came from?

Just maybe the big business’s realized there wasn’t any money to be made off of people getting together and being grateful for their blessings. There was nothing motivating these grateful people to buy/shop at Thanksgiving. So, instead of allowing society to take a moment and give thanks for the abundant blessings, retailers distract us with the ding of cash registers and signs luring us in to “BIGGEST SAVINGS OF THE YEAR.”

This should work. But, for someone like me who whole heartedly believes in the benefits of relaxing retail therapy and mindless trash magazines, you would think I would be on the Holiday-Pushing, Early-Christmas-Shopping, Black-Friday-Bandwagon. But I’m not… To be honest, I think all you Black Friday shoppers are crazy to be up that early and ballsy to face those massive crowds. I’ve never had the draw.

As I said last week, I HATE the pushing. I truly believe we all need to slow down and stop the rushing. I am a huge fan of taking things in stride, allowing the natural domino effect of life to take its course, including appreciating the beauty of each and every holiday—particularly Thanksgiving— since it’s one of the rare holidays that isn’t driven by consumerism; but is still rooted in the origins of being thankful for life’s real blessings.


 We are too busy to hold doors and say thank you. We don’t write out thank-you notes, instead we shoot an email with the subject line reading “Thanx.” There are many instances when we are more productive and less appreciative. We expect instant gratification and forget how lucky we are to get it.

Although, I think we should continue to participate in personal retail therapy sessions, during Thanksgiving, I think we should give the credit cards a break and FORGET about Christmas shopping for a moment—at the very least until Black Friday. Don’t worry Christmas is coming, but it’s not here yet! Before you surrender to full blown Christmas shopping madness, take a moment, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving… just be thankful.


We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

I have strong doubts that the first Thanksgiving even remotely resembled the "history" I was told in second grade. But considering that (when it comes to holidays) mainstream America's traditions tend to be over-eating, shopping, or getting drunk, I suppose it's a miracle that the concept of giving thanks even surfaces at all. ~Ellen Orleans