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One of my favorite pastimes (or put more honestly, distractions) pre-pandemic was shopping.
I loved shopping.
I enjoyed strolling through a department store and smelling the ever-present, yet faint scent of perfume in the air caressing the things that caught my eye. Bringing my purchase home and planning where to place a new item or where I might wear a new sweater were a guilty pleasure that seemed to hurt no one.
I never shopped beyond my means, but I certainly spent far more money than necessary on things I truly didn’t need. It’s embarrassing to admit the number of items in my closet with price tags still on them.
Once that pandemic hit, I turned to online shopping. This was almost better than in-person shopping because the thrill came in five stages:
3. anticipating the delivery of the purchase
4. the excitement of the package arriving and being opened (my own personal Christmas in July)
5. the fleeting high that came with using said item for the first time
Once it hit me that the pandemic wasn’t going to be over in a couple of weeks, we hunkered down, and I, like many, delved into a world of cozy excess. I lived my life in joggers (down with “hard pants!”), and I became 100 percent makeup-free for the first time since I was 16.
The “go, go, go” of work, happy hours, and large family gatherings were replaced by baking, canning, drinking too much wine, and binge watching my favorite shows.
Is there such a thing as excessive jigsaw puzzling?
But this wasn’t sustainable for me, and slowly, I replaced some of those hours spent in frenetic hygge with simply looking around more. I put away the things I was using to distract myself from the underlying anxiety running through my body so I could just be.
I leaned into the discomfort bit by bit and began watching the world go by.
I saw things right in my own backyard that were a revelation to me. I became an expert on trees, flowers, and barking dogs in the four-mile radius around my home.
The world slowly opened back up again, and I found work. With money coming in and the freedom to be in public, I assumed I’d pick up my favorite hobby again.
But I didn’t.
A few times I tried. Masked and vaxxed, I headed to my old stomping grounds. I even had a pre-pandemic gift card to spend. I spent it, but it didn’t leave me with that high I’d had before.
I looked around my home even more and began noticing all the things I didn’t need.
Suddenly, the 10-plus pairs of jeans in my closet looked ridiculous and over the top. They were all so similar. How many shades of burgundy nail polish, and lipstick did I need? Why did I have more than five black tank tops?
I heard someone say that we are all in the same storm, called COVID-19, but we are all in different boats. My pandemic experience was one of catharsis, an imposed “slowing down” journey.
The experience of seeing things in a new way, touching, smelling, even eating that homemade bread in a slower, more intentional way are feelings I want to stay with me.
Being present in small, every day ways feels like a step toward awakening. Not distracting, not being so busy, not filling my life and thoughts up with “stuff” feels right.
Less is more.