No Shopping Challenge: Stopping What Feels Good (Sucks)

Buddha said, “The root of suffering is attachment.”

My last relapse, early March 2013:  I was home from work, heels kicked off. The baby bounced in her bouncer, the toddler played in his sandbox outside. I had what must have been a 12 ounce glass of Yellowtail pinot grigio poured for myself and I’d taken enough sips to feel the total body exhale of relief. I WILL NEVER GIVE THIS UP AGAIN. NEVER. The thought was almost other-worldly. It was loud, clear, a stiffening grip.

I have to watch out for, “I will never…” that Queen Baby phrase is like a hearkening to the Universe. “Time for a practical joke on Spikes down in Colorado,” the horn seems to sound.

I cannot fall in love with provisions, amenities, or especially luxuries.

I started getting eyelash extensions last spring and I swore even if the economy tanked, I’d have given plasma to keep it going. I. Loved. Them. They made my face tolerable to me. And I’m not trying to be dramatic or indulgent, I just matter-of-factly don’t much care for my face, and the lashes made it so I did.

Until I developed a sudden, severe, allergic reaction to the eyelash glue. And I tried to push through, I really did. They itched like a thousand miniature mosquito bites lined up like soldiers on my lids, but I blinked and I blinked and I tried to tough it out. Until the swelling made it impossible. And I had to go on Prednisone, and I had to get them removed with a solvent, from a different lash lady than my usual because we were both too emotionally entangled in the whole situation. So I lay on the table in the room while a stranger tweezed out my extensions  and I heard myself like a girl falling down a well screaming, “but my lassshhhhhesssss. I can’t…… life……without…… themmmmm.”

But I did. Because, #I’mSoBrave. I faced the world in over-sized sunglasses with only 26 layers of mascara on my seven remaining lashes.

Pinot grigio, lash extensions, on-trend pants, fur pom pom hats–  Attachment leaves an ache.

I have so much stuff. My life is good and full. Why is this so excruciatingly hard for me?

 I keep coming back to is this very very simple “Aha moment” I had  while watching an episode of #my600lblife unlike any other. In Lisa’s episode, a 700-pound African American woman (whom I think suffers from either Boderline or Histrionic Personality Disorder, and I can make that diagnosis from watching a TV show because I have a bachelors in psychology) throws tantrums in the hospital hollering and crying about the lack of help she has received during her journey. She can’t lose weight because NO ONE WILL HELP HER, LORD, JESUS! Dr. Now has sent her a physical therapist, nutritionist, and a psychotherapist, in addition to providing her with the same diet plan he provides everyone else. Lisa plays the victim role and master manipulator with Oscar-worthy panache. Unlike any other episode, which resolves with some modicum of success, Lisa is kicked out of the program and sent home to Alabama, presumably to continue eating herself to death, which she declares is what she wants to do anyway.

It is a punch to the viewer’s gut, but what struck me was the very obvious conclusion: it is so very hard to stop doing things that feel good.

Every mother of a small boy knows how hard this because we’ve spent hours saying, “stop touching it,” “leave it alone,”  “please, again, get your hand out of your pants,” “wash your hands we are eating dinner.”

Even with 700-pound Lisa’s family counting on her, her fiance (yep, that’s true) vowing to marry her as soon as she can walk down the aisle, she can’t quit cheating on the diet.

And if you’ve ever watched an episode of A&E’s  Intervention (or you are personally one of the the 23.5 million Americans addicted to drugs or alcohol– or, you are related to one of these, which is roughly equal to 10% of the population) you know firsthand that everything of value–of real meaning– can be on the line, and still the addict persists. It defies logic.

Its so damn hard to quit the disgusting, life-robbing addiction of smoking because each cigarette lights up the feel good center in the brain for precisely as long as the same cigarette will take from your life on the back-end. Research shows each cigarette reduces your life expectancy by seven to eleven minutes, which is approximately how long it takes to smoke a cigarette. (Although, I was a super fast smoker, like, a two to three minute smoker, so I think I’ll live longer because of my efficacy!)

Quitting shopping sucks because shopping makes me feel good.  And if I’m minimizing the guilt or remorse I felt after some mini-binges toward the end, that’s precisely because, my addict brain is jonesing and I’m about ready to throw in the towel and  run away from this whole thing. I’m attached. I don’t want to let this go…

In writing workshops when a story starts to lag inevitably some dude with his curly hair pushed back will say, “I just didn’t feel like there was enough at stake for the main character.” He’ll lean back in his chair wearing a teal Patagonia, then he’ll plant all four legs of the chair on the floor and  take a drink from his Yeti cup.

What’s at stake? Its a fancy way of saying, what does the character stand to lose if she doesn’t meet the objective? Why should the reader (or viewer in the case of film/TV) care? What was at stake for Lisa? Her life. A spin-off My 400 lb Wedding Show? (I would so watch that! Say Yes to the–PLUS SIZE– dress) Still, there is skin in the game. Oh, and the skin removal surgery… she gets that at a certain point. Or, she would have. Poor Lisa.

In the past two weeks, I’ve been circling the No Shopping Challenge cheat. Its like, if the cheat were a birthday cake, I have driven my index finger through the bottom seam where the frosting meets the cardboard all the way around the perimeter. I ordered my son some pants online. I went to Dillard’s on my husband’s behalf and purchased a fancy dress for our little girl to wear to a Daddy Daughter dance. (I used the recovery strategy of calling a like-minded challenge friend before. She gave me a 10 minute window to purchase the dress and I text her a picture with only the dress 10 minutes later. Me, standing by the car. The strategy is called book-ending. Call before, call after. Pretty basic, but effective. Works great for holiday parties!) Since gifts are permitted on the challenge, I purchased my dog that doggy place mat he’d been begging for on his birthday, February 22nd. (And no, we don’t usually celebrate the dog’s birthday.) Needless to say, he was thrilled.

Oh, and I just flat out ordered myself some slippers on Amazon. That’s pretty blatant. But they were $16.00 and, like I said, my feet are hurting, so when I hobbled downstairs and sat at my computer I said what every dieter/addict/New-Years-Resolution-Maker-Come-Mid-February says when they decide to throw in the towel, I said “F— it.” Search/. Click. Buy. Awww…..

I wish I didn’t say, F— it. I wish I went, “Dog gone it! I’m in self-pity. I’m going for a walk!”

I can’t seem to figure out what is at stake for me; what’s my motive for staying in the challenge? If you are a person of great– or even some– integrity you might be saying, because you said you would! And my response to that is, “Meh.” I’ve changed my mind before, I don’t think anyone would be particularly shocked if I gave up already and got back in my retail groove. I have friends who would say, “you made it two whole months! That’s like, amazing!” And, “great job girlfriend.”

I’ve stayed out of Target. I haven’t walked in Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta, (okay, all of Gap.Inc)  Lulu Lemon, T.J. Maxx/Home Goods, Nordstrom Rack, Madewell, Anthropology, really all my favorite haunts. I have spent an unreasonable amount of time and money at the local grocery store. I have not been nearly as productive with my writing and editing as I’d hoped because, procrastination always finds a way. And that viral depression I wrote about back in January, it hasn’t cleared. And its not a mood problem, (or at least, just a mood problem) its a body-joint-malaise problem. More on that coming soon. Contain yourselves!

I’m not dusting off my Nordstrom’s Notes quite yet, but I’m feeling lost in the boggy middle, spinning on the existential Why of it all.

1 thought on “No Shopping Challenge: Stopping What Feels Good (Sucks)”

  1. You are awesome!! LOVE the book ending! I do the same thing with my sister. Call her before and after. Your writing is SO vivid. “in his Patagonia drinking out of his Yeti” could totally, vividly see it! Anytime you need to get out on that walk, PLEASE give me a call. I need to go too!

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