Archive for the 'Forgiveness' Category

Is Advertising Making Us Poor?

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I read somewhere that on average Americans are exposed to between 500 to 1000 advertising messages per day. This bombardment comes to us in from television, radio, magazines, newspapers, the sides of buses, taxis and trucks, labels, logos, T-shirts and the Internet, to name a few plus other sources I may have forgotten to include. Advertisers spend billions of dollars each year to compel us to buy their products – and it seems to be working. We are a nation of debtors living in a nation deep in debt.

This statistic about advertising made me think of how much stuff I already own. In my adult life I’ve moved 8 times, and each time I threw, or gave away things I was no longer using, or had never used in the first place. After getting rid of these possessions not only did I feel lighter and freer, but I never missed them, and not for a second did I wish I’d kept any of it. The other thing that amazed me was that when I went to move the next time, I’d acquired as much stuff as I’d given away all over again.

I’ve now gotten to the point in my life where I no longer wish to add to my possessions. I’ve come to see that owning more stuff makes me less happy as I have to find the means to safeguard all of it. I’m tired of being driven to distraction by all the advertising pushing us to buy and own more and more. In a way, I think all this stuff clutters the mind and obscures the simple essence of what life is all about; enjoying time together and making memories with the people you love and care about.

Currently, the advertisement I find most annoying is one for Macy’s Department Store where every celebrity hawking a brand is in the store checking their wares. I absolutely hate this commercial. I am not interested in making any of these celebrities any richer, nor am I interested in buying their products. When did we all become such suckers that the mere dangling of some shiny object in front of us by some celebrity makes us run out and buy it?

The other thing that drives me crazy - store sales during holidays like Fourth of July, and Memorial Day, and Presidents Day, etc. Just because the store is having a sale must we run out and buy more of what we probably already have? I cannot think of a worse place to spend an afternoon on a beautiful day than inside a mall.

I can and do buy things when I need them, but I have to really need it. In these difficult economic times, I’m thinking more about my purchases and putting back more things than I buy. You can absolutely live without most of the stuff you take to the check-out counter, or order online. And, you can absolutely be happier when you aren’t receiving credit card bills in the mail that you have no way of paying off. Think about it – as soon as you put something on credit you become a slave to it. Is that the kind of life you want?

How much more precious time could you spend with friends and family if you weren’t shopping, storing, cleaning and maintaining more stuff you probably don’t need in the first place?

Living in the Past Can Make You Crazy

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

Every day is like the film Ground Hog Day for Jill Price, a woman with an astonishing memory for the details of her life since she was a child. Diane Sawyer interviewed her last night on the ABC program 20/20. Price is able to remember everything that ever happened down to the dates and she’s written a book, The Woman Who Can’t Forget. She compares the phenomenon to having a “split screen” in her head. Her memory captures her daily life as if on video tape, while at the same time memories of her past are playing in complete detail on the other screen. Price says this continual reliving of past events and emotions makes it hard for her to move on with her life.

This got me thinking about a recent unpleasant incident that brought back a flood of memories from childhood I’d tried very hard to forget. I think there’s a point in your life when you mature when you have to let go of old resentments and unhappiness. This incident though opened the vault where I’d stored my ‘video tapes’ and they all came back in full alive again. I recognized that the ‘freshness’ of the pain I felt at reliving these memories meant that I hadn’t dealt with these emotions, merely suppressed them for several decades.

After this I spent several weeks meditating on forgiving and forgetting. What I focused on was that each of us has their issues that we take with us into adulthood that at times cause us to react just as we did when we were children. During times when we feel threatened we don’t think; we just strike back reflexively. What I needed to learn was to detach from the ‘strike’ and not take it personally. So often the reason we carry our past wounds with us is because we’ve taken it as a personal attack. Separating who we truly are at our core - where all is always well - from the outward personality that believes it has suffered an affront and wears it like a badge of honor is the answer. After working on this issue I do feel that I’ve made strides toward putting the past behind me – again.

As a friend of mine said, “I forgave some people from my past that I’d blamed for certain things and I feel lighter, as if something lifted from me.” And, it’s true. When we forgive we do feel lighter – and free. Free of the ‘kicked in the stomach feeling’ those memories had us reliving because of our attachment to blaming and resentment of others. When you stop and think about it blaming someone for something long after the event occurred is absurd. After all you’re the one that’s suffering right now in the present, and it’s likely that the other person hasn’t thought about you in years.

Moving on and forgiveness is also something we ought to apply to ourselves more often. Some past decisions still float up to haunt me once in a while such as not finishing graduate work in media studies after all the effort it took to quit my job to go back to school, and then going back into banking again. The emotions I still feel over this decision make it evident that I haven’t forgiven myself. The only answer is to either take action and correct the situation, or get over it and accept what is which is another work in progress I’m tackling.

But, this brings me to the realization I had after watching the segment on 20/20 of why the saying, ‘forgive and forget’ exists in the first place. If you’ve truly forgiven – you have to forget otherwise you’ll live with a split screen in your head just like Jill Price. Instead we can choose to learn from our past and grow more conscious so that we do things differently in the present like Murray’s character did in Ground Hog Day.