We're six days into the year and I’m sending myself to detox. This isn’t rehab, though I probably need that, too. This is detox. A cleansing. A releasing of the bad so that I can fill it back up with good. To be Merriam-Webster about it: a removing of that which is toxic.
Let me explain.
We have a tendency to live in excess. We’ve heard this a million times. Our motto is more, more, more and whatever makes you happy. Contentment is elusive when our desire is hooked to 220V. For the last half of last year, I bought in. Hard. I pushed all my chips in on buying whatever I wanted, whenever I felt like it. That’s the bittersweetness of my stage of life. I’m not married and while sometimes that feels like sadness, other times it feels like freedom. For the most part, I decide how and where my money is spent. I do live within my means. I can’t fly to Europe on a whim (I wish!), but I can buy clothes and books and three shades of lipstick and a new pair of boots on each trip to the store if that's what I feel like doing. My purchases require absolutely no forethought or saving or sacrifice. This isn't bravado, it's just the truth.
But, Christmas came around and it was starting to feel tight – like a turtleneck that by the end of the day feels more like a chokehold. I wanted to be generous at Christmas, but I had been so generous with myself for the last few months that I felt like I didn't have money to spare. It’s not like I had made a bunch of really big purchases, but the small daily buys were adding up to major anxiety when my Capital One statement showed up – like there was some actual fear when it came time to open it and see my balance. People who manage money for a living (or maybe just people who are actual adults) are losing their minds right now. “How do you not know what you’ve spent? How do you not keep track of your checking account?” It’s a problem, okay? I’m aware and that’s the first step, or so they say.
I guess, more than anything, it started to feel like I was more about gathering instead of giving. I have everything I could possibly need. I wrote the other day that 2015 was nothing less than full to overflowing with good gifts so what was I doing collecting more trinkets and stuff?
I have followed Hannah Brencher’s blog for a while now. I read one time that books find their way to you when you need them, and that's the way it was with her blog - she spoke to my heart when I needed it. The other day I saw that she was starting a Contentment Challenge. If you read her post on it, you’ll see she explains it in more detail, but also that she actually borrowed it from another blogger. That’s the beauty of this wildly connected life we live – we can learn and grow with other people through their stories. So I'm thankful for both of them because this Contentment Challenge felt like the exact breath of fresh air my overworked checking account needed.
You can read the guidelines of Hannah's Contentment Challenge in her post, but I’ve designed mine this way: No unnecessary purchases for 90 days. January – March. This means no manicures (sad), no drop-in Pure Barre classes (boo), no home decor, makeup, or new clothes. Essentially, no more stuff. And that is making me feel like Brian Regan when he was told to lay off dairy. If you know anything about me at all, you know I love all things beauty and fashion. I love to try new products, new styles, new anything. I’m also a sucker for a good sale and will generally take advantage even though my dad always says, “It might be on sale, but it’s still just for sale.” So I have a feeling this little challenge is about to sanctify me in ways that make me both nervous and excited but I want to come out on the other side increasingly more about people rather than things.
Ninety days is a long time. We’ll already be a fourth of the way through 2016 by the time this is over, but if it doesn’t feel like sacrifice then what's the point? At church this past Sunday the message was about our values and often what we value is evident in how we spend our money and our resources. What does it say about me if the majority of my money is spent stockpiling nail polish in seven shades of pink? That's an exaggeration, but all of this has been a wake-up call on how I steward what I have been given.
Hannah allowed herself one last trip to Target, so I allowed myself one last purchase before diving into detox. The last thing I bought was the book Savor by Shauna Niequist. I love her writing so much and even the title seems fitting for the heart work that is about to take place. You’re also supposed to find something to fill up the time you might have spent shopping. Turns out, this is the year my sister and I decided to run the Lincoln half marathon and so far my maximum distance is four miles, so I have some work to do. I texted her the other day and said “Well, I guess it’ll be easy not to shop because I’ll spend all my time stupid running.” But if I get to spend that time with her, that’s the whole people over things idea and then that was the whole point of this from the start.
Gather less and give more. Be more about people than things. Detox, y'all. It’s on.