By Julie Soderlund
Why, you ask? Well, a few reasons. First, I am a glutton for punishment (see my posts about the boot camp diet back in January). I am always testing the limits of my willpower when it comes to eating, exercising, working, spending, you name it. So much so that I once forced myself to finish For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway because it’s on my list of “must read classics” despite the fact that I hated every page of the book. This is just another iteration of whatever drives that sick kind of thinking (and yes, I know, I need to see someone about this issue!).
Second, I have enough clothes. Maybe not a great wardrobe, but lots and lots of clothes to cover every single season of the year. Many of these clothes languish in my closet years at a time without ever seeing the light of day. Instead of shopping for clothes at the mall or online, I am sure I can manage to find something to wear from my existing wardrobe, probably something no one has ever seen before!
Third, and most importantly, I have been thinking a lot lately about our culture in this country and just how materialistic and self-indulgent it really is – and about how I participate so fully and wholeheartedly in that culture.
That is at the core of why I am taking this baby step. When I first began to think about a shopping fast I thought that was not so shallow that it would be a hard thing to do. But now that I am staring my shopping-free existence in the face it seems daunting. No new dresses for the upcoming weddings we’re invited to. No new bathing suit to kick off the summer (not that shopping for one is that fun). No new shoes (and I really want some cute wedges). No Lululemon indulgences. The truth is that we are inundated with all kinds of temptations to buy things every day. In just the last couple of days I have received over a dozen emails from various retailers trying to lure me in with their deals – I am going to have to reach deep into my child of the 80s Nancy Reagan training and “just say no”.
To be clear, I am not on some moral high horse here. I wonder if I really can consciously take steps to do something that is so counter to my environment and upbringing? It is so easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that the material things in my life will bring me the fundamental contentment and peace I seek. But that is a lie and as cliché as it is to say, ultimately all that stuff isn’t the source of real fulfillment. Sometimes you have to let go of something to gain what it is you really seek.
The reason all of this has been on my mind is because my husband and I are preparing to go to Haiti for a week to serve in an orphanage in Port Au Prince. In getting ready for what most assuredly will be an impactful and eye-opening experience we have been doing a lot of reading up on Haiti, which has long been the poorest country in the Western World. So often I find myself wondering how people in a country ravaged by a corrupt government, a weak (understatement) economy, massive earthquake damage get up and do it every day? I am not sure I know the answer to that, but I do know that the fact I am asking that question reveals just how jacked up my thinking and focus really is. Just because people don’t live in the wealth and comfort we enjoy in America does not mean their lives are without meaning, purpose and fulfillment. Clearly I have a lot to learn and hopefully this small three-month step is one toward where I really want to go.