**Because I love this band. Because their music speaks to my heart. I think you should let this play while you read this. And then when you're done with that you should google the lyrics. I hope they speak to you as well**
I was a girl with too many shoes. Too many bags. A closet full of the results of a compulsive spending habit. A soul full of baggage. A sole resting on names not easily pronounced. And then came Katrina. I know I keep talking about it, but understand, it was the pinnacle of changes that occurred and helped to shape who I want to ultimately become.
I once was blind but now I see.
When you stand before the mirror with nothing other than you, it is much easier to find yourself. And so I did. And for once, without all the things that had once surrounded me, in stark minimalist contrast, I liked what I saw. Freed from "the stuff" I was able to catch a glimpse of the person inside of me that I could become if I was able to let it go. I liked her. I wanted to reach that woman I saw.
And so I took steps to get to her. It is not an easy thing to change the person you are. But in a culture so swept up in the wave of credit and consumerism, I did not want my children to face the same demons as me. Children are the biggest motivator I've ever encountered, and for them we got rid of cable. One dragon slain. I took an advertising class in college that said to have an effective ad, you must create a NEED in a person that otherwise hadn't existed. There are people whose sole job is to make you and your children FEEL that they NEED things. No more, not in this house.
And so, following advice that I had often heard but repeatedly ignored, Jeremy and I put ourselves on a cash allowance. At each paycheck, we get a sum of cash to last us until the next paycheck. This covers everything: dining out, clothes, entertainment, eve.re.thing. It's funny how quickly I was able to stop spending money once I had a small sum of it in my pocket that could dwindle. It's funny how my views on what was a necessary expenditure changed. The pedicures that had once been tantamount to my survival and sanity were now a thing of the past.
I learned to save for something I wanted. This may seem a tired idea to some reading this, but I come from a generation who was not prevalently taught to pay themselves first. To save. Why? We have credit cards for that. Practically free money. But this is not really about money. Money is just the facilitator of what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the ever hungry beast. Desire. It leaps like flames at your heart. Compelling and possessing you. I'm talking about finding that place between need and want. Desire and contentment. It is a hidden place. Some of us are born knowing how to find it. Some of us are taught. And then there are those like me who have to have everything taken from them to realize that it was really there all along. Just hidden among the clutter.
But this journey to who I will become is an endless one and there are yet many bumps along the way. And I still stumble and fall.
I made a trek recently to that suburban mecca of desire, consumerism: THE MALL. It had been so long since I had visited one. Another conscious decision. I entered and the beast long dormant, awoke. Hungry. I was consumed with it. It ate at me in a way that made me sick.
If I could head home, arms heavy-laden with shiny bags with smooth rope handles, I would be so happy.
All my life needed to be complete was the entire first floor of Nordstroms and a grande Gingerbread latte.
Oh Apple store, O Apple store!
How faithful are your products!
What I really wanted most of all?
To posses the tiny butts and legs of the Asian women who the place was crawling with.
Wow. The Seven jeans logo really looks good on their bums. Each pocket is the size of one cheek.
If I was only a size 2 I would be forever happy.
And then I pulled my head out of their, er, my butt and reminded myself of what I was dealing with. The pretty carrot on the stick, always dangled just out of reach. The eternal happy just on the horizon line. The mirage. And that self check, that knowing my foe, gave me the strength to face it head on. And walk out of there nearly empty handed*.
I will never be in possession of things that will keep me happy; I will never be a size two. But I have learned to be content and appreciate, love, and care for the things I have. And to save for the things I really need or want. I like who I am becoming. I am enjoying this journey to the me that was hidden under the clutter. I hope I am able to teach my children these lessons so that they don't repeat my mistakes. But if they do, I'll be there to hold out my hand, brush the dust off their hearts, and point them in the right direction once again. And, for awhile at least, we'll walk this road of life together.
I am thankful for all of my family, and dear, dear friends who have been essential in helping to shape the person I want to become. I hold you all, my dearest possessions, on a special shelf in my heart; taking down my memories and lovingly polishing them before carefully placing them back on the shelf. I glean from all of you pieces of who I would like to become. You are teachers of life, and I am your grateful student. And that? That is better than any truck load of shiny bags I could ever receive. Thank you and Merry Christmas.
*I did walk out with my sole Christmas present. The new iPhone. It was anti-climactic. Although I do like that I can take videos and easily send them to the Grandparents.