Well, it’s over. Easter weekend has come and gone and we are released to pick up our old habits and creature comforts that we attempted to lay aside for Lent.
I attempted to buy nothing, and failed. But herein lies the lesson: Lent, at its most transformative, can teach us more than how to be strict with ourselves or how much willpower we can muster. The laying aside of a pet habit or usual way of doing things is an excellent tonic for one’s soul; albeit a painfully revealing one.
I learned, through my unsuccessful attempt at stepping off the consumerist merry go round; that I am much more entangled with money and the spending of it than I anticipated. I use spending to distract myself from uncomfortable emotions, escape my circumstances, put a band-aid on my life that peels away as quickly as that brand new dress becomes yesterday’s high. I use spending to assuage my discomfort when life feels out of control.
And I use money to escape my feelings and change my mood. Being without any money to spend is, as I have discovered over this season, painful and hard work. You can’t just replace broken things or change the scenery with a quick shopping trip. You can’t cover insecurity by covering the check anymore. You must find ways to mend things, use what you have and live in the discomfort of your present circumstances. You often feel embarrassed or ashamed or lesser than because social activities involve spending or you don’t look as put together as you would like.
And it’s much easier to throw things in the trash and buy new things in our disposable economy than to figure out the tools, skills and materials needed to fix things. It’s much much easier to escape responsibilities and work, an emotional tangle that needs attention, or a feeling of powerlessness by going out for a coffee and indulging in some retail therapy. Making things, and creating things, as opposed to purchasing them, becomes the essential challenge of the imagination. I realised, rather post apocalyptically that if the world economy and the supply chain ground to a halt, I wouldn’t last very long at all on my own ingenuity. And the most humbling thing was seeing how much of my time and planning and thoughts and emotional energy revolved around buying things. Going for a walk just because as opposed to going for a walk on the way to the store or the cafe was unexpectedly difficult. The times that it was hardest to ignore my favorite pastime of online shopping, research and reciting my credit card details were during times of stress and tough life stuff. They say the best things in life are free, but pursuing those things is something I am shockingly unskilled at.
So what started as an experiment in budgeting has become a lesson I will continue to meditate on. Buy Nothing Lent is over, but Buy Less is still fully in effect. I am both inspired and utterly humbled by my deeply embedded consumerist mentality and from the ways I spend my time to what I spend my money on, I am not suddenly reformed post-Lent. But I am aware – and this is always the beautiful, stringent place where true redemption begins: the place of confession, owning our weaknesses and seeing ourselves in the clear light of day.
I am a consummate consumer yearning to become a maker and mender instead of a buyer and a spender.
Where has Lent left you and what do you see of yourself that was hidden behind habit?