Saturday, January 28, 2006

Boxes upon boxes

(Note - 02/21/2008 - The post was originally made on 01/28/06. I kept this post up because I think it has a moment of remarkable insight about my Mother. Something I should remember - AC)

So I've been helping Mother unpack her boxes. Boxes on top of boxes. She was living in a 950 sq ft house, and she has 180 boxes of varying sizes. That means a box of stuff for every 5 surface feet. And that assumes no furniture.

Much of it, at least half of it, is kitchen stuff. Three automatic coffee makers. Five manual coffee makers. A stand mixer, a hand-held mixer, a blender, a smoothie maker, a food processor. An electric frying pan. Two deep fryers. Innumerable spoons, spatulas, and gadgets. Three dozen pots of varying sizes. And on and on...

And she lives off of cold cereal, toasted waffles, sandwiches, and TV dinners.

What is compulsive shopping and spending?

People who "shop 'till they drop" and run their credit cards up to the limit often have a shopping addiction. They believe that if they shop they will feel better. Compulsive shopping and spending generally makes a person feel worse. It is similar to other addictive behaviors and has some of the same characteristics as as problem drinking (alcoholism), gambling and overeating addictions.

Compulsive shopping or spending can be a seasonal balm for the depression, anxiety and loneliness during the December holiday season. It also can occur when a person feels depressed, lonely and angry. Shopping and spending will not assure more love, bolster self-esteem, or heal the hurts, regrets, stress, and the problems of daily living. It generally makes these feelings worse because of the increased financial debt the person has obtained from compulsive shopping.

Mother has never had to feel the consequences of her addiction. Her father, Pop, has always bailed her out. She spend many years married to a man who abused both of us, in order to have access to his money and credit for more shopping. And she has racked up thousands of dollars in debt on her house, a problem she hopes to solve with this move. All the while her credit score remains excellent, while she fills her house many times over.

I used to feel bitter and angry over Mother's shopping habit. Here she was spending thousands, while the husband and I went through tough times. And I think I'd enjoy having some of the beautiful things she owns. But I have many intangibles she lacks. The love and respect of a good man, who knows I treat his belongings with care, and I am careful with his money. The love and respect of my community and my peers, who value me not for what I own, but for my willingness to volunteer and help those who truly need. Someday the love and respect of my children, who I hope will value me for the knowledge and hard earned wisdom I can share. Self respect, for I know I can survive and make a good life for myself and my family even in the toughest times. And most important, , faith, that there is a plan in all this, and that God actually does care about me, and will never truly let me fall. With that I don't need material goods to make me feel valued, or loved.

Those things cannot be bought, no matter how much you shop or spend. Not even at the finest kitchen stores.

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