A few nights ago I took a break from work and drove down the road to gain perspective on my life in the form of a carbonated beverage. It had been an incredibly frustrating evening, so frustrating and disheartening that the only cure I could think of was a Dr Pepper, even though I am working hard to wean myself from my bubbly drug of choice. A lice break-out of epic proportions and endless lines of laundry filling our 5 (5!) high capacity washing machines, staff issues and just general crankiness and I was left simultaneously deflated and incredibly tense. Ahhh, my glamorous job in all its parasitic, pants pooping glory.
Anyway, I left for a few minutes, rolled down my windows and drove down the dark country road that our children's shelter sits on. As I drove, I fumed and as I fumed I noticed a weird flashing light up ahead on my right. I ignored it, figuring it was probably a cat or a racoon, or good lord, an armadillo. So I just kept driving, kind of unconcerned about the weird flashing lights. I remained unconcerned until I got just a bit closer and realized that the flashing lights were, in fact, reflectors on the back of a man's shoes, the only piece of him that was visible from a distance in the dark.
It was crazy. What was once a flashy little light suddenly materialized into a full-grown man, walking down the road and talking on his cell phone. And thankfully I realized what it was, not a cat or racoon or an armadillo, and certainly not just a trick the moonlight was playing on my eyes. It was a man, a person, and if I had been driving just a little further to the right, things could have gone from normal to catastrophic in a matter of seconds.
I drove past the man, from his perspective I'm sure things looked completely fine, a car just passing by him on a dark country road. But from my perspective, the possibility of what could have happened was terrifying.
And in an eerily similar fashion, some tiny little blip on my emotional radar, mildly weird and annoying, recently morphed into a full grown Issue.
See, I am a compulsive shopper. I have been for longer than I probably realize. Most of it I don't even know how to explain. I shop when I'm unhappy, I buy things to try and make myself feel better. I buy things because I think it will make me someone people will be more accepting of, someone people can love, someone I can love. I have shopped because I felt lonely and wanted to have more things to fill my loneliness. I have shopped when I am bored, trying to feel excited about something, even if what I am excited about is a shirt, completely ignoring the fact that a shirt shouldn't have the capacity to determine whether I am excited about life or not. I have shopped to get back at my husband when I got mad at him, using money and things to try and hurt him.
And this has been going on for years. I remember in high school, being convinced that once I got some baggy pants, a new haircut and some kelly green Chuck Taylors that I would be what a boy wanted me to be, then he would want to date me again. So really, its not like this was just a little teeny thing that exploded into a problem out of nowhere. Its been a problem forever, I just finally got close enough to realize that that little flashing light, the little red panic flash that went off somewhere in the back of my head when I would shop out of my pain, was actually a man-sized spotlight screaming at me.
So I finally saw it, the Issue. And I'm trying to understand it better. I'm trying to take my time to learn about it, to sit with it and see what its all about instead of running away. I want to see where it comes from and what it's underbelly looks like. I want to understand why I compulsively shop so that I can understand better how to heal from it, heal from the things that cause it. Its hard work, and it isn't fun but I am trying to be gracious and kind to myself. I am trying to be very sober about the fact that it took time to get here, and it will take time to get somewhere else, no one expects perfection.
I don't really know how to finish this, except to explain that one of the things I am learning about is transparency. Shame and pain make us feel like if we were to reveal our deep inner selves, that everyone would either run screaming from our monstrous disfigured souls or pity us and pat our poor, damaged little heads. But the truth is, we are all damaged goods, running around all bruised and battered with our soft spots hanging out. We try to hide it, the damage life inevitably causes, but no one is immune or free from pain. If we could show more of our inner selves, maybe we wouldn't all feel so alone, so panicked and desperate to save face and hide ourselves.
I guess that's what this is. An effort, not only to look at my own soul bruises and learn about them, but to be brave and show my true self to other people too. I shouldn't be ashamed of my pain, I am not alone in having it.