I don’t usually make resolutions, but it’s been an unusual few years for me and my marriage. Three wack years that rendered me resolved to quit using alcohol as a crutch to hobble through life on. And to stop trying to buy happiness, worthiness, and other good feels. Because traditionally, whenever I try to curb my drinking, I start to spend money. And eat pie.
Owing to finding myself in the unexpected and unwelcome position of recovering from my husband’s choice to have an affair during a time our relationship barely even qualified as friendship, I hit a wonky patch in life. In the early stages of healing from his betrayal, I made big strides. Only to be tripped up later and further scrape my already bruised ego and tattered heart on the poorly paved backroad to the finish line of recovery.
From the onset after my husband’s confession, I knew I wanted to attempt to stay with him.
Not in our marriage, though. For it was obliterated beyond repair. I didn’t want to be in that marriage of old anymore. Or ever again. Rather, I wanted to stay with my husband and begin a new marriage with him.
I just didn’t know-how. As I sought out the how and found it, I began to heal. My healing helped my husband to heal, too. We healed together as we learned to leave our past behind in favor of the gift of our present and hope for our future.
Then I stalled out. After we concluded couples counseling, after we found a better way to love each other, after I became a writer and found an outlet for my pain and my hard story that worked to help the next one in line, as well—I got stuck. They say healing isn’t linear and they are right.
Healing is a wild goose chase in a tricky maze in a foreign city in a strange country.
Having never been able to stand the taste of alcohol until well into my 30s, I came to crave it—especially its numbing effects—over the last few years. Somewhere between beginning anew with my husband and suffering the damaging effects of unpredictable triggers and what was very likely a form of PTSD, my relationship with alcohol became untenable. As did my relationship with the almighty dollar and all the lovely things it can buy.
My personality walks the stage with a sash labeled Miss All or Nothing.
Since alcohol has become one of those things I’m all in for, it needs to go. Since spending money on all matter of whatnot for myself competes with drinking for my number one coping mechanism, I need to send this poor choice of habit packing, too. I need to stop trying to buy happiness. No more going for the quick fix high over the long haul heal.
Via no more negotiating deals with myself. No more budgeting or attempting moderation. I won’t have any more arguments with me about why I deserve to buy things I don’t need and can’t afford. No more manipulating myself with transfixing siren songs about how an item is so cheap I can’t afford not to buy it.
Cold turkey nothingness is what works for me when I’m finally ready to work towards a better way of living. My goal is to nix all personal spending this year because I’ve been all in for fruitless retail therapy for too long now and it’s time for me to be all out. I’m ready to stop trying to buy happiness.
What do I mean by no personal spending?
I mean no spending money on any “thing” that I want but don’t truly need. In a year’s time, there’s not much I’ll truly need either. So unless it’s a grave necessity, the likes of which I can’t even conjure right now, I won’t be purchasing it.
What doesn’t my year of no personal spending encompass? I’ll still go to lunch with a friend, catch a movie, or go for a pedicure. I might buy a book if I can’t borrow it from the library. I won’t suspend my Apple Music subscription. I’ll still buy a ticket to a conference or enroll in a class. And I’ll still purchase toiletries and continue to groom myself.
But because I want to stop trying to buy happiness, I won’t be adding to my already bulging closet of clothes, my rows, and rows of shoes, stacks of trucker hats, or piles of jewelry I already own. I’ll resist buying any decor for our home that’s already nicely decorated. I won’t purchase any new gadgets for my already plentifully gadgetized kitchen.
A year of no personal spending, in order to stop trying to buy happiness, isn’t about deprivation or not meeting my physical needs.
It’s about learning to meet my spiritual needs; the needs of the silkiest parts of my soul that Mary Oliver named for me. My undying love for shoes will no doubt be mentioned in my epitaph, but the truth is, they don’t love me back. Shoes don’t fill the deep-seated void, the God-shaped hole, or the blast site my husband’s infidelity created inside my heart.
What will fill me up and fortify me? And how will I not drink or spend frivolously for an entire year?
I don’t know-how, yet. But I know I’ll learn how and that I’m not going for perfection. Because—this just in—PERFECT IS GROSS. I’m going for health. For wellness, mental stability, and new methods of self-soothing that actually serve me rather than set me back physically, financially or emotionally.
“You can never get enough of what you don’t need.”
~ Brené Brown
Why do I have faith I’ll be able to accomplish my goals, or at least come close, even while I don’t know how? Because I’ve been here before; with my husband, inside our wrecked marriage. At the intersection of how the heck will I do this and what’s it gonna take? At the corner of I know what I want and what’s best for me. So I’ll do the same thing I did then—I’ll just begin.
I’m convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt we don’t need to know how to accomplish a goal when we first begin to try.
For let’s say you decide you want to climb a mountain but you never have. So you read books written by experts, you buy all the gear, train in a climbing gym, join a Facebook group for all things climbing and you follow some wildly popular climbers’ Instagram accounts. Next, you binge-watch YouTube videos and you chat with friends about their climbing experiences.
Then you watch climbing documentaries and you start journaling to capture your new knowledge. You make plans for your first climb, take the time off work, and buy a plane ticket. You arrive at the base of the mountain and gaze up wistfully at its summit. But then you never set one foot in front of the other. You never actually begin.
What good does it do you to have all the know-how to do the thing if you never start to do the thing?
It’s more important, more effective and worthwhile to just begin. To embark. To launch yourself into the doing of the thing and seek the how-to as your journey unfolds.
At this moment, I don’t know the entire how I won’t spend on me all year. But I do know some of it. I know I can literally shop out of my own closet for months. I have clothes with the tags still on and pieces I haven’t worn in so long they’ll feel new. God willing, I’ll have a birthday this year and a couple more gift-giving occasions on which I can ask for anything I find myself wanting.
When I’m feeling low or unsettled, because I want to stop trying to buy happiness, I’ll sit down and write instead. I’ll head out for some exercise or a make a date for a catch-up session with a friend. To lift my spirits I’ll get lost in a good novel or pester my college kid to Facetime with me. I’ll look into my husband’s eyes and soak up the unmistakable love I see there.
I know what I really want in this life, what I need to feel whole, healthy and full of joy—and I know enough of the route that’ll get me there to just begin. I have enough tools to get started on my goal to stop trying to buy happiness. And I’m guessing you have enough of what you need to get started on your personal goals, too.
So let’s get going, loves.
We’ll gather the rest of what we need along the way. And we’ll get where we’re going faster by going together.
All the love,
(Written by: Jodie Utter – originally published on Her View From Home)