Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Sargaso Sea of our Stuff

I stopped losing my balance last Tuesday, and have decided the malady is not going to return (which is what it did when I had it years ago - I 'relapsed' and had it at least twice).

So I spent the past few days working doubly hard to accomplish all those things I couldn't get done when I was sick. We have one of the storage units half-empty and hope to finish moving the rest in the next couple weeks. It is beginning to seem as if we are merely stirring our stuff around, instead of winnowing and reducing the clutter - as if we are becalmed in a Sargaso Sea composed exclusively of all the stuff we ever bought and don't really need. Now there is a nightmare scenario of Karmic proportions for you.

I'm really beginning to regret that I didn't "just say no" to all that stuff before we bought it. Which is the point of that really great book by Dr. April Lane Benson: To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop. If only I had read it forty years ago! (Impossible of course since it was only published two months ago.) Well then, for all the rest of you - take advantage of her wisdom while you are young. (If you are not young, it is never too late to start.)

Out of all her good advice and excellent exercises, I think one simple rule would have saved us from at least ninety percent of our purchases: "use only cash, check or debit card". Yes, sadly, I am one who finds it all too easy to buy things I don't really need when using a credit card. Which is why I closed two credit accounts in the past two months, (yes, better late than never).

We still have boxes of books in storage, and no more room in the apartment, so we must choose which books get shelf space and which books get adopted. I'm down to my favorites - already gave away many boxes. I have packed a box of books to resell at Powell's three times - and unpacked it three times, putting the books (double-parked) back on our overcrowded book shelves. Oh, I am a ridiculous and sad example indeed!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spinning Like a Top

My head, that is. Or at least, what it feels like when I move too suddenly. As a friend recently put it, all the discomfort of a carnival ride without the fun. Finishing week two of what appears to be an inner ear infection, which causes vertigo. I had this virus once about twenty-five years ago. No cure, just let it run its course.

This too shall pass.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Like a trip to the dentist only cheaper -

Take one (former) shopaholic. Give her a Ph.D. in psychology and ten years experience treating over-shopping. Publish her book about how to get free of the vast consumer conspiracy surrounding us, and you have Dr. April Lane Benson and her vital new book: To Buy or Not to Buy.

This is not a comfortable book for me to read. I find my behavior unmasked and as undeniable as my shoulder-length gray hair. Have I used shopping to feel better about myself? Yes. Have I used shopping to avoid confronting a situation I want to avoid? Yes. Have I used shopping as a weapon to express anger? Yes.

Sometimes to all of the above, and other questions in chapter one. Like a trip to the dentist, confronting my negative behavior and the psychology behind it can be painful, but also healing. I love this book, because there is healing in getting the rot out. Dr. Benson offers a way to find authentic happiness to replace the false esteem of keeping up with (or exceeding) the 'Joneses'. She points out the relentless consumerism driving our economy, with tentacles invading our conciousness through stores, malls, television, catalogs, Internet and even cell phone shopping. She uncovers the true cost of credit card purchases, and documents the ways invisible forces demand that we buy "more more more and now now now".

Knowledge is power. Self-knowledge is the power to change. To Buy or Not to Buy is a tool that can enable us to get free of our compulsive shopping. If you are confident that you don't have any shopping addictions, I challenge you to go to a bookstore and browse her book - consider the many ways we can fool ourselves into buying things to fill an emotional hole rather than a material need.

I recognized some of my buying patterns in her analysis, and also patterns of friends and relatives. Our materialistic society is even more insidious than I suspected. There is compassion and not condemnation in Dr. Benson's words. I recommend her book and I will be spending the next three months working through all the exercises. I have two pages of notes this morning, a start to the journal she recommends keeping.

There is no such thing as an insignificant cavity - as we all know, sooner or later it will destroy the tooth. I am going to be working on the occasional - but not insignificant - ways that I over-shop, and expect that the result will be good, even if the process is sometimes painful.

So what are ways that you over-shop? What are the things you buy to repair your mood, hold onto love, fit into society, feel in control - or *** ?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Grey or Grey - sad either way:

fog, mist, indistinct, dismal, pale, cloudy, gloomy, dull, hoary, and also ashen, drab, dusty, mousy, grizzled, smoky, somber.

All of which describes both the sky here this past week, and increasingly so, my mood as well.

This is the time of year I start daydreaming about running away to live on a sunny, tropical beach. That would not be a southern Australian beach right now, with their record-breaking heat wave last week amid highs over 113 degrees. I'm thinking Boca Raton, Florida, with a forecast of sunny and high in the 70's most of next week, and silky beach sand, tropical water both warm and clear. (Well, I can dream, can't I?)

There is a saying here in Oregon - "If you don't like the weather, no problem - just wait a few minutes and it will change."

So. I'm waaaaiting.