A New Year And A Fresh Start

It’s midway through January and I am finally ready to discuss why I have not been posting. I’ve sat down before and started to write but never finished. I wasn’t ready yet…it didn’t feel right. I’m not sure this is the right time either, but I fear that the longer I wait, the harder it will be.

There is not one single reason that explains why I have stopped writing. Partly, I have been extremely busy, making it more difficult to find the time to write. But I would be lying if I said that “being busy” was the sole reason I’ve ignored my blog.

The biggest reason I stopped writing is simple…my train derailed and I started shopping too much again.

This was not a single, one day shopping splurge. This was a complete derailment. I couldn’t write about it because I didn’t want to think about it, since then I’d have to face the truth. I didn’t want to write about my emotions or my stumbles…I didn’t want to admit to you (or myself) that I wasn’t trying hard enough…I wasn’t following my own advice.

Although, I have chosen to write a public blog about my journey, it is not easy to discuss my trials, my faults, and all the personal emotions that are inside me. I know I open myself up to criticism, which is hard. Yet, I also know that by telling my truth I can help others and myself in turn.

So here’s what happened…

I knew I was shopping too much. I was very aware that my online “browsing” started to end in “purchasing”. I also was quite conscious of the fact that I had visited the mall more times from September to November than I had in the prior 12 months. The writing was on the wall and I could see it very clearly.

Yet I continued to choose to shop.

Then, as always, “it happened”...the credit card bill arrived. I knew it wouldn’t be pretty. I knew I hadn’t been budgeting or purchasing only what I could afford. I truly tried to ignore it. I kept brushing aside my inner voice that warned me “Your shopping too much. Don’t buy that. You don’t have the money”.

I knew I had to stop. I had to take action to reign back in control and I had to understand fully what was going on. Why was I shopping so much again?

If I didn’t face whatever it was I was running from, this would just continue and I would begin to spiral too far out of control into very dangerous territory. I couldn’t...wouldn’t let that happen.

I was definitely going through a stressful time. Although, my hormones seemed to be settling a bit after a rocky roller coaster journey this past year (due to peri-menopause), my nerves were still rattled. For me, menopause was not just about hot flashes and disturbed sleep…that I could handle. My peri-menopause included bouts of unexplained sadness and anxiety...this shook me greatly because I had always been a happy easy going person. I often felt hopeless and afraid I’d never feel like myself anymore.

When my hormones did begin to settle, and there were more good days than bad, I still felt the aftershocks. I still feared that it could all crumble again.

On top of this I was approaching my 55th birthday and this just made me feel old. Although my mind felt like 35, my body was definitely starting to ache more easily!

Added to all this my third child had left for college and I missed him tremendously. I thought I’d handle his leaving better since I already have two other children in college, but that was not the case. There was a hollowness in the house and in my heart.

So, yes, I chose to shop...fully aware that I was shopping too much.

I wanted to over shop because having that problem could distract me from my other issues.

Shopping made me feel young again, after all, the “young me” shopped! I wanted to be “young me” even if it meant going against all the shopping rules I’d developed! I wanted to blur out all my other problems and focus on having a shopping problem again because a shopping problem is a problem I know how to deal with!

Sounds crazy right? But it also makes sense why I was thinking and acting like this. Still, I knew, it was time to take a deep breath and get things back in order and here is what I did:

Face the Storm

I had to face the fact that I bought too much and spent more on credit cards than I should have. Because I am no stranger to being in this predicament, I knew what needed to be done to and get back in control of my shopping and become debt free.

Return, Return, Return

I took inventory of everything unnecessary that I purchased and could return.

For many items this was very easy. In fact, there had been times when I ordered things online fully knowing I would probably be returning it! I totally used shopping to distract myself from my emotions!

But there were definitely a few items that I did not want to part with, specifically four cashmere sweaters. They were soft, soothing, beautiful. I knew I did not need them, but I still wanted to keep them. There was also an expensive designer blazer hanging unworn in my closet since August (purchased from that tricky Nordstrom sale). I hadn’t worn it yet, and therefore knew it was not something I needed in my life, regardless of how chic I felt in it. I knew I had fallen into a familiar trap of buying business casual clothes without a life that calls for them!

I had a huge bag of returns when I went to Nordstrom's customer service, and was a little embarrassed by it. Still it had to be done. At the bottom of my return bag was one of those luxurious sweaters that I hesitated to return. It cost around $300 and I just could not justify keeping it when I had plenty of sweaters to wear. I had a difficult time handing it over with both sides of my brain battling it out! “ keep this one thing! It will be fine!” “ Let it go! Get yourself back on track!”

I returned it and quickly walked away. If I had a tail it would have been between my legs dragging.

By the next day I no longer desired any of the items I returned, and had taken the first step toward reducing my credit card bill! I felt lighter and stronger and back in control.

The Spending Plan

Even after the returns, there was still a credit balance to be paid off. I determined the amount I would pay monthly toward the bill, but I also set aside a small amount of money for spending. Some people might disagree with this approach and might say that I should put every cent toward the debt and go “purchase free” until it is all paid off, but from my past experience I knew that would not work well for me. Having even just a small amount of spending money worked into my budget allows me to not feel completely stifled or handcuffed.

Forgive Myself and Move Forward

What’s done is done. I can't undo my past actions. We can only learn from them and move forward. So what did I learn?

I learned that running away from my emotions through shopping only added to my issues. Sure, temporarily it helped distract me from facing the conflicts going on inside me….but I still had to face my problems. We always have to face our problems…that is the only real way to get rid of them.

I have adjusted to having a much quieter house and have developed new routines which I have truly begun to enjoy. I am doing the best I can to accept that I am getting older…I am changing, but change can be good…it can actually be great. I plan on writing more posts to go deeper into what I experienced these past few months, but for now I will just say...

2020 is here and I’m back on track!

Please let me know how you have been managing especially during this past holiday season!

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