Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Do you hoard? Do you find it hard to share? Do you feel the need to surround yourself with lots of stuff?

This isn’t uncommon. Many of us got too little as kids—too little food or too little love or too few new clothes or too little safety--or maybe all of the above. We got so used to never having enough, often when others around us had what they wanted or needed, that as adults we may find we resent having to share or simply can’t do it. We may feel we don’t deserve to spend money on ourselves so we buy lots of cheap stuff and never feel satisfied when one purchase of something really nice would have satisfied us. Or we may binge buy stuff we don’t need and can’t afford because we can’t seem to fill that void inside.

I was starved as a kid. Literally. I had to watch everyone else in my family get their food apportioned out before I got mine and I never had enough. As an adult, I find it very difficult to cook for others. I may find myself resenting others in a restaurant simply enjoying their food when my conditioning is to order the least expensive entrée because that’s what I was constantly told growing up.

The good news is that like everything else, this kind of conditioning can be broken. We can learn to give ourselves enough as adults that we don’t need to hoard and we can learn to share.

I don’t advocate spending money you don’t have. What I do advocate is spending money wisely. With each potential purchase, we can ask ourselves WHY this is important. Will it make us smile every time we see or wear or eat it? Is it healthy or good for us? Is it what we REALLY want or only a pale imitation that will remind us of what we don’t have? Will it do for us what we hope it will do or are we fooling ourselves?

A suggestion I saw years ago that I thought was brilliant and which has stayed with me (though I can’t remember who said it) was to choose one thing we love and make sure we always have enough that we know we won’t ever run out—even if we share.

For me, this means keeping a refrigerator stocked with healthy food. Not so much that any of it spoils before it can be eaten, but enough that I feel a sense of abundance every time I open the refrigerator door. It means that if I buy chocolate, I buy chocolate I really like and in a large enough quantity that if someone were to walk in the door, I would be comfortable sharing, knowing there would still be enough left for me.

Now you might think this would lead to binging but it doesn’t. I know I have enough—today, tomorrow, next week and next month. I don’t have to rush to eat it before someone else does.

I believe in my ability to create for myself the life I want to have. I believe in my ability to always be able to find reasons to smile. The odd thing is that now I don’t need so many THINGS. I don’t need so much food, either, or chocolate in the house.

If you hoard, odds are that at some point in your life there wasn’t enough of SOMETHING. There may not be enough of something now. Or perhaps you surround yourself with things because it feels as if you can hide behind clutter. That was true for me when I was married. If I hid the things that mattered most to me among lots of other things, my husband couldn’t make fun of them or use the knowledge of what I cared about against me. If I had to focus on clutter, I didn’t have time to think about how unhappy I was.

It’s a funny thing, but I don’t have clutter any more. And getting rid of clutter can have a profound impact. One of the most successful weight loss programs involves the idea of a) learning to love yourself and b) getting rid of clutter. Somehow doing those two things results in people losing weight even when they don’t go on a diet because as they take charge of their surroundings and focus on the good in themselves, they no longer need to use food as a defense or source of comfort.

We all have within ourselves the power to smile and be happy even if we possess nothing!

For someone who has always been afraid of ending up on the streets penniless, that is a profoundly powerful statement and one that I have only recently come to understand. If I have the power to be happy no matter what, then NO ONE and NOTHING has the power to make me unhappy. NO ONE and NOTHING has the power to make me doubt myself or get mired in fear or guilt or a mistaken sense of shame.

I can choose to be happy NO MATTER WHAT.

I share this understanding with you because I know what it is to believe I can never be happy. I know what it is to believe that I will always be afraid. And I don’t want anyone else to have to feel that way!

You may be skeptical but what would happen if you acted as if it were true? What would happen if you let yourself smile several times a day—NO MATTER WHAT? What would happen if you let yourself believe that within you was the power to be happy? What would happen if you began to take steps to be happy KNOWING that no one else had the right to stop you?

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

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