I think we all share a fantasy about winning the lottery or inheriting an unexpected fortune; finding cash on the street or a goldmine at a garage sale or thrift store. Especially now, as so many are struggling, these thoughts can turn obsessive. Before I fall asleep, often I’ll find myself thinking, “maybe I’ll win $100,000 in the lottery.” And that gives free reign for the other, more insipid thoughts, to begin their deluge – “but that would only get me the Mini Cooper and a parking space, a little money in the bank, and living in Paris for a year…it’s not enough. If I won $500,000, then I could add a big house for my Mom, one for my sister, a new truck for my brother, and a year’s worth of highlights at Frederic Fekkai.” After THAT, a million other little things that I’ve been “deprived” of will come into play, and before I know it, my internal calculator has just added up a total greater than any lottery winning in history.
This of course leads to a total avalanche of (ridiculous but somehow there) thoughts about my life: “I haven’t gone to yoga in over six months! I’m aging and I haven’t become a pop sensation yet! I don’t have my own YouTube channel! I don’t have a Masters’ degree or a book tour and I haven’t developed a product they can sell on QVC! WAAAAAHHH!!!!”
And then I feel a little depressed. Overwhelmed. Like my life and what I have isn’t “enough.” Everywhere I look, I feel deprived of something. My car sucks. My hair is horrible. My apartment is natty. My French will never be fluent. My shoes have prices marked on the bottom.
These types of thoughts are pervasive and deeply ingrained in our modern society. If I’ve saved up enough for a luxury item I’ve wanted for a year, when I finally arrive at the shop to buy it, there are so many other beautiful things around that I feel like I’m just kidding myself if I get only one item. It takes the joy out of it, really, if there’s always something better – the same feeling I get when walking past the first class cabin to my cramped little seat, or, eventually, even looking through a glossy fashion magazine. There’s just never enough.
This is what our economy depends on. That little fear we all carry with us that what we have isn’t the best, isn’t the most up to date, and isn’t, you guessed it, ENOUGH.
But, really, enough for WHOM?
Even realizing I have the power to ask that question is at times a struggle. Usually I subconsciously waffle between consumerist yearnings and humanist guilt for even wanting luxury items when there is so much poverty in the world.
When I look around my little apartment or get dressed of a morning, sure, there are times that I wish things were more high end. But then I’ll meet a dear friend for a cocktail somewhere glamorous, each of us regaling the other with the adventures we’ve had since the last time we spoke; I’ll speak to my parents in Oklahoma and happily listen to stories about the most amazing bushel of fresh peaches or how the dogs are acting up; I’ll read a status update about a friend’s illness or buy an extra sandwich for the homeless guy on the corner…and then, THEN the clarity can sink in.
These superficial yearnings I’ve been silently nattering over are just that – superficial. They’re hard-wired and they’re difficult to recognize, much less fight. However, the more I enjoy my life and put energy towards efforts of kindness and generosity, that tiny little pocket of my brain occupied by the realization that what I have IS enough, well, it’s growing bigger and is becoming a place of comfort.
What in the name of Gaudi does this have to do with thrift stores? Ironically, when I’m out shopping for second-hand items, almost miraculously, those obsessive little monsters are at bay for a while. I’m not looking at a million shiny things vying for my attention and inner class struggle; I’m sorting through a menagerie of items looking for the little diamond in the rough, and I almost always find one. I also realize that whatever I spend there will directly benefit somebody who needs help. So I leave the store feeling pleased, and in some ways, vindicated – as though I’ve beaten the game somehow.
I suppose the point of all of this is to let you know that there are a lot of people out there who feel as though their lives and the things in them are not enough. I want to urge those of you who feel like this to just for a moment, embrace what you DO have. If you’re reading this, then you somehow found yourself looking for sites that will help you save money. Well, PRESTO! You’re a creative, savvy person for even thinking outside the box. There’s something that a lot of people can’t (or won’t) give themselves permission to do. You take those little strengths and build on them. Use your creativity to express yourself and turn those little nattering monsters into allies instead of enemies. Find a way to make what you have beautiful and an expression of that wild, beautiful, unique creature that is YOU.
If you can manage to do that, even for a few minutes a day, you’re enjoying your life. Enjoying your own life helps you to be more kind to others. And if you shop at (and donate to) thrift stores, you’re actually helping someone else. And in my book, dear Comrades, that may not ever be “enough,” but it’s a damn fine start.