I'm 18 days into my year-long shopping ban and so far, no slip ups. For fun, I have started keeping a list of all the things I even briefly think about buying, and sometimes I'll post the sillier ones to Facebook. On New Year's Day I hosted a dinner for friends, and a myriad of "when will I ever use this"-type items suddenly seemed to be essential: a gravy boat. A round tablecloth for my round dining table (my previous tables have all been squares, and so are my existing linens). An electric carving knife for the turkey. My iPhone, now 4 years old, has more-than-occasional tantrums, and I desperately want a new one.
The funny way the world works, is that when you publicly post that you want things, even jokingly and with self-deprecation, as I did, your friends and family suddenly want to give them to you. My mother brought me three round tablecloths. My aunt found me not one, but two gravy boats. My mother had another iPhone lying around, which she had unlocked for me so I can transfer my SIM card into it and once again enjoy shut-down free texting. "But that's not the point, Dani," you may say. "The point wasn't to get more stuff!" But I feel like these little gifts and giveaways are still in the spirit of the Shopping Ban. I didn't ask anyone specifically for the things, they were offered to me. Nothing new was purchased, either by me as the recipient, or by the generous aunt and mother who offered them. Let's call it a microscopic version of the sharing economy. To me, what was important was that I didn't spend money, didn't buy new stuff, or support the manufacturing of more things. Still, I'm not going to get into the habit of asking people to give me the things I feel are lacking in my life: an important part of this exercise is to be comfortable with what I have. However, I still feel like I learned something, through the arrival of these gifts. Ask, and you receive. Even if it's a gravy boat. Imagine learning that lesson on a grander scale: If I can ask the universe for a gravy boat, and get it, what else can I ask for? If you're taking orders, Infinite Cosmos, I ask for creative fulfillment, satisfying friendships, unconditional love. Oh, and a puppy.
While I always assumed my shopping triggers were negative feelings or events, it turns out, happy times can be a shopping trigger, too. This past weekend I went to Doe Bay for a yoga retreat, one of my favourite places and my favourite activities in my year. I found I suddenly needed, badly, a certain kind of yoga top that turns into a blanket. I used to have one, I don't anymore, and dammit, I needed this in order to be able to do yoga on this retreat! I found out last Tuesday that I am nominated for an Ovation Award this year, for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, for my work in Shine. My immediate thought was that I simply had to have a new dress in order to attend the awards ceremony.
I went on my yoga retreat, without a yoga top/blanket hybrid, and I think I did fine. I am planning to wear a dress that I've only worn once to the Ovations, and maybe do something nice with my hair. When I visited my favourite bookstore while I was on retreat, I carried a few items around with me, then took a picture of them and put them back. The mental gymnastics I was doing in my head to justify the purchases were exhausting, and frankly took the joy out of the intended purchases anyway. So, I'm not suddenly a changed person. I still want stuff. But I am finding great satisfaction in listening to those wants carefully, then turning back to my own things, to see what I have that will satisfy that need. So far, there's always something that can. It's just a matter of slowing down and taking stock. I'm learning.