#7 Enoughness Project Series: Surviving SuperTarget

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There are a million ways to take care of yourself. Eating apples, as they say, is one. I think I may have discovered a new way: When I need a particular material item, instead of embarking on a bargain-hunting rampage, I will treat myself by shopping intentionally and buying good quality. Also, this is apple is for real. My teeth don’t always leave hearts in the food they bite, but when they do, they make it awesome.

Target. I went there today.

In the first five minutes, I fingered three swimsuits, ran my hands across one dress, eyed some colorful shoes and scarves and put two bras in my shopping cart. I’ve needed a new swimsuit since last summer. And I figured the bra counted as self-care…one of those necessary sorts of things.

I took the bras out of the cart a moment later. “I’ve bought this brand before,” I thought. “These don’t fit well. They’re not comfortable. This racerback is going to make my shoulders hurt just like the last one I bought here. If I really need a bra, I’ll get one at Nordstrom. Do I really need one? Eh. Not really.”

After eyeing the swimsuits, which I’d never try on while with my two kids at Target—such a pain to haul three people into that dressing room—I likewise determined that, if I really need a swimsuit, I will go somewhere, actual or online, that sells swimsuits. I will find one for my body type and possibly spend a little extra money to make sure it fits well and becomes me.

Maybe this spending hiatus will help remove impulsiveness from my buying and replace it with intention, premeditation and greater quality purchases. Once the shopping ban is lifted after these three months, when it comes to things I need, buying finer rather than on-sale-er things may be one true way of honoring my own enoughness.

Now that I think of it, occasionally buying myself things that are good rather than “affordable” feels a little bit like a new brand of self care to me. (the act of buying itself is not my self-care, but rather the act of choosing quality over fire sale is what feels like self-care to me.) And I’m definitely on board with more of that.

Note: This post is part of a series about my experiences in uncovering my own innate enough-ness. For three months, I am abstaining from frivolous material purchases, accepting all blessings that come my way and focusing on gratitude for all that I have. The idea came to me in a meditation-induced haze and it has nothing to do with politics or morality. I’m just a girl who’s hoping to: separate the association between looking good and being good; get comfy with receiving; become a glowingly grateful human being; get acquainted with my own motives for material consumption; grow my understanding of when/why I buy things; and establish new habits that are more aligned with my values. We’ll see how this goes…

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#6 Enoughness Project Series: I get new perspective on The Magnificent Mile

The boys took me downtown a few weekends ago. As we drove up Michigan Avenue on our way home, I stared out the car window, scouring the storefronts as usual for fabulous-looking clothing and alluring miscellany I’d probably never own.

However, instead of feeling pangs of wishing that, rather than riding in the passenger seat of my car, I could be freely walking into La Perla myself or that I could afford the great dress in the Max Mara window, I felt contentment. Relief. I don’t have to spend a moment of energy on wanting these things because I’m not in the market for anything right now. I am not in the market.

I’ve taken myself out of the market. And, in this moment, it’s liberating.

I shifted my gaze to people’s faces, rather than to conjecturing on the content of their bags. Of those carrying bags and popping in and out of shops, I did not see one person smiling on Michigan Avenue, from the river to Lake Shore Drive—aka The Magnificent Mile—not a one.

I, on the other hand, in the passenger seat of my humble grocery getter, was really smiling. Wind in my hair, healthy bubbly kids in the backseat, rad husband at the wheel. It was so simple. Cruising Michigan Ave had suddenly become an entirely different experience.

When have I ever not been thinking about something I wanted to buy? When have I ever looked at a gorgeous, well-appointed woman and not wanted what was on her body? When have I driven down Michigan Avenue and not quietly wondered what it’s really like to be a regular in the Louis Vuitton store? I cannot remember a single time.

As Americans, when have any of us not been in the market for anything? As Americans, we ARE the market. Taking myself out of the shopping game has been super hard in so many ways, but it’s also the best thing I could’ve done for myself in this season. At least for today, I am free.

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We had a lovely family lunch downtown and, on the way home, I finally felt a break from the shopping urge that usually strikes when I cruise Michigan Avenue.

#5 Enoughness Project Series: My inner mean girl rears her head just as I’m enjoying myself

Apparently now that I’ve managed to dress myself without buying anything new for a few weeks I’ve found something old and familiar to obsess on. My body, and all my physical imperfections. Namely, my stomach. And, newly, my arms.

I went to the beach with the boys this morning—it was the first such outing of the season. They took their shirts off and rolled around in the sand while I lied down myself, and lifted my shirt to catch some vitamin D on my midriff. It felt so good to feel the sun on my skin, on the part of my body I most, let’s call it what it unfortunately is: detest. To expose my stomach to the rays of the all-healing morning sun and the breeze off the lake was an amazing feeling. I felt like a 16-year-old, carefree and sunning face-up on a chaise lounge in a bikini at my boyfriend’s country club, just after he’d asked me not to turn over because he wanted his friends to see me. (He was and still is wonderfully empowering of me and all women, but he was, after all, a 17-year-old boy…)

I then got the idea to snap a photo of my kids playing in the sand and, in the glare of that wonderful sun, I didn’t realize I caught part of my midriff in the photo. As soon as I saw the dimpled, stretch-marked skin of my abdomen, which felt so young and lean in the moment, my heart fell. Darkness descended and the familiar old meanness began. “See? That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you? Do you really think you should’ve had a couple bites of the boys’ muffin this morning? You can forget your dreams of running in a sports bra or wearing a bikini this summer–or ever. For. Get. It. That part of your body is hopeless. It’s never been much to look at but, after two kids, it’s stretched out and there’s no saving it. You’d have to tummy tuck your way to halfway presentable abs. Ha. It’s a one-piece for you, missy. For.ever.”

Oh, how I dislike it when this voice pipes up. She is so abominably mean. I thought I’d cured myself of her appearances, but she’s still in there. Why is this coming up now? Does it have to do with the fact I’ve sworn off retail therapy for three months? Is it that, without having a little bandaid to slap on my physical insecurities, I’m having to look at them? It’s hard and not very fun. And, to get me through, here’s what I know: for me, meditating makes it all better. As hard as it is to get quiet, the act of sitting in stillness will put me back in touch with what’s real. And none too soon. Because my inner mean girl* needs an eviction. Or, even better, a transformation.

*To be fair, I got the phrase, “inner mean girl,” from two amazing women who are transforming and empowering thousands of people with their work. Amy Ahlers and Christine Arylo started the Inner Mean Girl Reform School and it’s worth checking out here.

Note: This post is part of a series about my experiences in uncovering my own innate enough-ness. For three months, I am abstaining from frivolous material purchases, accepting all blessings that come my way and focusing on gratitude for all that I have. The idea came to me in a meditation-induced haze and it has nothing to do with politics or morality. I’m just a girl who’s hoping to: separate the association between looking good and being good; get comfy with receiving; become a glowingly grateful human being; get acquainted with my own motives for material consumption; grow my understanding of when/why I buy things; and establish new habits that are more aligned with my values. We’ll see how this goes…

Enoughness Project series #4: Tie me to the bed. I am jonesing for a new duvet cover. (Also, beats! Not beets.)

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These sneakers may be worn and, no, they’re not the coolest newest thing available, but does that mean I should go buy new ones? Old me says, “girl, you are walking around this city all the time, so you deserve some cool kicks.” Enoughness Project me says, “Deserve? What does that even mean? Like, are you deciding you’re, like, good enough in some way, so you must buy new stuff to reward yourself for the particular way in which you’re good? How on earth do the truth of you being a worthwhile human being and the idea of receiving new shoes for that even go together? I don’t get the connection…”

A couple weeks ago, I started moving furniture around. It’s one of the things I do when I’m restless for new energy (see also: shopping, baking, napping, cocktailing and, when I’m at my tip-top, meditating, sun saluting or plank posing.) I repurpose entire rooms, enlist the brute strength of my annoyed husband and compulsively move things around until the energy feels right. I recognize this may be one of my gut-check behaviors to stuff down something deeper that would be better served by my own stillness, but a girl can only change one major habit at a time, mmkay?

Interestingly, it turns out the act of rearranging a room thrusts me into acquisition mode, if not immediately, then days down the road. (Snap! I really thought I was getting away with something.) And so today, a week after a weekend rearranging spree I was literally holding my hand strong on the steering wheel to keep from turning right into Target, turning left into Marshall’s, right into Anna’s Linens because I have decided, unequivocally, that I need a new duvet cover or quilt for the guest bed. And apparently I am still drawn to the discount stores because, if I find something of great quality at a great price, then it must be ordained in heaven that I acquire it. Same goes for the sale section on Nordstrom-and-Pottery-Barn-esque websites.

Sidebar: As I write, I’m a little bit sickened at my very struggle with this issue. There’s no way this dilemma enters into the minds of those in poverty, and maybe not even of those who live in other countries. This inner link I’m feeling between my own enoughness and my material possessions/how I look on the outside strikes me as a uniquely American, middle-to-upper-class problem. In the spirit of being gentle with myself, I must remind myself it’s helpful to be examining this rather than ignoring it. If you’re right there along with me in this project, please be gentle with yourselves as well. It does no good to get harsh.

Though the jonesing was fierce, I kept it at bay and continued on my route, feeling much relief when I was in the clear. As the skinnies of the world say, it’s advisable to wait 15 minutes before indulging in the treat of your dreams just to make sure you really want it, and all the calories that come with it. I had better luck thinking about the duvet cover for 15 minutes than I often do when it comes to, say, a homemade M&M cookie from my freezer, but the principle worked. Also, I told myself, “If you still want this in July, you can have it.”

A friend asked me yesterday if I had a list of things I was going to rush out and buy as soon as my Enoughness Project is over. My smug answer was no. Sometimes I jot notes in my mind, but I have no real, lasting list. (well, ok, I just remembered I do have some organization-related things I think we need at Ikea, but any time my mind turns to the organizey place, I redirect it because organizey Emily–see a post about her here, if you dare–always leads to stuff-buying Emily and there’s no room for those exacting gals in the Enoughness Project.)

Related to one reader’s astute comment on a previous post, my intention is that this is a journey in change, not an exercise in self-control. For those of us who’ve caved on an M&M cookie in our day, we know self-control alone has its limits. Me? I’m banking on the belief that self-control charged with intention will develop new habits that are more in line with the person I want to be.

What I’m noticing in this moratorium on shopping is that the burning need for X, Y or Z item one day is off my radar the next day. Or, better yet, in some cases, I have a brainstorm about how to repurpose something I already have to sate my present whim. It’s causing some white knuckles, but it seems to be upping my resourcefulness. Which must be worth something. Baby steps.

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Just when I think I’m all resourceful, I see someone in my community garden has figured out how to grow beats. As soon as those tasty jams sprout, I bet I won’t even think about buying a new duvet cover ever again.

Note: This post is part of a series about my experiences in uncovering my own innate enough-ness. For three months, I am abstaining from frivolous material purchases, accepting all blessings that come my way and focusing on gratitude for all that I have. The idea came to me in a meditation-induced haze and it has nothing to do with politics or morality. I’m just a girl who’s hoping to: separate the association between looking good and being good; get comfy with receiving; become a glowingly grateful human being; get acquainted with my own motives for material consumption; grow my understanding of when/why I buy things; and establish new habits that are more aligned with my values. We’ll see how this goes…

Enoughness Project series: Ask and ye shall receive (3rd installment)

Tonight feels celebratory. The air is warm. The windows are open. I baked tonight. We’ve had two days of sun. And this Enoughness experiment is knocking my socks off.

The other night I went to dinner with two friends I don’t see often and, now that one of them is moving away, it felt urgent to schedule time with them even while Brian was out of town. So I hired a sitter and took a cab to Lincoln Park for the chance to spend the evening with them. I managed not to buy a floor-length skirt, or anything at all, for the occasion, and I also managed to throw on an outfit in which I felt good regardless. While getting dressed, I affirmed, “I am enough. I am grateful for everything I have. I am open to receiving the abundance already on its way to me now.”

Somewhere in the universe, a door must’ve opened. Despite my mild protest, my friend ended up picking up my cab ride there, everyone’s dinner and my cab ride home, leaving me only with the cost of the sitter. Normally, I would’ve never let her be such a generous benefactress, but I am officially working really hard at being comfortable with receiving, and so I received. It seemed important to practice this new art. I don’t know how to say it more eloquently, but I was blown away by the unexpected extension of material generosity.

Yet my dinner and transportation weren’t the only gifts of the night. While with my dear friends, I also experienced the gift of new hope. “Let’s all say out loud what it is that we want, right now,” suggested Ashley, who openly claims to feel no special connection with the Universe. (I do not concur.) “You have to say it out loud because if you can’t say it out loud, then you must not really want it, and if you really do want it, then you have to say it out loud. Right now.”

What followed, for me, was raw and amazing. We went around and each of us said aloud what it is that we want, what we really, really want. Maybe it was the wine, the return of warm night breezes or the formation of clouds that looked like a speckled feather directly above Ashley’s deck, but I have to say it felt like we had a hearing with God himself.

Ashley went first, then T, then me, and we bared witness to each other’s purest, deepest, sincerest life desires. Our wishes for ourselves, for our families. At Ashley’s behest, we just put them out there.

I want financial freedom. I want my husband and I both to be overflowing with vitality. I want to be a channel for love in the world. I want to help people. I want some other things too personal to share beyond Ashley’s deck. I want to play outside more. Mountains, canyons, oceans, lakes, whatever, I just want it accessible to us on a daily basis.

As I stared at their moonlit faces gazing at the sky, I feel like “It is written,” came through on the breeze. My always pragmatic pals might lovingly scoff at the thought, but I felt it. Sure enough, days later, I texted Ashley with nothing short of wonderment. My private wish had come true. Days after that, we received a major financial boost. Days after that, a new wave of vitality swept over our family of four, and seemed to stick.

I’m not sure how I ever forgot this, but there’s something to flat-out asking for what you want. Say it out loud and wait for it to come to you. If it’s not in line with spiritual law, it won’t happen, but if it is, get ready. It took Ashley reminding me of the power in this practice to adopt it as my own. Were I not in a conscious space of trying to release attachment to material conquests, appreciate what I currently have and open myself to receiving more blessings, I may have missed it.

Thank God for great friends who get you back on track, and for everything else, too.

Note: This post is part of a series about my experiences in uncovering my own innate enough-ness. For three months, I am abstaining from frivolous material purchases, accepting all blessings that come my way and focusing on gratitude for all that I have. The idea came to me in a meditation-induced haze and it has nothing to do with politics or morality. I’m just a girl who’s hoping to: separate the association between looking good and being good; get comfy with receiving; become a glowingly grateful human being; get acquainted with my own motives for material consumption; grow my understanding of when/why I buy things; and establish new habits that are more aligned with my values. We’ll see how this goes…

Gut reaction to The Enoughness Project, my study in gratitude, receivership and transcendence

I’m going out with some girlfriends tomorrow night. It’s not any place super fancy, but it is in Lincoln Park, which is a place the mommies tend to dress up a little more than they do in my neighborhood. As I sat in the bath last night thinking about what I wanted to wear tomorrow, it occurred to me I might need a floor-length skirt. Yes, that would complete my wardrobe and my girls-night look if I just had a very-now floor-length skirt to wear with the sheer polka-dotted, button-down, tie-front top I plan to wear.

A ha! But, Emily, you made a deal with yourself. No shopping for material things for three months. You are enough. You don’t have to go buy stuff to prove it. Make do with what you have. Get creative. And may I remind you, you are enough.

Without realizing what I was doing, I began pondering the idea of going to Marshall’s tomorrow to look for something appropriate for this one night out with these dear friends who, though decidedly glamorous and aesthetically inspiring, would love me just the same if I met them wearing faded yoga pants and a sweatshirt. After all, that’s what we were all wearing when we met five years ago, just after we’d birthed our newborns and were settling into a state of shock over suspending our careers and plunging into stay-at-home motherhood.

But if only I had the right kind of skirt to wear… Better yet, if only I was a little thinner. Then those really cool jeans hanging in my closet would fit without my having to conceal the side-bulge with a jacket. And, if I were a smaller size, if my stomach washboard, then not only would those jeans fit better, but they would look awesome with that top, no under tank necessary…

Stop! Red light!

I am enough. I am enough. I am ENOUGH, I remind myself. I have everything I need, and most of what I want. Life is good and, know what? Tomorrow night, despite not having the floor-length skirt or the daily-Crossfit-style body I desire, I will look lovely enough. Not because of what I’m wearing or because I’ve lost or gained weight or because my hair and makeup are in place, but because I just am.

Note: This post is part of a series about my experiences in uncovering my own innate enough-ness. For three months, I am abstaining from frivolous material purchases, accepting all blessings that come my way and focusing on gratitude for all that I have. The idea came to me in a meditation-induced haze and it has nothing to do with politics or morality. I’m just a girl who’s hoping to: separate the association between looking good and being good; get comfy with receiving; become a glowingly grateful human being; get acquainted with my own motives for material consumption; grow my understanding of when/why I buy things; and establish new habits that are more aligned with my values. We’ll see how this goes…

Introducing the Enoughness Project: My study in gratitude, receivership and transcendence

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Kip calls these my cheetah jammies. (I always hang my cotton Target nightgowns on a satin hanger. You don’t?)

“Cool jammies, Mudder,” Kip says, a talking baby koala hanging from my right side like it’s eucalyptus. It makes me laugh every time this three-year-old snuggle monster calls me “Mother,” so he does it often.

“Are you a cheetah?”

“Yes, Kippy, I am a cheetah,” I whisper.

“Mommyyyy?”

“Your mommy is a cheetah. And so are you because you can run sooo fast,” I say.

“I suuuure can! I sure can wun wiwy fast,” he sings, then pauses. “I wuv you, my mudderrrr.”

He leans his head into the curve of my neck and pats my back the same way I do when I want to let him know without words that I love him. It’s the first thing in the morning.

It seems blasphemous in hindsight to put him down in that moment so that I might return to fixating on what to wear for the day, but that’s what I do. The recent indulgence in birthday cake and pizza feels full in my midsection. I think I look a little bit pregnant and the weather has turned warm, requiring me to forego the layers I’d usually employ to hide myself.

If only I had a shirt that looked nice and also hid this stomach thing I’ve got working.

If only I had something other than last summer’s cotton dresses to throw on.

If only I had a different body altogether. Yeah, I wish I just had a different body…

Should this If Only voice go totally unchecked, it might say: “OMG, what is wrong with you? Seriously, what is up with your body? You know that if you want to look fit, you’ve got to get control of yourself, lazy. I’m talking about exercise. And no birthday cake. I don’t care if it is your five-year-old’s birthday. Get it together.”

In this moment, precisely 30 seconds after releasing Kip, the embodiment of joy, from my arms, I feel sad. I think about how much better I’d feel about everything if I had a new shirt. A new shirt would solve all my problems. I wonder if I have time to go buy one. Or a new dress. Something to make me look more fantastic than I feel in this moment.

But I’ve made a deal with myself and with the universe, and a new shirt is not an option. This deal–it popped into my head in a way that felt important while meditating one night– I’m calling it my Enoughness Project: A study in gratitude, receivership and transcendence. You could call it a sort of spiritual detox, a process of recognizing my own innate enoughness.

What the Enoughness Project entails:

-No frivolous shopping trips. I will not purchase any nonessential material items for three months. This particularly means clothes, beauty products and home accessories. I’ve never been a credit-card-debt-racking slave to beauty and fashion, and I don’t *think* my friends would describe me as a shopper, but when I want to make myself feel shiny and new, I often seek out Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, TJ Maxx, Target or the makeup counter for things that will spruce up my body, my appearance or my nest at a low cost.

-I must accept blessings in whatever form they come. My gut reaction when I’m facing generosity, gifts, work opportunities, epiphanies, beautiful moments, etc., is to think or say “Thank you so much. But I can’t accept that.” In other words, “I don’t deserve that.” With this project, I must remain open to receiving all the wonderful blessings that come my way and leave it at “Thank you so much. I’d love that.” Because I need to buy the line I give everyone else: You are amazing, you are a child of God and you deserve all the blessings in the universe. (Everyone does.)

-Maintain conscious awareness of all the blessings I already enjoy. This means opening my eyes a little wider so I can take in all that I have—and be grateful for it.

The point?

If you’ll pardon some redundancy, there are several points to this project:

-Separate the association between looking good and being good.

-Get comfortable with receiving blessings

-Be grateful for all that I already have

-Get acquainted with my own motives for material consumption, grow my understanding of when/why I buy things and establish new habits that are more aligned with my values.

What was the impetus for the Enoughness Project?

I went to the dentist. That night, as I was meditating, I received a clear call, which may have been inspired by my conversation with the Bosnian dental hygienist who I’ve seen a hundred times but who has never made mere mention of the horrors she experienced during the ethnic cleansing of her people until that day. I listened to her tales of fear, torture, bleakness and not having enough food to feed her tiny children and, with tears in my eyes, I felt sickened by my own to-do list, which included things like “look for a new going-out dress” and “buy a turquoise accent piece for the living room.” The vision of my elegant dental hygienist huddled on the floor with her four-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter, both hungry, in a foxhole of couches and chairs, hoping to sleep all night protected from gunfire in the streets while her husband worked at the prison camp…

Her story brought an undeniable clarity within me: I have everything I need and almost all of what I want. In listening to her experience in her home country and in receiving her call to enjoy everything we have in this country, going out and buying stuff on a whim, though a regular habit, officially became an expired habit for me.

That said, it seems worthwhile to clarify I’m not foregoing shopping out of disgust for American mass consumption, although the trend does trouble me. The connection I felt with my dental hygienist was merely a catalyst for me to examine my own motives for consumption when, in reality, I have everything I need, no one is hungry and we are safe. This is not a political statement but rather a deeply personal exploration.

Send me some good vibes on this journey?

As most of us know, changing habits can be extremely difficult, and this will be no exception. My Enoughness Project is going to be a hard row, and I’ll be blogging about it as things come up. It’s sure to call up a whole slew of deep-down feelings, ideas, beliefs and experiences just waiting to surface; and, as this project is, after all, intended to induce transcendence, this is just as it should be.

With luck, in three months, at the very least, I’ll have the wherewithal to embrace life’s sweetest moments without preoccupying myself with material predicaments like what I’m going to wear. Instead of putting Kip down to stare at my closet, I’ll swing my little koala around in my arms, snuggle him close to my cheetah jammies, bathe him in laughter—and then get dressed.