Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Musings: The Curse of the Next, Best Thing

This weekend I got into a funk. I planned a nice day on Saturday to go to Mill Valley and check out the new West Elm store. I had a rug combo in mind (inspired by Margaret Elizabeth's studio tour on The Everygirl which is pictured above), and I thought my living room was on the fast track to fabulous. At the store, I spotted a different rug that looked like it might even be better than what I had envisioned, so I bought that instead.

Later that day, I had a hair appointment. I usually think of hair appointments as a time to get pampered, and I really look forward to them. I left the salon devastated as I had asked for a trim (trying to grow out the mane), and ended up with heavy layers in the front--this is something that stylist after stylist does to me, and it always looks awful. I didn't ask for it; she just did it. Now, I have to explain that this was not my usual hair dresser; he actually has been amazing. But, I had to reschedule my appointment when my parents came to town, and the guy I usually see is really busy. Instead of waiting to see him, I made an appointment with someone else. I thought maybe this person would be even better than my regular guy. Who knows, right?

That night when I was looking at this horrible new rug with my horrible new hair, I asked my husband, "Why do I do this? Why can't I just leave things alone?"

"You're always sure you're going to find the next, best thing," he said. And he was right.

These are relatively stupid examples of this phenomenon. I can return the rug. My hair will grow back, but the motivation that drove these choices is something I've noticed is an obsession for me. No sooner do I get home with something I've been dreaming of, then I am on the computer scanning for another score. No sooner do I achieve or acquire something I've wanted for a long time, then I quickly become fixated on the next target or acquisition. And, not to shift the burden, but I don't think it's just me. I think our culture feeds this unhealthy habit every day.

I was recently talking to my brother who said that he didn't see any reason not to find someone you're compatible with, someone you love, and just marry them. His roommates see it differently; they believe you need to date until you find an ultimate love. What if you settle down with someone and miss out on someone better? Or look at the news about Snap Chat! After being offered 3 BILLION dollars by Facebook, the founders of Snap Chat declined because they think they can get a better offer. This quest for the next, best thing, for the ultimate find, runs rampant in this culture (and in blogging culture more specifically--isn't that what fashion and beauty blogs are all about in a sense?).

What I've noticed is that my tendency to be on the lookout for something better (a foundation that will make me look like I've had my skin airbrushed, a shirt that will make me look un-pregnant, a bag that will say, "Yeah, I've made it," a job that will give me prestige, a blog that will put me on the map), prevents me from looking at what I already have and what I've already done. This leads to chronic dissatisfaction, and it is something I know I need to unlearn. While most of the examples I've mentioned here are superficial, the feeling is not, and the ways that it manifests itself are not. The tendency is self-defeating, self-punishing, and generally counterproductive.

I don't have a solution to this problem. I would like to speak to anyone who does. But, I think part of it is in the framing. When it came to my own relationship, I married the first person I ever really dated. I wasn't hoping to find the next, best thing. I found someone with whom I was really happy, who really got me, and I was not bothered to know that there might be other people in the world with whom I could also be happy. I had found someone who already fulfilled me, so why trade on that? A girlfriend of mine said to me once, "Everyone who's out there looking is looking for something you already have." I've always thought about that comment. About something so important, I believed that I had the best thing without needing to try out millions of options to get there. If I could apply this kind of thinking to many other areas of my life, I might find a little more peace in my choices.

To end this long musing, I have committed to let at least one thing go, not to be on the quest to make it perfect, but just to let it be what it is, and that thing, my friends, is my rug. I am going to embrace the wall-to-wall carpeting. It is easy to vacuum. It doesn't bunch up, and it isn't as visually offensive as I've made it out to be. I'd like to think of that as a symbolic gesture. I'm sure there are better things, prettier things, and cooler options out there, but for now, I am going to be happy with what I've got.

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