Yesterday I was standing in line at the Super Store. It was a long line so I resisted the urge to take out my phone (because really, I don’t need to check Facebook and Twitter a hundred times a day, just ninety is fine), and instead I let my eyes wander.
Eyes like to wander, it lets the brain relax.
Not like, “he or she has got a wandering eye,” as in they’re a cheater, that’s a whole different thing, although it’s probably related. Whatever. Not the issue here.
Anyway, of course, right at the checkout the people who design these things know that customers are bored and letting their eyes wander, so there are lots of messages trying to get our attention. Candy bars, gum, soda, batteries, tic tacs. Bright colours, flashy packaging, lining both sides of the aisle.
And there are the magazine headlines. It occurred to me, standing there shifting my weight and leaning on my cart, that they are not so much advertising articles as they are making promises, promises which seem a little strange when you consider that it is a pile of glossy paper that is making the promises. I mean, how can a floppy old magazine make all these things happen?
Seriously, no word of a lie, here is what the January 2014 “Real Simple” magazine promises, in all-caps down the right-hand side of the cover:
“Reduce your debt. Increase your strength. Improve your diet. Say no to perfect parenting. Make peace with your gadgets. Simplify your wardrobe. Solve your skin problems.”
That’s all exactly what my life needs, to be perfect! Man! And all I have to do is spend $5.99 and all of this will happen!
The image on the cover is of orchids and smooth rocks in a bowl, like you might see in a spa, or in an ad for a spa. The headline: “How to live THE BALANCED LIFE.”
Here’s how I’ve figured out how to live the balanced life: I don’t buy magazines anymore. Except for when I do (gotta have balance!) and then I remember why I don’t buy magazines. Oh yeah, except… for my monthly subscription to Chatelaine that I bought a few years ago, and renew every year, but only read that month’s issue maybe every other month or so.
The exception is the rule. The rule to balanced living: there are always exceptions.
The truth is, we’re all busy. There will always be a million options for how to spend our money, how to spend our time. I have an hour right now, do I spend it doing the dishes? Do I spend it sweeping the dirty kitchen floor? (And how does it get so dirty so fast? That’s the burning question, seriously.) Or do I go to my office, shut the door, and spend it writing?
For right now, the important thing is writing.
There will always be dishes.