When I quit drinking–this last time– which, I really hope and pray is THE last time, I quit eating sushi for two years. Seems like such a random association, but I had no interest in yellowtail without his sake wingman. Reading to my son at night, I felt like an amputee without my first (or was it third?) glass of wine at 7:30. I had to learn to operate my body in a whole new way again; how to be a person in the world without the reward of oblivion dangling in the distance like the sunset.
It sucked. It sucked a lot.
I feel funny drawing comparisons with my shopping habit because I’ve never put anyone in jeopardy shopping. (Unless you count that lady crossing in front of the parking space I was trying to snag at the Dillard’s New Year’s Day sale… that was kinda close.) My shopping hasn’t amassed the wreckage my drinking did, and though I’ve felt guilt over my indulgent habit and have had some feelings of being out of control, it’s a candle in the wind compared to the raging fire of my alcoholism.
Still, the maladaptive coping mechanisms warrants some comparison.
First of all, when you quit something: its everywhere. This is like the 93rd law of physics or something. Quit drinking, every actress in every show will bare the prop of wine, every meme will shine like a neon signs reminding you the world goes on drinking, without you. Quit eating carbs? Every bakery will have the letters of your name embedded in theirs. It will be uncanny. Sweet potatoes will start to look as good as cheesecake. For me, with quitting shopping, my Facebook feed has become a virtual mall, showing me all my friends like Freebird boots (obviously) and a bunch of stores I happen to like too. Also, a neighborhood buy/sell Facebook page (essentially, online garage sale) has suddenly started posting EVERYTHING we’ve needed for the past year. And I know, why was I on the page? But, legitimately, because I was selling stuff.
My friend Kari (Hi Kari!) was selling size 6 leotards, and for real, my five-year-old started back at dance last week and we both looked at her old leotard like a bride looking at her wedding dress on her 1 year anniversary: like, “Mmm, not quite sure how I ever got into that, but here goes nothin.'” Bless her heart–as I learned to say in Texas–my little girl wiggled into the petal pink outfit and behold: Spanx for small children was born!
And I kicked myself, because on my final Target run (pre-challenge, Hi Target!) I thought, I should probably get another few leotards, but I felt so much “abun-disgust” already I just told myself “no” like the tired mom I was–because I said so, that’s why!–and I went home.
The weasel in my brain has been hard at work wondering if I can bake cookies and make a trade with Kari, because I make these delicious cookies she loves. And “trading” is not “shopping.” But baking the cookies would take about two hours, and she only wants $5 per leotard, and even though math is hard (the Barbie of my generation had a string on her back that you pulled and she told you so) I still know that math doesn’t pan out. Because, well, I’m trying to reclaim my time.
This is about the point when I wish I could hit myself over the head with a cartoon mallet.
My other friend says if we can see the outline of my daughter’s vagina through her leotard, a new leotard is a Need and not a Want, and I didn’t take a shopping sabbatical to punish the children. The trouble is, I’m not a great discerner of needs and wants. And that isn’t the challenge I assigned myself. Which is why I still enjoy a daily $5 Starbucks, for now. I learned a long time ago we can’t tackle everything at once. And the small luxury of drinking my over-priced coffee in this–the month I hate most of the 12–is not a vice I’m willing to consider giving up. Yet.
I went to the boutique pet store last week to get the bones my dog likes. While carrying my bag of frozen treats to the cash register I spotted the most perfect doggy bowl place-mat I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been looking for two years. I’ve checked all the normal haunts, I even started looking at regular place-mats at Crate and Barrel (don’t judge me, I’d only buy one), and came up with nothing. But there it was… it would compliment the wood floors, it still had referential dog motif, it was perfect. But, challenge. So I stood there like I was mentally compromised–because I kinda was– and I thought, is this allowed on the challenge? Its not something to wear? Its for the dog not me or the kids, and for bleep-sake, it’s only eight dollars. That’s only one-and-a-half lattes?
My head felt like a whistling tea kettle and I decided to get my dog treats and go. But then I kept thinking about it. And if I’m boring you, I’m so sorry, believe me when I tell you I totally bore myself too. In the past few days it’s occurred to me that maybe frustrated children don’t bang their heads on the ground because they are mad at other people, maybe they are just irritated with the internal struggle going on between the ears.
I told my 12-step sponsor about this dog placement conundrum and the woman literally had the audacity to say, “How bored are you that you’re obsessing about a dog place-mat?” My first thought was to hang up on her, just to prove how busy I was. My second thought was “Ugh. Could that really be it? I don’t feel bored. Also, I should get a new sponsor. This one is mean.”
My mom sent me a text this week with the image linked to this post, that one of three pillows all with winter animals anthropomorphized. The text said urgently, “Do u love these for xmas? Were $148 . Now $89.” The adrenal coursed through my veins, my upper lip started sweating. Love? Did I love them? Its a ridiculous winter animal wearing a hat! What’s not to love? I knew intuitively she was at my favorite Salt Lake City home goods store, the ever-special Ward and Child. The text had come in 30 minutes ago, I’d missed it while out walking the dog.
I called her back and asked if she was still there. She wasn’t, but said she’d go back if I “needed” her to. She bought herself the stag pillow but hadn’t picked one up for me– yet. I reminded her I wasn’t shopping and she paused before saying, “I heard something about that,” then she let the sentence dangle implying, “but surely you weren’t serious,” or “I assumed bargain boutique Christmas pillows were excluded.” “Yep,” I continued, “No shopping for anything but groceries and toiletries we run out of. But glad you got the stag. He was definitely the best of the bunch.” Like a pushy dealer she pressed, “Well they do have one more of him.”
“Right. But I’m not shopping right now. Not doing it.”
The hard part so far isn’t staying out of the mall. That’s geographic, and the mall is a bit out of my way. The hard part is constantly redirecting my brain like a stubborn horse on a trail. I want to pop into Target for a few things and experience the serendipity of finding a few others. I want to pick up an eight dollar dog mat, because I can. I want the okay to purchase some leotards, and Look! a new Lulu Lemon hoodie just came up on Buy Sell Erie (my town’s Facebook garage sale) because that is a score, and scoring is fun.
But the very last thing I need according to my closet is another Lulu Lemon anything. I mean, let’s be real, I’m not actually a personal trainer to the stars.
Its been over two weeks since I started the challenge, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m a bit annoyed at how very much the same– if not more– hyped up I am about shopping and wanting stuff. So far, it hasn’t helped. Suck it Ann Patchett. Also, this isn’t easy. But I half-chuckle and remind myself that two weeks after quitting drinking I still felt like my skin was covered in red ants, so perhaps the experiment requires a bit more time. And fortunately, time is something I’m creating more of in my life.