This year has been a bad one, undoubtedly, but we’ve been lucky compared to most. I’ve been fortunate enough to keep my job, we live in a nice home with each other and our dog, and our loved ones have remained healthy. Just a few weeks ago, we were at our friends’ house celebrating our birthdays (which all fall within a few weeks of each other’s) and one friend pointed out: we are in Los Angeles, eating steak and lobster together. He was right. We are okay, at least.
Setting aside the political turmoil, the incessant police brutality, and hundreds of thousands of people dying from a global pandemic (any and all of which I would easily trade in for any number of steak and lobster dinners), quarantine itself hasn’t been so bad.
Though, I’ve wrestled over the past six months with the realization that my entire life is centered totally around consumption. Consumerism has enveloped me, and most people like me. I think I knew this beforehand, having loved and studied the breakaway art of the 50’s, but I hadn’t realized just how guilty I was of endless consumption—how dependent I was on it.
When we began staying home in March, it felt like there was suddenly and absolutely nothing to do. The hours dripped slowly into days, each no different than the next. The whole world had been bustling at our fingertips, and then overnight, it was turned off. Suddenly, we couldn’t go to a restaurant or a movie or a bowling alley or a show or a bar, or anything. We couldn’t travel at all or even see other people without taking extensive precaution first. We were trapped inside with only a lingering sense of paranoia to keep our minds busy. I don’t even like going to movies all that much, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how fun it might be to get high and laugh at the screening of an old movie in the Vista Theatre up the street. I hadn’t gotten to do that yet.
We were craving consumption. Going to the grocery store became an adventure, not only because of the health risk (which we would have preferred to go without) but because it was a chance to ingest something new. The shelves were lined with stimuli, and we got to buy it and take it home. When we had enough groceries and were bored again, we resorted to shopping online for both our needs and our wants. Or, we would stare at Netflix for hours on end. I began to wonder what people did without things or experiences to buy, knowing that even moments of human connection were typically overlaid on the consumption of something, somewhere (a brunch with friends, bowling with friends, and so on).
But at the time, we were only starting to realize what we know well now: that the shutdown was not a pause, but rather a “goodbye” to the carefree life we’d known before (at least for a while).
Today, we’re better at not compulsively consuming the world around us through purchased items and experiences. Nowadays, as summer is coming to a close, we’ve explored more moments being still and more moments together. I’m not sure what changed exactly, but I know that I don’t equate my days with boredom anymore. We’ve taken up exercising together, talking more, laughing more, cooking and enjoying meals, playing games, finishing puzzles, playing with our dog more, gardening, learning, creating art and so on. Most of these activities are not entirely devoid of consumption, but we’ve been re-calibrated, perhaps necessarily, and I’m so amazed by that.
I’m amazed that we had all of these beautiful things to do all along, while we were meanwhile preoccupied with relentlessly injecting ourselves into that nonstop consumerism. I miss it in many ways, some days more than others, but I’m savoring these moments in anticipation of when everything might change overnight, again.