Retail Therapy


There are certain clues that your life is out of whack. Avoiding your friends. Poor sleep. Weight gain. (Or for some people, weight loss – I’m not one of them!) Dropping things you love for mindless activities that keep you from thinking. Crying too easily or getting mad about nothing at all. The classics.

A big clue for me was shopping for things I didn’t need and then getting stressed about the clutter. (The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expected different results. Who said that?)

For the last four years I have shopped almost every week for stuff I didn’t really need. Frequently more than one day a week. Really bad weeks, it might be every day.

I made jokes about it. I called it my ‘retail therapy’. Have a stressful day at work? Buy a stack of books to read. Get sniped at by the boss? Oh look, an icecream maker. Floundering and confused because what you are told and what you hear later aren’t the same things? Don’t worry – go shopping. Besides, with all that stress eating, I need new clothes, right?

Because it really is my favorite place to shop and because we don’t have a lot of extra money, thrift shops, Goodwill, Salvation army and yard sales were my drug of choice. I love browsing and finding great designer clothes or some awesome kitchen gadget for next to nothing. It gives me a tiny little boost that lasts just long enough to get me home and with my family.

Then comes the guilt.

I could berate myself all night: we need that money to pay bills. The house is too cluttered already. What are you thinking? Which, now that I think about it, was another way to avoid thinking about the dream job that had become a nightmare. I didn’t have any luck finding a new job and as the sole breadwinner for my family, I couldn’t just quit.After all, I moved us out here, uprooted my very social husband and son from their lives for this job, this life.

But I could never seem to find my rhythm. No matter how hard I worked – and at times it was 12-14 hours a day, 5-6 days a week – I felt as if the ground was constantly shifting. I would joke about it being Monday and wondering what my job would be this week. I can honestly say that I gave it my all, but then a wonderful thing happened. I got laid off. Reduction in Force. For me it might as well have been called a Reduction in Stress. RIF or RIS, it was as if the weight of the world fell off my shoulders.

I miss my friends at work. I miss the cool work we did there, but I slept like a baby from the first night of the layoff. I’m doing things that I love again. I’ve lost weight. I’m seeing and talking to my friends. I don’t cry or get as mad about nothing. And my shopping habit? Down about 90%. Even better, I’m letting go of all those things I didn’t really need. Letting them go for a song to anyone who wants them.

Because I don’t need them anymore.

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