I returned from a week on the island to find that Vancouver was suddenly deep in the throes of Christmas season. Twinkly lights, advertising, schlocky music in the supermarket, gaggles of teenagers getting on the bus laden with shopping bags from the Gap. Buy Nothing Day came and went with nary a blip on the radar.
Needless to say, the whole scene horrifies me. I usually make my Christmas gifts anyway, and for the last several years Christmas has been a much scaled down event for my family, so I'm not feeling any particular pressure to run to the malls and participate in the "joy" of the season.
This year is a bit different as not taking part in the consumer frenzy of Christmas is less of a choice and more of a necessity. I am living on a severely curtailed income these days. It doesn't feel like a terrible deprivation, and I am very glad to be as resourceful in terms of skills as I am. I love going to the thrift store in search of a pair of shoes and scoring a barely worn pair of Fluevogs for $4. I love making my own bread, and thrive on beans and rice (and the delicious variations thereof). I need to find a way to get some physio, though, and will probably be needing some dental work done in the New Year.
I draw great inspiration from my friend Wendy Tremayne, who, in 2001-2002, lived with no money for a whole year. She not only managed to cover necessities, but found all the services and health care she needed as well. Guided by the gift economy philosophy she discovered at Burning Man, she did not just receive, but shared her abundant abilities as they were needed. A gift economy is different from barter, where a trade is made one for one.The energy of a gift needs to be kept moving, and is not a simple transaction between two people, but is part of a chain of community and culture.
Wendy says that her money-free year was the richest and most fulfilling of her life. She made connections and friends that continue to this day. Her need for clothes during that year led her to found Swap-O-Rama-Rama, which has created an international community of people who don't just swap clothes, but share skills and discover the true joy of making.
And so, a month ahead of New Year's Eve, I am making a resolution to enter 2009 with a heart open to the riches and abundance of creative living. Naive and idealistic, perhaps, but comes with a feeling of lightness and freedom that money can't buy.