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Shop Til You Drop: My Shopping Epiphany

Do you make sense to you or are you confused by you most of the time?

So yesterday I had a shopping epiphany. Weird, I know, but here’s the story…

For a while now I have been torn about my love of shopping and decorating. There is a part of my brain that labels these activities materialistic, superficial and trite. Having this gnawing idea in the background naturally dampens the joy I get from doing what I love. This has me in conflict with myself. Not a great place to be. I was suspended between either giving up or curtailing what I enjoy as a form of imposed discipline or continuing on but mired in self judgment and self doubt.

Damned if I do damned if I don’t. For those you who have been reading my blogs over the years, you will know for me that the Catch 22 is the hallmark of wrong thinking. In every moment there are infinite possibilities and my brain has cued up two. And they both suck. This is a the moment to wake up, pause and know there is another way. As I sat my mind started reflecting on my ‘procuring’ tendencies and started to entertain the idea that within my actions were vestiges of ancient programming.

Hunting and gathering are in our DNA. When I ‘shop’ I forage. I stalk my prey (mostly on the internet). I lay in wait for the right time pounce (I love a good sale). I try to maximize my resources (BOGO) and choosing items that I think will serve me best and hold me and my family over the longest (form and function people). Food shopping is modern day foraging, cooking is tending the fire. In doing all these things I provide for my family. Nourishment and a nice cozy cave. What more could you ask for?

Today, in lieu of hunting and gathering we go to work so we can shop, but again the principles and impulses of old apply. Get what you can, eat what you can, store what you can. Rationing is key. And if you have ever watched a Netflix show on being alone in the wilderness, prioritize your shelter - it is everything. In the wild and on the streets, homelessness is death.

Our version of foraging even in the modern day is not frivolous, it is encoded. There were no days off in the wilderness. Each day we had to go out and fend for ourselves living off what the land provided. And maybe I am watching too many arctic survival shows but I believe these ancient programs remain active. Shopping then is more primal than petty. It speaks more to who I am as a person than against me. Is this a rationalization? Maybe. But I like to look at my impulses and embrace them especially if they seem like they are not going anywhere despite efforts at reigning them in.

Am I out of control? Or are these impulses a modern version of the old ingrained ways now that we are not out overtly hunting and gathering as if our lives depended on it. The way I answer this is crucial for my survival.

If you think about it, our ancestors, until only very recently in our human history, have been hunting and gathering wild style. The consumer version that we have today is in its fledgling stages evolutionarily speaking. So how does all that residual DNA manifest today? We shop, we buy, we bring our booty home, we break bread and we revel in the bounty.

So why even go here? Because my brain is sitting in judgement of my life and my efforts to make things nice for my family while doing something that brings me joy and it is sucking the life out of me.

At the behest of a friend I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called Stutz. Stutz is more eloquent than I. Watch it. He is a therapist and he calls the part of us that always has something negative to say, Part X. In my case Part X was making me feel at odds with myself, that I don’t know why I do what I do. When I listen to Part X, I stew in an untenable state that feels out of control and rife with fear. Part X never lets up, it is always talking. Whether we listen is always up to us. If it has you on its hook though it won't stop until it rocks your core. In my case, by deeming those things that I take pleasure in frivolous, and privileged - yes Part X went there - its goal is to undermine my worth, making me unlikeable to myself.

Part X is a master at condescension, opining that I shop because I am compulsively seeking a high, this is an ignoble act of course. Seeking a high also by default must mean that I am feeling low or bored.

The cherry on top for Part X is goading us into asking one of the most mentally destructive, time consuming and useless questions ever: What is wrong with me? This is a downward spiral few can find their way out without assistance. If we figure out an answer we are screwed and if we can’t figure an answer we are screwed. Another catch 22, take heed. The net effect of asking the question ‘what is wrong with me?’ is hopelessness and if left unchecked, depression. So does fiscal foraging set off my endorphins? Sure, but so did hunting and gathering of the old days. Enough said. The pride I take, the excitement I feel and the joy I get from the things I procure from the curated wild, is all part of it - it is not the purpose for why I do what I do but it is a nice perk.

Rather than serially asking myself why I do this, as Part X would relish, and being consequently frustrated or confused by my actions, I opted for a new story. I chose to make sense of my desire to acquire rather than judge it or myself. The question I chose to ask was ‘if this is me, how does this serve me?’ With that I looked into the extended history of where some of these impulses may have come from and immediately I felt whole.

What I realized was that when I am not trying to figure out what is wrong with me, I am no longer at odds with myself- that’s what feeling whole is. I may have heard this before but I never understood more than intellectually. Today I felt it as an energy, a feeling. It is beyond. And it is new. Sadly, it is new. The overriding essence right now is ‘I make sense’. I make sense to me. It is like a meeting of my two minds, both comforting and liberating.

I am just getting the in-vivo beginnings of this as I write but I have a keen sense that this is a gift that will keep on giving. Honestly, I don’t think I have ever felt quite this way before. Bummer but yay!

Do you make sense to you or are you confused by you most of the time? My brain, aka Part X, can now look upon my actions and question their value ergo my value, but I have an antidote. I have changed the story. I am no longer entertaining brain conversations of frivolity and questioning whether or not I am a good person. I am letting myself off the hook. And If I ever need to forage for real, I hope my ancient instincts will serve me well then too.

The most important takeaway from all this - shop til your drop!! LOL, no. The most important takeaway is this: Do not ask yourself what is wrong with you because once asked you will never stop asking. Do what you like and find a way to like what you do.

Phew...That was a wild ride….

Xoxo Jill