Why do many of us opt for “making do” rather than treating ourselves to something better? Take my phone, for example. In the small room I work in (I call it my “studiola, ” a word stolen from Renaissance painters) the phone was prone to static and the answering machine incapable of reporting the correct time of a message. Instead of heading for a store, I dove into my storeroom of a closet and unearthed a phone stashed there since the last century. The only problem was that I couldn’t make outgoing calls, nor did it have the Caller ID which protects from unwanted interruptions. I decided it would be economical to use this anyway and to carry in a mobile phone from the bedroom whenever I wanted to make an outgoing call. After months of this peripatetic arrangement, I told myself that as a professional writer I should have a more professional set-up. I purchased a 21st Century digital phone with a built-in answering machine. But when I brought it home I hesitated to open the box. Did I really need a new phone? After all, the old one was still working – more or less. And how important is it to know what time someone calls? My doubts fed on the directions for setting it up. “Possible shock. . . fire. . . if not installed properly.” (Ever notice how scary directions are for everything from gadgets to medications?)
After some tolerant friends assured me this was an excellent machine, and wouldn’t blow up the apartment, I paid a neighbor to install the phone and it’s transformed my life. Imagine, incoming and outgoing calls on the same phone!
I go through the same back-and-forth with almost every purchase. Take the computer, for instance. I had one that was so decrepit it made my writing take three times as long as it should have. Yet I kept putting off buying a new one for several years, until the computer gave out (along with an unsaved manuscript)!
Then there’s my car . . . Vintage 1983. Obviously, an object has to die of old age before I replace it.
This isn’t miserliness, for when my adult children need something I unhesitatingly fork over the money. So why this trauma when it comes to purchasing something for myself? Is it guilt? Negative self-esteem? “Do I deserve . . ?“
A friend once confided that she and her husband inherited a set of expensive china from his parents. “For years I saved it for guests ,” she told me. “But one day I decided we should enjoy the dishes ourselves. And we do, every evening. Better than saving them for the future.” Better, indeed. There wasn’t much of a future, for she died a few years later.
Maybe we should all make a mid-summer vow that we are worth treating ourselves to the best – while we can.