Lately, I have been really, really good about buying things. Or, to be more accurate, NOT buying things.
Since unsubscribing from most of my shopping-related emails, I only get the few store emails I’ve allowed to remain, and I’m proud to say I’ve even been deleting those unread. I’ve spent very little time on Pinterest lately, which I LOVE, but can sometimes make me yearn for things. I’ve been too busy to shop as well – in fact, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been in two stores – the grocery store and a gift shop. In the grocery store, I didn’t go crazy–once I came home with a bag of Cheetos and a bottle of white wine because that was all I wanted in that moment, and another time I just bought some snacks and mixers for entertaining since I was having friends over. I went to the gift shop to buy a housewarming gift, but I was super crunched for time so thankfully I emerged with only the gift for my friends and nothing for myself.
But today, I needed to go to the store again. I’ve been terrified of catching this flu that’s been going around, and with my schedule being so hectic, and with being around so many who are sick, I’ve been taking a lot of preventative stuff. Umcka is my favorite anti-cold medicine (if you haven’t tried it, seriously do – it’s freakin’ MAGICAL), and I was down to the last dropperful. So this afternoon I hopped in the car and headed over to New Seasons to buy another bottle.
I don’t shop at New Seasons a lot – I think it’s a lovely store with a great mission and outstanding customer service. But the prices are more expensive than Safeway or Fred Meyer, so I only go there if I need something special. And the poorly designed parking lot of the New Seasons in my neighborhood always seems to be full of mellow looking people in organic clothing with recyclable bags who are super zen and nice until you’re vying for the same parking space, at which point you know they would happily punch you in the throat to secure it. But I wasn’t sure if Fred Meyer carried the Umcka, and I knew New Seasons did, so I decided to brave it.
When I walked in, I could see the pharmacy area was to my right, and I headed straight for it. But to get there, I had to walk through the fancy housewares section. And that’s where it all started to fall apart.
I had a friend who was once addicted to cocaine tell me that even though he is clean now, if someone put a line of cocaine in front of him, he knows he would snort it, and the second it was up his nose think, “Why the HELL did I just do that?” I’ve never done cocaine, but I do get what he’s talking about. Shopping is my drug, and I have been clean for a few weeks. But seeing all those pretty dishes and aprons and shiny gadgets kind of snapped something in my brain, and just like my friend would have felt if he turned a corner and found a mountain of cocaine, I suddenly found myself in the hot clutches of the Want Monster.
There was no rhyme or reason to the things I wanted, and none of my want was triggered by any real need. I found myself gathering up little ceramic Japanese-looking dishes, an orange and white rectangular tray, sleek bamboo utensils, cute aprons, pretty potholders, and chopstick holders that looked like koi fish. At the end of that aisle, I noticed the pet toys, so I added a stuffed squirrel toy with a squeaker for my dog, Stella (who rarely plays with toys). Then I moved on to food. A new brand of energy bar I hadn’t tried. Frozen gourmet tamales. Rose water, even though I don’t know what I’d use it for, but vaguely remember seeing it in a recipe somewhere. I was in a fevered haze, tossing stuff in a basket, flushed with the high of new fun things. When I found myself back near the pet aisle admiring a cat toy, a logical thought suddenly crashed my shopping party. “You don’t even HAVE a cat,” it said. “What the HELL are you doing?”
A little ashamed, I put everything back, including the basket. I went to the pharmacy aisle, and found what I had come for – The Umcka. It was even on sale. I went straight to the cash register, paid, declined a bag, and went home.
I will not lie – driving away, the Want Monster was still gripping me tight. I wanted those little dishes, that were like so many I own already. I wanted the orange and white tray that was super small and not really practical for serving anything. I wanted the squeaky squirrel toy for Stella that would join the pile of other unused toys in the corner of the living room. I felt sad and a vague sense of loss for things I’d never actually owned. I’m still kind of thinking about them. I hope by tomorrow morning I will have forgotten all about them– I don’t need them, and they would have just become more stuff for me to manage and store and eventually throw out someday.
And the things I REALLY want, and need right now, are super clear. I need new tires for my car for safety reasons. I need a new computer with decent memory capacity so I can work faster and more efficiently. I need to pay off all my debt. Those things would make me truly happy.
And of course, I want to be healthy. And I did get the Umcka. So for now, that should be lagom.