I did it. I relapsed. New day, new month, and I blew it.
Madness, right? Of course it’s madness. Why else would I sabotage myself on Day #60 as enter I my third month of not shopping?
There’s a terrible irony in the saying that March comes in like a lion, because if I didn’t come clean on today’s frivolous spending, I would be lyin’ — on March 1st, no less.
Let me explain. It’s not an excuse, just the story of how it happened.
Ever since Em moved into her own apartment last September, we don’t see each other with any regularity. So when I found out today was her day off — and she’d taken her car to the repair shop and was jus sitting there, waiting for it — I picked her up, giving us an unanticipated mother-daughter afternoon. We debated doing several things, but fell back on an old Thursday tradition: frozen yogurt at Sweet Frog, take-out pizza for dinner, with the addition of a movie afterwards now that we both have Movie Pass.
Times change. The old Pizza Hut we’d always gone to had closed. The new place — Twin Trees Pizza — said it would be a half-hour wait. “We can head home and come back,” I told Em after we placed the order. “If it were the old days, I’d say let’s just kill time at Target. But you know I’m not shopping anymore.”
Target, I may have mentioned, is a trigger for me. The Dollar Spot (renamed Bullseye’s Playground because most things are no longer a dollar) is a place I used to drop $30 without blinking. Common sense would suggest that avoiding Target was a wise move.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
Yet we grow cocky when we’re complacent. Here I was, recently posting that I hadn’t been posting because there was nothing to write about. No conflict, no backsliding, no shopping, no urges.
Famous last words. Pride goeth before a fall. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Success, I’d written, was boring. Maybe I’m just one of those people who need to see their life as a story. Maybe my subconscious just had to manufacture conflict. Yeah, that’s it.
So when Em replied, “Sure, we can come back later,” I second-guessed myself and my willpower. Like I told you, I grew cocky.
“What the hell,” I said. “Let’s just go to Target. I can hang out in the Dollar Spot and not buy anything.”
Thirty minutes and $16 later, the seven frivolous items I’d bought made me a big ol’ bald-faced liar. Of course I rationalized every purchase.
I needed that $5 narrow metal bucket because it was deep enough to dump dirty cups in after writing classes at my studio. If I didn’t get to them right away, they could soak overnight. (If it leaks I promised myself I’d return it, but I haven’t tested it out yet.)
Likewise, I needed those two racks with three binder clips apiece because they qualified as a business expense. When I do writing events in the community, I usually read the prompts from index cards. With those racks I could clip each prompt up so everyone could see them and folks who arrived late wouldn’t have to ask, “What’s the prompt?” (How I’ll display them, since the racks need to be hung, is another matter.)
Those three small dishtowels — I wouldn’t have purchased them if they’d been rectangular, but they happened to be square. I’m always looking for cotton squares to use as furoshiki (the Japanese word for a piece of cloth used to wrap gifts or tie into an impromptu bag to carry objects.) I have real actual cotton squares from Japan that are actual furoshiki, but again… too nice to use.
And that scratch pad of gridded paper with the words, “Life is an adventure”? C’mon, do I even need to say how fun that is?
EVIDENCE OF THE PROBLEM
Once we got home I dumped the bag in the front hall, and I haven’t touched it since. Haven’t dealt with the items inside though it’s been five hours. Which goes to show you how “essential” they are. How necessary. How needed.
You might argue, “Okay, that’s really not bad. You only broke down once in two months and you only spent $16.”
But it’s evidence of the problem. If I did that three times a week, that’s $48 I’d have blown each week, or $384. Over a year, that’s $2,946 of unnecessary, frivolous spending. On the Target Dollar Spot alone.
Let’s say I only blow it once every two months. But that’s still $98 a year. Granted, it’s better than just under $3,000. But still, a clear indication that the problem hasn’t gone away. The only reason I hadn’t fallen off the wagon earlier is that I hadn’t placed myself in situations that trigger me. I’ve been deliberate about that.
Smart move, that. Because the addiction is as strong as ever. I will still shop if I have the time and the means. And, even worse, I automatically put it on a credit card; I instinctively avoided using paper money so I wouldn’t feel the pain.
SORRY ISN’T ENOUGH
I’ll be honest. Confession doesn’t feel good. But it’s necessary. Because people have said, “Linda, you’ve been a role model.”
And, “I decided to not shop because of you.”
And “I almost bought something at the store, but I thought of you and put it back.”
I’m doing this for myself, of course. It’s healthier, saner, better for me not to shop.
And if I disappoint you, I’m sorry.
But when I disappoint myself, saying sorry isn’t enough. Reflecting on why that happened, what it means, and the underlying issues, well… self-examination forces me to face that I’m solely responsible for my actions.
I deliberately sabotaged myself after doing so well for so long. At a subconscious level, I wanted to sabotage myself because I was doing so well — and had announced it to the world. My taking pride in this small accomplishment triggered something in me that compelled me to screw things up. I can see that now. I get it.
One thing I don’t get: Why?
That’s the question I’m asking myself tonight.
Because if I don’t get to the answer, I’ll just go and do it again.