Last week I vocalized my first gripe over Christmas gift buying. It was a blustery day and I told myself after work I would venture out to the dangers of Princes Street to hunt for gifts and finally start checking people off the list. My friend’s response was not what I expected, “oh I stopped doing that years ago”…I had to ask for clarification, “yeah just one year, enough was enough and I explained to friends and family I would no longer buy Christmas gifts”. Is it possible to find a balance and not over consume during the Christmas period, does a conscious Christmas exist?
I’ve never felt quite so jealous of someone else’s relief from such a trivial conundrum. I don’t think I ever considered the fact that you could just…stop. It made me question why we do it to ourselves? Perhaps it’s like everything in life, the virus of capitalism has leached onto everything. Instead of being content with giving one thoughtful gift we are plagued by thoughts of ‘I didn’t spend enough’, ‘it should be more than one gift’, ‘what if they spent more than me’, ‘what if they think I don’t care’. None of these thoughts are very Christmassy and at the heart of it, your loved ones would never think such things of you.
“It is another of consumerism’s ironies that, although it functions like a mental trap, we often think of it as an escape.” ― J.B. MacKinnon, The Day the World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves
Personally, I don’t think I could take quite a drastic leap, and whilst I wouldn’t label my friend a Bah Humbug, I simply love Christmas too much to not gift give. However, I find myself extremely frustrated over the wasteful and excessive way we consume Christmas and we should definitely become more conscious over the Christmas period. Consumerism and the environment go hand in hand, the more we consume, the more we produce, the more we waste. It’s times of the year, like Christmas, where we should definitely be consuming differently, and not as much.
We’ve all had our fair share of Christmas presents where their only purpose was to generate, at best, a 30 second laugh. They then spend the rest of their life in a junk drawer, or collecting dust on a shelf only to end up in the bin or at a charity shop. I see gift sets from chain retailers in the same light. Ultimately, you are paying for Christmas themed packaging which again…goes in the bin!
So how do we all take steps to reduce wasteful consumption? Gag gifts can be a hoot, but can be sourced responsibly via charity shops or even ebay. No, your friend with a leaky gas pipe does not need a fart button. At all costs, avoid the boring, and frankly sexist, gifts for him or gifts for her sections. There’s a reason these types of gifts and gift sets dramatically fall in price post Christmas (it’s because no one wants them).
Without ignoring the elephant in the room, we are of course in the midst of a cost of living crisis. If unanimously we are spending less on Christmas, how can we also allow our money to have a greater impact on our local economy. Easy, spend it locally. And when I say locally I don’t mean Fort Kinnard because it’s down the road. Turn to our independent traders, local shops! Treat our friends and family to smaller gift parcels full of delights. Ultimately, these traders may not make it without our support. You may already be thinking about how these shops are too expensive, but again, perhaps we need to adjust our expectations for gifts. Quality over quantity!
Yes you may be able to get more ‘bang for your buck’ by buying gifts from chain retailers, but think of how much further your money goes when supporting a local business. Not only does your lucky receiver gain a beautiful, thoughtful gift, but you actively supported our local economy. Without sounding ungrateful, I find nothing more frustrating than receiving a gift that I know I won’t use. I’m sure we can all agree that one thoughtful gift is far more wonderful to receive than a big pile of consumer goods that are eventually forgotten about.
There is always the calling that a DIY christmas is the way to go. Undoubtedly, with energy costs on the rise, a vat of homemade chutney may no longer be the answer we’re looking for. We can definitely be a lot craftier in our quest for gifts. Perhaps we also should stop frowning upon the idea of second hand gifts…When it comes down to it, what are the real differences between a charity shop book, and a new book? Or a toy? A scarf? I’d argue that the only difference is our disdain towards giving something that has had a previous life.
In reality, imagine the cost of purchasing a variety of toys, books and games for a child and simply rejuvenating it with thoughtful and crafty wrapping? Who doesn’t love a hamper?! There’s no reason the hamper couldn’t be made up of second hand buys… You can find some more ideas for this here.
“Under capital’s growth imperative, there is no horizon – no future point at which economists and politicians say we will have enough money or enough stuff. There is no end, in the double sense of the term: no maturity and no purpose.”Jason Hickel, Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World
I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way around these conundrums. Christmas gift shopping is already hard enough without jumping through extra hoops. Society screams at us to be more eco-conscious, to save local businesses and still please our loved ones. Nevertheless, we should consider what our favorite gifts have been. How and why did they spark joy or find purpose in your life? Consider the journey the gift will go on after it has been received. By applying a few of these thoughts to our gift giving this year, we will ultimately have a more conscious christmas!
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It’s all too easy to reflect on time past as lost or wasted, the consequence of losing time only becomes apparent during moments of guilt based contemplation. Guilt causes us to value lost time to a higher level than the time we still have ahead of us. But perhaps this perpetual way of thinking is too caught up in regret and therefore we continue to waste time rather than build sustainable change to obtain our desires and goals. It’s easier to overestimate the power of the past and therefore underestimate the value of small changes and habits to daily life.
I had not considered the power of small habits until recently, this realisation came from an enormous change in the routine of my work life. I had spent the majority of my adult working life sacrificing a minimum of 40 hours a week to a physically and mentally challenging job. On top of that, I received my rota a week at a time, usually a day or two before the week started. The notion of habit and routine was impossible for me to obtain due to these constraints. The impact a lack of routine had on my physical and mental wellbeing was not unnoticed…definitely suppressed. When I think back to this lifestyle a quote from Bruce Tift rings true: “we don’t have to consciously participate in what it’s like to feel claustrophobic, imprisoned, powerless, and constrained by reality.” I felt as though I was down a rabbit hole with no idea how to get out. I needed more good days.
Personal time became a sparse luxury, when not at work I either needed to clean my flat, do laundry (AGAIN), or simply turn my body off and enter the abyss that is reality television. It wasn’t living, it wasn’t even surviving, it was simply existing. After having a sad and almost existential realisation that my work was the root cause of my unhappiness, changing my job became a necessity. Fast forward a year and two jobs later I finally found myself in a job that gave me TIME! Beautiful time! What did I do with this time?! I watched more TELLY! I mean…c’mon it was well earnt and a new series of Euphoria was calling my name. This didn’t last too long as I was well aware that this time could be better spent. Having said that, it’s just as important to know when to hibernate and recuperate.
“We often seem to dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter very much in the moment.” -James Clear: Atomic Habits.
The first small change that I made in an attempt to improve my wellbeing was to go to the gym. When I say I hated it, I really mean it. I hated the smell, the music, the sound and the look of the machines. Everything was monochrome and industrial. However, it became an important first step towards my ultimate goal. I wanted to become a runner. I knew I would never have the confidence to run in public without an improvement in my fitness levels. Even once I made it out of the gym and into the great outdoors, I kept running a well guarded secret. I wanted to protect my desire to run as far away as possible from the stigma of weight loss, this was not my goal and not my intention. I feared that outside opinions would push this unwanted pressure onto me and the public declaration of being a runner would skew my own vision.
Why am I running? Metaphorically form the patriarchy, in reality for myself! Overestimating the importance of a defining moment is easy, it’s even more important to value small improvements that you create daily. Success and achieving a goal does not require massive action. For me, the reason I run isn’t to run a marathon, it’s to have time to myself, to listen to music, to be outdoors and see the seasons change…
Routine aided in me identifying as a runner, now I can’t imagine not doing it and i’m certainly no longer scared to say that I do it. James Clear prompts the celbration of identity as it is a form of intrinsic motivation, “It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.” Schedule the time and show up for yourself, routine will form confidence in your actions and they will therefore become sustainable and with time, unconscious.
I felt that it was important to tell this story as it points out some fundamental things that first must happen in order to engage in positive lifestyle changes and become your ‘best self’. First, is your environment. This is both your home life and work life and acknowledging that a balance is needed. The second is motivating habitual practices in order to achieve a positive change.
“Your goal becomes your compass, not your buried treasure. The goal is your direction, not your destination. The goal is a mission that you are on, a path that you follow. Whatever comes from that path—whatever treasure you happen to find along this journey—well, that’s just fine. It is the commitment to walking the path that matters.” –James Clear: Atomic Habits.
When you identify a change you want to make in your life, or set a new goal the most important part is to make it a manageable change. If you set a goal that is too impossible to reach, it is unlikely that you will achieve it. Instead manage ambitions into smaller goals, this will enable you to change habits and generate sustainable progression. An unattainable goal will cause you to fall possibly at the first hurdle and therefore instantly lose motivation. Your habits must also align with your environment, looking back now I would not have made positive and sustainable changes in my life without changing my working life.
It’s difficult to appreciate small changes and the creation of small habits because they do not matter in the moment. We’re all guilty of comparing ourselves to those who are already where we want to get to. It doesn’t matter how unsuccessful or good you are right now, the thing that matters is curating the time, environment and nurturing the habits. Once you’ve consciously made these decisions (and ofcourse stick to them), everything else falls into place.
Curating your environment will expose many practical changes that ultimately lead to good habits and rituals. For example, I’m personally guilty of leaving my phone to charge on top of my ever growing pile of unread books. It’s as easy as charging my phone in a different room, by removing the distraction of a phone (and silly animal videos), maybe…just maybe, those books will get read!
“Making a better decision is easy and natural when the cues for good habits are right in front of you […] be the designer of your world, and not merely the consumer of it.” -James Clear: Atomic Habits.
As we come into colder and darker months, it becomes even more important to consciously establish positive habits. Maybe it’s just as much about understanding the deep route of why you want to do something, or embody something? What does it bring to your life? I think without at least a curiosity to understand why, perhaps it won’t bring you the redemption you want it to. Is there a change in your lifestyle that you want to make? Ask yourself how you can create meaningful habits to build and shape your world. Write it down, break it down, enjoy the process of change and have more good days!
“[Life] is a dance, and when you are dancing, you are not intent on getting somewhere. The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance.”- Oliver Burkeman:The Antidote.
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Let’s not call that toxic masculinity. Saying “toxic masculinity” implies that masculinity is the core problem here, and suggests that a tiny bit of masculinity might also be a tiny bit poisonous. Using the word masculinity suggests that all men have a toxic core. I don’t buy that. What we’re seeing in the Sociopathic Baby-Man bestrides the world of ordinary men like a colossus. It’s more important than ever to make this distinction.-by Heather Havrilesky,
Read her full article -Don’t Call It ‘Toxic Masculinity.’ They’re Sociopathic Baby-Men
The past week or so has been interesting to experience, watch, partake and converse about. From the #Me Too ‘campaign’ (although here is a link to the original campaign which did not come from Alyssa Milano), to the media and public’s reactions to Weinstein, to the conversations around raising our sons and daughters, changing our language away from the victims and put the emphasis on the aggressor or the one abusing their power. If you haven’t been thinking and speaking about it, even just a little, maybe you should.
I have struggled with the phrases; boys will be boys and extreme male to define some ‘masculine’ behaviours. I don’t want the males I know and love to be put in the category of masculine if they have to stand next to the power-hungry, human-destroying, women-fearing, pussy-grabbing, consume-at-all costs, kind of men. Maybe the best term for them is sociopathic baby-men-I am not quite convinced but I get what she is saying. We definitely need to stop calling it masculinity. I for one want to raise a strong, empathetic, human loving son. I want him to be able to cry, love and feel deeply for all living things. I don’t want him to have to imagine an unfamiliar women is me or his sister when he is older and partying at a club to be able to not mistreat her. I want his deep respect for all humans lead his decision making. This sounds so basic but it seems not to be our current norm. Culturally we live in a world where we normalise abuse, we accept world leaders who brag of the dominance over women, we use language which puts all of the burden on the victims. (I recommend reading this, Don’t Talk to Your Sons About Sex – Talk About This Instead).
So why is it so hard to stand up to these types of people and why do people silently watch these men abuse their power? Better question, why have I let several men abuse their power over me? This is obviously complicated and highly personal but I bet the story is very, very common. The world tells us to be quiet, to not make a big deal of things, to get over it, move on. This is part of the problem. From older kids, teachers, ‘friends’, bosses, ex partners, strangers; I can actually think of endless examples of men thrusting their attempts of power over me. Some of these attempts have landed with serious actions and have been followed by life changing views of myself. This is powerful stuff. We need to reset our baseline of acceptability. All of us. This is the time to believe victims- it is not easy to come forward.
There are so many little ways the balance of power is played out in what some might consider small incidents.
I can actually give an example which happened just last week. I received a creepy, unsolicited instagram message from someone I do not really know. I met him once at a café a few years ago. The text was about a dream he had and was extremely creepy, ended with I love you and was totally out of the blue. I ignored it at first, thinking that it must have been sent by mistake. Then I remembered my friend saying she thought he was shady so shared it with her. Instantly she was angry and wanted to take action. This happens when you doubt yourself a bit. My friend doubted herself enough not to confront him at the time. She just avoided him and moved on. When someone does something a little off but does it in such a way that you question yourself. These are skilful predators. This is one reason why we must not respond to ourselves or to others with anything but support in the first instance. But we don’t. Even as I wrote this paragraph, there were doubting thoughts about what others might think. Will some folk think that there must be more to the story; that I must have done something to warrant such message. Nope. I did nothing, absolutely nothing.
My friend immediately rallied trusted troops (men actually) and instantly they all had my back. After a few ideas of how to best handle this, one friend wrote a suggested response. It was perfect. It was strong, confident, took-no-blame- perfect. This made me feel loved, protected, justified and in power.
It also made me think of all of the times when people didn’t respond this way. Feeling false guilt, shame, blame and deeply damaged is exacerbated when people don’t believe your pain or your truths. Sadly, I think the majority of people respond badly, if at all, to these types of situations. Let’s change this. Let’s not make it a female/male thing. Let’s look at all of us in the confusion as humans. How do we treat fellow humans? We should want better for ourselves and for our fellow humans. The time is way past now to make it all of our responsibility.
For me, I am making more of an effort to think of all of us as humans too. I am trying to stop saying ‘all men…’ After all, we all have different experiences and although I have been hurt more often and deeper by men in my past, I have also loved many men. I too need to see past the gender and look at the person.
Here is an excellent blog post by columnist, Courtney E. Martin, For Guys Reading #MeToo Testimonies. “A world this riddled with sexual harassment and abuse will never be healed by a hashtag, that’s for sure. Yet, this moment could be the first one that you choose to do something different, to lay the first brick in a world that is built differently, a world safe for women’s bodies and men’s feelings, a world worthy of everyone’s wholeness”.
And to the creep sending messages to women you don’t know, I am really not sure how to help you and more importantly, how to stop you from deceiving and preying on women. For a start, read the article at the top and understand the part you play in it all. Secondly, I believe this is really about fear and violence. It sadly makes up the fabric of our world and nothing less than the dismantling of our current systems, a complete discrediting of what we now consider power, will compel the sweeping change we so badly need to see.
And to my friends, you rock. I wish everyone out there had you guys behind them.