Retail Therapy and Spirituality

Retail Therapy

Really. I have nothing these shoes could ever go with.

This post on retail therapy is post #7 in my series on financial freedom and spirituality.

I have a horrible financial confession to make.  In month #4 of my focus on financial freedom and spirituality, I have gotten off course with my budget.  No, I didn’t buy emergency-worker-yellow high heels to wear, but they did get my attention.  But I’ve discovered something about the connection between retail therapy and spirituality, and I’m a little queasy with the realization.

As I write this, I am finishing my fourth month of focusing on paying off old debt (including my house debt) and I’m very proud of where my discipline has gotten me.  I have paid off the car and I’m down a total of about 30k from where I started, with my focus now on paying off the house while putting something in savings and retirement in preparation for my upcoming furlough and subsequent pay cut.  I’ve shared a few ways I’ve made this big dent, here on this blog, and I’m less-than-gleefully sharing my pitfalls.

After three months of really sticking to my budget and figuring out where I spend money (not exactly where I thought, to my surprise), I have my budget fairly well in hand.  I still have a few itchy spots to work on to make it perfect and reliable, but I think that by 6 months, it will be rolling like clockwork.  Except that in month #4, just as I was really getting the hang of it, I blew it.  Why the sudden loss of discipline?

A few huge emotional challenges.

First Challenge and Results:

A very close and deep relationship ended early in the month, sending me reeling for the first two weeks.  It’s been better since, as we are talking and redefining and trying to figure out what next.  I became completely ungrounded.  I have a deep spiritual practice, and yes, I know how to ground myself.  This was too important, too upsetting, for meditation, ritual, or prayer.  There are other ways to ground–food, working with the earth in the garden, physical exercise.  All very much first-chakra methods.  I’ve been through tragedies before, including deaths, illnesses, breakups, etc.  It’s been a long, long time since anything has affected me as deeply as the loss I perceived at that time.

I ate more than I should have.  I also walked an extra 5 miles a day.  I’ve not done much gardening this year–saving the money I would have spent on flowers and garden for the furlough cuts.  Plus, daily thunderstorms kept me in the house.  I did lots of mundane chores in the house, including cleaning and clearing, that usually help ground me.

But once I stepped into a couple of stores to pick up some mandatory items–a gift, a replacement for a medical item, a replacement for another that can’t be repaired–I found myself picking up a few extra things that I could live without.  It was almost addictive but felt more like a salve for my wounds. Like a drug.  I didn’t quite understand it then.  I did this week, though.

I’ve had really no issues at all staying on budget.  Even in the stores I love.  Yes, it’s easy to not buy something if I stay out of stores, but I also can’t show up for work in something sloppy or too casual, and with the change in season, that’s meant a few new items, though each has been carefully chosen to stay on budget.  So going way off budget after an emotional upset gave me cause to stop and examine what was happening.

Second Challenge and Results:

This week, something happened that really floored me.  It’s related to the previous emotional upset, and while I won’t get into details, it involved an incredible number of things lining up that  I could never have foreseen or planned in a million years.  I was in the strangest place at the strangest time and under the strangest conditions, none of which were of my intended making or planning.  I witnessed something very specific to my life and the people in it.  Let’s call it the Mother of All Coincidences.

Life can turn in an instant when the Universe lines certain things up to happen, and all I could do was–after freaking out–just step back and say, “I’m gonna let Deity take care of this one.  I’m just gonna watch and not worry about what will come of this.”

It was such a God-moment to see this happen in this way that I became completely ungrounded.  My BP and pulse shot sky-high.  Afterwards, I sat in my car for a while in a random parking lot in the rain, trying to ground myself.  I talked to my brother, talked to my daughter.  Talked to some of the folks at work.  Tried to calm down.

Food, I thought.  But no, that’s a bad way to ground myself.  The only food close by was loaded with sugar and gluten, and both are a bad idea.

I’ll go home and walk 10 miles, I thought.  But it was raining too hard.  Feet against Earth almost always works for me, but not this day!

Then I noticed the store next to the random parking lot where I sat with my BP and pulse still elevated.  I had an item in the car that I needed to return, one that I’d noticed had a flaw when I got home with it.  Once in the store, I felt the call of all those items I didn’t need, and some that I did (work-related).  I ended up leaving an hour later with a few small things that I’d already budgeted for, again work-related, but the experience lifted a veil for me.

Making the Connection between Retail Therapy and Grounding

Whereas all my other disciplinary prowess was strong, it failed in times of extreme emotional duress and emotional/mental “ungrounding.”  In the first case, I’d lost the person who has for years been my gravity as well as my wings.  In the second case, I was so tied into the immense spiritual aspects and idea of Deity at work, that I could not come down from my clouds and find the solidity of Earth.  I couldn’t ground myself through normal easy relaxation techniques (I’m usually well-grounded) or through more difficult and focused methods.  When all else failed to ground me, I gravitated toward grounding myself by “acquiring the weight of physical stuff.”

Yes, the same kinds of physical “stuff” that I’ve been getting rid of, decluttering, lightening myself up spiritually.

I was ungrounded, and I needed to weigh myself down to feel tethered to the planet and reality, so without diagnosing what the problem was, I self-prescribed  retail therapy.