Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Let's Be Careful Out There"

As we approach "the holidays" and their communal deadlines, "last minute" advice, warnings, deals, offers, opportunities, tips and strategies are blaring at us through every form of media with increasing frequency and volume.  

For example, this message, couched in dire language:  
It’s getting down to the wire for those of you (or rather, us) who haven’t finished buying holiday gifts. Sony Style is offering some last-minute deals on Vaio PCs with guaranteed delivery by December 24.
Or this, from The Financial Blogger:  

Last Minute Holiday Shopping Tips To Prevent Stress
Or this encouragement to retailers, from Retail Online Integration:
Despite the fact that Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Green Monday are behind us, the holiday shopping season isn't over yet for the millions of Americans known as "last-minute" shoppers. This group represents an opportunity for retailers to drive incremental lift this holiday season, according to an AcxiomOpens in a new window report titled, Generate More Jingle This Holiday Season With Last-Minute Shoppers. 
It's nice to know, as I attempt once more to pull this whole annual production out of the fire, that I am a member of such a large and valued group, meriting our very own pricing structure and guidance, and counted on to save the bacon of commercial interests as the year draws to a close.  

Dr. Timothy Pychyl observed, in a 2008 blog post on "Holiday Shopping and Procrastination," that some shoppers purposely wait until the last minute as a strategy for reducing their gift-giving outlay, observing that prices tend to be reduced as the holiday draws nearer.  He does not lump these smart and daring shoppers in with those of us who just put off the ordeal of deciding what to give, feeling guilty about spending too much or too little, trudging to the stores and/or spending hours online in the virtual marketplace, eventually falling over in a financially depleted heap, eyes glazed over, sleigh bells echoing in our pounding heads.  About the first group, he says "not all delay is procrastination;" about the second, "all procrastination is delay."

As I head out this weekend to begin and complete my shopping, I will try to follow some tips, and take advantage of some deals.  And my purchases will be much appreciated, I'm sure, by retailers focused on their bottom lines.  I will fortify myself with the Mexican Spice Latte that has recently become my favorite self-bribe.  I will probably not make it past Chapter One of Elaine St. James' 269-page Simplify Your Christmas:  100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy. . .   I picked up this enticing little volume at a used bookstore with a feeling of hope, after a conversation with my daughter.  As a young mother and part-time high school teacher, she is struggling to resist the pull of the Christmas express, that runaway train of  lunacy that hijacks so many of our holidays.  I offered to let her read the book first.  She returned it within a day, having found its simplification approach anything but simple.  Did I mention it has 269 pages?

At this point, I have no option but to wade into the fray, and try to minimize the damage to my psyche and my checking account.  I accept the conditions I have created for the penance they represent.  Perhaps if I pay close attention to my suffering, I could actually learn not to let this happen again.  But after all these years, how likely is that?  

I can also use my time in last-minute shopping hell to practice compassion for myself and my wretched fellow travelers, as we circle the mall in search of deliverance--and a parking space within the same state.  As Hill Street Blues' Sgt. Phil Esterhaus used to admonish his officers at the close of each roll call, "Let's be careful out there."  Only us nuts are out now.

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