The stress of ignorance

While I was at work a while back, I noticed a magazine that I used to love, so much so, my mom had gotten me a subscription to it. I think that I might still have some copies from that time somewhere around here. I keep promising myself that I will go through all my old magazines and remove the things that I like or want to keep and toss the rest, but when I have tried to do that, I find I just don’t have the heart to.

During some downtime, I decided to flip through the magazine to see if it gave me the same emotions I had when I was younger. The magazine usually focuses on the “refined” styles and culture of semi-antiquidated accumulation, gardening and lifestyles. I remember loving looking at the things within the homes, the gardens, the lush countryside and everything pictured. It was a lot like seeing into one of your favourite princess fairytales. In some ways, it was a magazine to aspire to be.

Looking at the magazine now, I came to a realization that had been completely lost to me in my younger years. The magazine glorified the luxuries of the rich, their expansive free time to create gardens, collections, etc., and the money to have expansive grounds, huge collections of expensive China, furniture, or even the homes themselves. It wasn’t something that I could have ever aspired to be or have, which, makes me feel better that I viewed it more as a fairytale wishlist than a reality.

Today, I picked up another magazine while at work that was all about destressing and creating calm. It sounds like something that one can do easily, effectively and cheeply, but alas, this magazine was also highlighting the privileges of having no financial woes, changing your entire home aesthetic, including rugs, furniture, beds, etc., take a vacation, and other assorted items you need to purchase to get more calm in your life. To be stress free, in essence, means, you have to get more stuff, or change stuff, or basically incur an expense.

Which, if you have a nice expendable income, is great. If you are like me, where income is a cause of stress, the idea of having to use already limited income to help deal with stress creates stress. It’s highly counterintuitive.

One of the problems with this idea that stress relief is just a purchase away is that it reeks of privilege. It is the same privilege that the minimalist ideas were founded on. It is the idea that you can easily afford what you need when you need it.

Let me tell you, if that were the case, I would be a lot less stressed at the moment.

Another problem is that while it recognizes that a change in atmposphere and aesthetics can create a temporary calm, it will not remove the stressors in your life. It provides a momentary reprieve, but usually stress is caused by outside factors that you truly have very little control over, or we have very few options to try and overcome it. It often involves other people or situations that we can only affect on a very minimal level as we wait out things to move one way or the other. While we can change our environment and create a “sacred space” to center in, we still have to leave it and attempt to find some way through a mountain.

For the poor or financially challenged, that is even harder. They can only create so much “sacred space”. They can only turn inward so much to find center. But the majority of their time is spent trying to find a way to survive. It is mentally and physically unhealthy, and makes it even more difficult to center.

In the end, decisions have to be made, usually the hardest ones causing the stress, otherwise, the person breaks. It isn’t as easy as just changing the decor, buy candles, drink chamomile tea, nestle into a warm blanket with a book and shut the world out for a few. The world is still out there and it isn’t going to go away for people who don’t have expendable income. It is insulting to suggest it, even.

Until we recognize that not every person has the same stressors and that often, those stressors are detrimental to survival, we need to quit promoting these ideas that more stuff, consumerism and ignorance of wealth inequities will make everything better.

Yeah, a trip overseas to Islay, my “good for the soul” place, would certainly take away a lot of my stress, but when I return, I’ll still be poor.

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