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I was never a hoarder. I didn't shop online late at night, nor do I have outstanding credit card debt. But I did something equally as destructive: I was an emotional shopper. Like other addictive behaviors, I used shopping as a form of escape. It gave me a rush and made me momentarily high and numb.
Now, as a student and part-time yoga teacher, my budget has no room for mindless pleasure shopping. I wear cheap Ugg knock-offs and faded yoga pants that I refuse to throw out because of one tiny hole in the leg. For the first time in my life, I am happy, down to my core.
Today was my first trip to the mall since I have not had a big fat corporate paycheck. It was a humbling experience to walk the familiar, brightly lit corridors that once felt oddly comforting but now seemed to mock me as I hurriedly made my way to my destination to get what I needed.
I never used to have a destination when I shopped. I'd shop to pass time, to alleviate boredom, to make myself feel better, prettier, richer, cooler. I shopped to find myself, reinvent myself, or lose myself. Sometimes I shopped to avoid feeling anything at all.
The smell hit me right away. The alluring fragrance of "If you buy this, your life will finally be complete" that all malls have. I glanced longingly in stores where I used to graze like a well-fed cow on a lazy summer day; not really hungry, but ingesting the plentiful offerings none the less.
Pulled by a particularly creative window display, I stopped into one of the stores. I will only look at the clearance rack, I told myself. But the sales rack is in the far corner of the store and as I crept along I couldn't help but notice the spread of new spring arrivals, of shiny trinkets, of "must haves" in every shape, size, and color, begging to be held up against my body in front of a mirror.
Surprisingly- rather than excitement, I felt an emptiness; a deep longing to suddenly connect with something real and present in my life. Like a creek. Or the woods. Or a yoga mat.
I realized how much my values have changed, how I no longer am satisfied with stuffing my face with unnecessary material items to feed my soul. I'm not saying I'm never going into a Gap again in my life, but now my shopping behavior is in balance and not used to fill an emptiness. I shop when necessary (which is not often) and only buy what I need (which is not a lot).
We are a culture of wanting, not needing. We lack nothing, yet crave everything. We are continually barraged with messages that promote mass consumerism. It is everywhere and constantly in our psyche to buy stuff we don't need. But whenever we allow ourselves to be drawn into the promise of something outside to bring us joy and fulfillment, we become trapped. Because it's never going to be enough. Whether it's shopping, booze, food, or drugs we abuse to make us feel whole, It will never be enough.
When we finally choose to feel our feelings without masking them with distractions or destructive behaviors, the healing begins. When we allow ourselves to be wherever we are without needing more, we begin to feel the quiet sweetness of contentment. We notice the subtle calling of what our heart and soul wants over what our ego wants. We feel whole and appreciate life as it is. And we are completely OK with a tiny hole in our pants.