Yesterday I waved to my husband as I left the house, “.. goin’ to the bookstore for holiday cards.”

I honestly believed I would buy only, merely, just cards.

Falmouth author Susan Lebel Young is a retired psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher. She can be reached at [email protected] or at

The shop twinkled with sparkly displays of beckoning books, bright cards, funky socks, and this and thats in lovely aisles inviting me to browse, take my time, mosey. I browsed, took my time, moseyed.

Last week a friend had asked me, “How many books do you own?”

I mentally figured. A few yoga books keep my mat company in my bedroom. Meditation manuals claim their spot in the basement. Cookbooks veganize the kitchen. Not many; I am a minimalist. Poetry books fill the right side of the shelf in my study. Writing and creativity advice pack the left. Paperbacks for grandkids scatter about. Memoir, nonfiction and novels stack by category. Some travel guides gather dust.

I added: “100?”


Her eyes widened. “Wow! My friends and I have way more than that.”

I think, “Not me. I’m a minimalist.”

Later at home I counted, touching each volume, one by one. Four hundred thirty-five!

Yet at the bookstore when I spotted an Orpha’s Book Club pick. I exclaimed, “Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a NOVEL?! I need it.”

Yes, I said “need.”

“WAIT! Poet Laureate Joy Harjo has a memoir? I want that.”


“WHAT? Eckhart Tolle released this book I haven’t read?”

Desire goes on and on in us, doesn’t it?

My holiday cards totaled one-fourth of the bookstore’s $127 bill. I could have photographed the titles, then made a Santa’s list. I could have bought on and later another, or gone to the library instead of buying. I could have Kindled rather than accumulate. I could’ve read one, or 50, of my unread ready supply. I could have urge-surfed, felt the fleeting drive of impulse, the rise and fall of gotta-have-it, and walked out empty-handed. But I didn’t. I loaded piles into my Outback.

I refuse to join the throngs on Black Friday or click-order anything on Cyber Monday. I get all judgy about “those consumers.” Who rushes out at 3 a.m. to queue up? What’s wrong with those online obsessed people? I create me-and-you, us-and-them. Note the use of “those consumers, those people.”

But I, too, allow greater knowing and higher wisdom to get hijacked by seduction. Perhaps us-and-them is not the best way to embody holiday spirit. Adopting “we” might better serve us. Then we could drop our skewed self-images, our blind self-definitions, the “I’m the kind of person who …” Did I mention I am a minimalist?

I noticed all the other “we-s” in the parking lot, just like me, each meeting our chosen needs. We all have wants, wishes, preferences, ideas, lists, maybe even bucket lists in our heads and lives. In our variety, we have our own individual choices. Yet yesterday, in our sameness, we all headed out to fulfill them. Some carried what I imagined as every on-sale squash from Shaw’s. Some lugged big boxes from big box stores. Some had dog treats from pet stores. Some walked in and out of the bank. We smiled at each other, nodded in a sort of collective knowing, as if lilting “’tis the season.” Then every one of us, more alike than different, sharing the frigid air, hopped into small Kias, VW wagons, Priuses, Ford trucks, Chevy vans, massive Suburbans, all vehicles nonetheless. I sat in my Subaru alone, together in the we, sensing in that moment, there was no us and them.

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