Monday, August 22, 2011

Shopping to soothe the pain of loss.


When I was five years old I learned to ride my bicycle. 

My Zayde, may he rest in peace, held onto the back while I sped off.

I felt safe knowing that he was behind me and that if I fell he would catch me.

I fell over and over again of course. But then he was there. And it wasn't so bad.

That year I remember being happy. I had a big Raggedy Ann themed birthday party with all my friends. It wasn't the biggest deal in the world, but to me it was amazing.

One day that year I came home from school and my mother motioned to me to sit down on the couch. "Pack your things," she said. "Daddy got another job and we are leaving."

I was stunned but I did what she said. 

That was the house where I fed the birds with my dad. We used to stand in the doorway that led to the backyard from the kitchen. We tossed crumbs out on to the porch. The birds ate them.

I felt the loss of my house acutely that summer. After that we moved somewhere else and my dad traveled for business a lot. I missed him.

There have been other times in my life like that. Enough that I learned to live without attachments. I learned to travel light. I didn't know when my security would be taken away. So I decided not to need anything.

I guess I let down my guard a bit because I got married and had kids and I'm pretty attached to my family (to put it mildly). I try not to think about it too much. What would happen if everything, everyone were taken away. Knowing that one day it will happen. That I will be powerless to stop it.

We moved our older daughter to college recently. I was absolutely crying. I was. Almost as bad as her high school graduation. I knew to expect that same feeling this time, so it wasn't as bad.

My husband was funny. We had her stuff in the moving cart. I had been complaining about how hard I was working with all the shlepping and stuff. And he was flying around with the cart, laughing at how I was such a wuss. "A little work and look at you," he joked, spinning and spinning. "What's the big deal? Whee..."

My daughter had her head in her hands. I think she was praying that nobody would see her embarrassing parents moving her in.

I don't deal well with losing the things I am attached to. Much less the people. She isn't going to be that far away. But to me it is an aching void.

One of my students lost her son this summer. Suddenly - he passed away out of nowhere. I thought she would take the rest of the semester off, but she ended up coming back to class. I thought about it a lot. I marveled at her strength. I was terribly upset for her. I don't think she knows how much.

Worries about loss, the attempt to prevent it and the inability to, are pervasive not only in real life but in the movies too. Watch the version of "Planet of the Apes" in theaters now. It's not a spoiler to say that you'll find loss, and all the terrible feelings and consequences around it, everywhere in the film.

Look at all this intensity. It's heavy! So I know pretty clearly why I went into marketing. It's happy. It's fun. It seems easy to me (though I guess if it were so easy I would be a millionaire, right?)

More than that, it spares me from having to think about the losses that are coming, that have come, that I can't control.

When you go into the store, and you buy a pretty thing, you don't have to think about the heavy thoughts that have no solution.

All you have to do is pick red, or pink, or green or yellow or blue.

That's not so bad...that's something I can live with.

I've said it a million times over and I'll say it again: If you are a marketer you're not selling a thing. You're selling an experience. 

If you're really good you're selling a brief respite from the ordinary and extraordinary pain that comes with being alive.

And if you are amazing, you take joy in giving people that moment of happiness, over and above the money.

We're sitting in Starbucks now, and it's so peaceful. I get to write my blog, and reflect, and relax. I understand what CEO Schultz is trying to do, it works, and I appreciate it. And I'm happy to buy a tea to compensate the company for the effort they put into making my day just a little brighter.

Have a good day everyone - be good to each other - and good luck.


Image via terren (Creative Commons) on Flickr