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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Quest for Precious - AKA First World Problems

Riding sidesaddle with envy is a dangerous practice: I would be happy if I had what he or she possesses. By contrast, giving thanks constantly and in all circumstances liberates us from envy.

Edward Hays - The Great Escape Manual

Is this you? You see something you like, and then you want it. Like...really want it. To the point where you feel like it is not a want but a need. Whatever "it" is, it becomes an obsession. You deliberate for a little bit on whether or not you can justify the purchase. Things have been a little tight lately. You could make it work, but should you? So then you spend hours - yes, hours - perusing the interwebs and shops to see if you can find the same thing somewhere else for a cheaper price. You might even run across a pretty good facsimile of the thing and almost convince yourself that the more affordable item will do the trick...but, deep down, you know it won't. You realize that spending less money on something sub-par that's not quite what you really want is more wasteful than spending more on something you know you will use, which only serves to help you justify the purchase that much more. Even though you are perfectly aware of how ridiculous it is scrolling endlessly through a Google Image search, Craigslist, or eBay or favoriting things on etsy, you can't stop thinking about it until you've bought it. It's like an itch you have to scratch. Your own version of a "Precious."

I do it. I get something in my head, and it's over with. There is no resting until that thing is mine. It's silly and kind of embarrassing to admit, really, even though they're almost never expensive things. But I convince myself so easily that I will just feel good once I get this thing. But then what happens? I get the thing, and I totally love it, and I use it. It's not like it just gets shoved in the back of the closet to collect dust bunnies, never to be heard from again. But in no time at all, I'm onto the next quest that has caught my attention. Call me spoiled, but I think it's actually so much deeper than that for most of us. So, once again, I'm laying my flaws out there as an effort to give you something real you can relate to.

The instance my husband teases me about the most is THE BLUE DRESS. A few years ago, I was out somewhere and saw a girl walk by in a royal blue jersey dress. Nowadays, I'd just walk right up and ask her where she bought it and hopefully save myself a lot of time and restless energy, but I didn't do that. She looked so casual-pretty. Breezy. And in that instant, I decided I had to have a royal blue jersey dress. I scoured stores and the web. I finally found one, months later (the obsession didn't die down in all that time), and bought it. And it was cheap. wasn't royal blue. It was more electric blue. I hardly ever wear that dress. I actually did see almost the exact same dress last year at Target, but I already had one in teal, and I couldn't justify buying the blue one. But do you know part of me kind of wishes I had? It’s just a freaking T-shirt dress, for God’s sake! Seriously, y'all, ridiculous. I feel so embarrassed right now that I'm beyond tempted to delete this whole example from the post, for fear of a loathsome comment telling me this is why terrorists hate the Western world and to stop moaning and groaning over non-existent problems. Lest you think I grew up on Easy St., I didn't. I'm not used to always getting what I want. I never got the Barbie Dreamhouse I coveted; instead, I got plastic bookshelves that I turned into condos, complete with my own hand-sewn textiles and hand-drawn wall art. (To this day, I credit not getting what I wanted with a huge chunk of my creativity.) 

So then...where does this come from, and why do we let these things consume us? Here are some reasons you might relate to.

We are attracted to beautiful things. 

That might sound elementary, but not everyone is. My husband isn't. (Except for me! ha) He is a functional kind of guy. He could care less if the ambience of a room is set by the paint color; he just wants the rooms and house to function well for what he needs. I, on the other hand, need it to be pretty as well. My current quest: redoing my home office. Now, I honestly don't think this is unjustified. You'd agree if you knew what it looks like in its current state. I am now running my own business, and I need a creative, inspiring, clean space in which to work more productively. We didn't have a real desk, so that was the first thing on my list. Luckily, Kam felt her "thrifty senses tingling" and found exactly the kind of desk I wanted on Craigslist for a steal. (Incidentally, she shares this syndrome; she just has far more patience to wait than I do.) But prior to that, I'd done several searches on the web and at antique stores for this type of desk. No other type of desk would do. And the only reason I so-called "have time" to do this type of thing? Smart phones make it way too damn easy.

We are looking to get a certain type of feeling out of it. 

Did you notice the way I described Royal Blue Dress Girl? I was after the feeling she projected. I wanted to feel breezy and pretty too. I thought if I had a dress like that, I would feel that way, i.e., good about myself. If you are a girl - and, chances are, you are if you are reading this blog - there's a pretty high chance that you often compare yourself to other girls. Whether it's the way they look, their weight, their hair, their skin, their family, their job, their home, their car, their income, their are constantly scanning other girls everywhere you go to subconsciously decide if you measure up to them. How much of the things you want or buy come from latching onto the notion that if you can only get a certain thing or look a certain way, that is when you will like yourself or think you're pretty?

It makes for an easy distraction. 
I'd much rather soothe the pain of something sad in my life by buying something than actually thinking about what's making me sad. It’s easy to justify because it seems much healthier than booze or drugs. A few days ago marked 8 years since my mom died. It haunts me every day. When I'm obsessing over some purchase, there's less room for my brain to focus on the sad. As a mom to a toddler, my brain doesn't actually have that much time to focus on anything but her to begin with (much less anything sad because she's pure sunshine!)...until the house is quiet and still at night, and I'm left with my swirling thoughts. 

We like the feeling of getting “a deal.” 
Makes you feel so clever, doesn’t it?! Like you really pulled one over on someone or were so smart that you didn’t have to pay more.

We envision ourselves blogging about it! 
You other bloggers out there will have to chuckle at this one. You get the thing in your head and are already plotting out your photoshoot while you visualize yourself wearing it.

Pinterest is the devil. 
Okay, not really. Pinterest is actually a very useful tool for being able to remember things and ideas. It’s also an awesome way to create a vision board. However, if you let it, it can also make you feel really, really bad about yourself and all the things you are not doing/making/buying that these moms with six kids and jobs and blogs somehow find the time and money for, while you just feel accomplished if you find the extra energy to shower. You’ll decide you’re completely inept as a mom, wife, housekeeper, decorator, beauty queen, [insert role here]. Appreciate it for what it is and nothing more. Don’t use it to breed obsessions and keep up with the Joneses and their latest purchases.

Getting packages in the mail feels awesome. 
It's like Christmas or your birthday. On a random Thursday.

I'm not saying that the way I am is "bad." And I'm better about it than I used to be and am much smarter about the decisions I make about things I buy. Waste has become kind of disgusting to me, not to mention that storage in our small home is an issue as well. I am also very grateful for the things I have and do not take them for granted. My two pairs of vintage boots I got a few months ago (at great prices) are alternated staples in my wardrobe pretty much every day. They do help me feel more confident and put-together – and, dare I say, happy.

Your deepest sense of self-worth, confidence, and happiness should never come from anywhere outside your heart and soul, but let's be realistic and admit it is perfectly fine and healthy if a particular kind of shoe or shade of lipstick just makes you carry yourself differently! I would never say that is wrong! That is all part of the fun of fashion. I do believe in trying to look better if it's within reason, healthy, and realistic. It doesn't have to be shallow unless you take it to an extreme and make it your highest pursuit.

I also don't think it's wrong to chase after a particular feeling if you can recognize that this "thing" is not going to make you feel whole. It's not going to be a permanent fix to make you happy. There is no one thing that is finally going to make you feel beautiful 24-7, 365 days a year, and never have an off day. I'm not saying don't buy things that will make you feel good. I'm not saying don't buy expensive things if you have the money for them. All I'm saying is next time you get this burning desire, just try to pause and get in touch with your motives. Go ahead and buy it (I probably will!); just be realistic about what it's going to do for you. 

Do you go on insatiable quests like these? What do you think you get out of it?

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