My daughter knows we only have about an hour in the mall before anxiety sets in. I think it is the white noise that slowly erodes my nerves or the smell of the food court. My reality though is that it’s like an alcoholic walking into a tavern. I’ve seen the dark side of retail therapy and it frightens me.
I hate the mall. It smells like debt. –Me
That quote came off my lips a few years ago as we stepped into the shopping mall in search of a birthday gift for one of my daughters friends. I was overcome by sights of marketing and people who, by appearance, had no business shopping. It’s a harsh judgement but I often wonder if many “mallinians”are making ends meet or are they robbing Peter to pay Paul?
In my formative years, my mom was living a new lifestyle as a widow. We lived in a rural area that necessitated a day trip one to two hours from home to do shopping. Mom loved to shop and could spend hours in a store looking at every piece of inventory they carried. She often purchased things because they were a bargain or stocked up on things like paper plates and aluminum foil if they were on sale. Dare I say she was on the verge of being compulsive before it was a trend?
I remember hearing that we couldn’t afford certain things. I didn’t own a pair of Levi’s until I bought them myself. And the trendy navy blue Nike tennis shoe with the light blue swoosh from the early 80s never made it to my closet. Even so, I had more than most kids.
My first boyfriend made a very good living in a family business. Material luxuries made me feel as though I had ‘arrived’. Achieved status. It was a false sense of security as you may have read in posts from months ago. Trust is a priceless gift and fidelity is easily squandered by reckless young men.
My next boyfriend introduced me to the credit card. He had an insatiable appetite for fine things. It was like Eve introducing Adam to the apple. What began in the late 80s was a cycle of debt and living beyond my means. An insecure girl finding security in things that made me falsely feel content.
I’ll skip over the details of the next few decades only to say I’ve not defaulted on what I owe. We are currently in a state of recovery from two people who never merged finances when they married but with similar spending habits. You make it. You spend it.
Robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Unnecessary debt. Living beyond our means. For what?
“You cannot serve two masters…” Luke 16:13
I’ve been in recovery for quite a few years. It’s almost become an obsession to live more simply. If not for my husband, I might have sold all I own to downsize and simplify life. I wish I could.
Like the alcoholic who tries to socialize sober at a party, I try to socialize in a materialistic world. I am comfortable in my thrift store clothes and gourmet meals made at home. I still have a long way to go on my road of retail recovery.
One of the hardest parts is being a salesperson for a business where I was my own best customer for many years. It’s important to learn how to be in this environment and culture without letting it overwhelm. God is proving in this season that I usually have more than I need.
I’m relearning and discovering along the way the emotions I tied to spending and how to refocus my emotions where they belong.
It frustrates me when I have compulsive feelings creeping in… Anxious feelings that make me want everything just so. It’s becoming easier to recalibrate with so many years of hindsight reminding me material goods were only a grand illusion. Smoke and mirrors preventing me from seeing reality.
I’m praying for those of you struggling with retail compulsions. We hate being controlled and told what to do… so why do we allow it to control us?
Good question, huh?
Ask it next time you are driven by your need to spend. What are you hoping to achieve?