Last week, my husband and I took an overnight trip to Catalina Island to celebrate our twelfth anniversary. Catalina holds a special place in our hearts, as it’s where we were married on July 4, 2001. While we don’t spend every anniversary there, we visit at least once per year and always enjoy this idyllic place that’s miles away yet seems worlds apart.
As I know many of you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Catalina, let me paint a picture for you. It’s a small island approximately twenty miles off the coast of Los Angeles. There’s only one main town, Avalon, and the year-round population is less than four thousand. The main industry on Catalina Island is tourism. And where there’s tourism, you guessed it, there’s shopping!
How I Spent My Past Catalina Visits
During our many trips to Catalina, I’ve spent hours poking around the shops and I’ve done more than my fair share in keeping the island’s economy afloat. I’ve purchased many a top, skirt, hat, scarf, and jewelry bauble in the various island boutiques. As with most of my purchases, these trinkets were basically forgotten soon after I returned home.
If you’re a fellow shopaholic, you know that the thrill is more in the buying than in the having. It’s all too common to feel you can’t possibly live without an item while you’re in the store, only to have it remain in its bag unloved hours – or even moments – later.
Quite a Different Experience This Time Around…
I was fully expecting to feel the allure of the shops during my visit to Catalina last week. I thought I’d have to muster the willpower to resist buying various overpriced items of questionable quality. But things were different this time… Sure, I still perused my favorite stores, but I didn’t feel the “high” I’d felt during our last visit to the island in January. This time around, not much sparked my interest and I felt very little temptation to buy. When I did feel the inner nudge to whip out “Lady Visa,” I paused to consider my closet, as well as the list I’ve compiled for what would add the most value to my wardrobe.
I ultimately decided that the items on my list were more important to me than any tchotchkes I saw in the shops of Avalon. For the first time in as long as I can remember (perhaps ever…), I left the island without buying anything at all!
A Small Victory and a Real Triumph
While my victory of not bowing to the shopping gods is reason for celebration, I feel it’s really the smallest of my victories last week. If I would have spent a few dollars or even a hundred, it wouldn’t have been all that bad. My real triumph was that I enjoyed the experience of being on the island and with my husband far more than I ever had in the past.
Instead of dragging my incredibly patient and easy-going husband through a plethora of shops, I actually sat and talked with him. We spent more time outdoors taking in our beautiful surroundings. I felt the summer sun and cool island breeze on my skin instead of stale air and fluorescent lighting inside shops that are scarcely different from the ones at home (after all, I live in another popular tourist destination).
A Truly Happy Anniversary
While my husband and I always take long walks during our vacations (and at home), we did much more walking this time around. We talked and laughed more and enjoyed each other’s company. I was far more present with my wonderful husband (on our anniversary, no less!) than I’ve been in years or maybe even ever before. It’s worth mentioning that he definitely noticed the change. He enjoyed our time together and was pleased that I’d shifted away from the one-track focus that has dominated our previous trips to Catalina and elsewhere.
The Selfishness of Shopaholics
I realize now how selfish I’ve been while under the vise grip of my shopping addiction. I didn’t consider whether or not my husband, mom, or friend wanted to spend hours in the shops. I wanted to do it, so that’s what we did. If they ever complained of “shopping overload,” we’d split up for a few hours so they could do something they enjoyed while I shopped. But wasn’t the point of the experience for us to spend quality time together?
Wasted Moments that Cannot be Recaptured
When I look back on my life and my many years of compulsive shopping, I find myself asking some probing and powerful questions which really can’t be answered:
- How many minutes, hours, and days have I wasted shopping?
- How many beautiful locations have I basically ignored in favor of spending all of my time in stores rather than taking in the beauty of nature?
- How much quality time with my loved ones have I thrown away, only so I could buy yet another piece of clothing I didn’t really care about and perhaps never even wore?
As I wrote the above, I felt tears well up in my eyes. I shudder to think of how much time (not to mention money) I’ve wasted over the years shopping instead of truly experiencing and enjoying my life. This may sound trite and cliché, but none of us know how much time we have left on this earth, let alone how many healthy and vibrant days we’ll get to experience. My health challenges of late have really driven this point home. While I’ll probably be fine, I haven’t felt well recently, and that’s brought me more in touch with what truly matters. I realize that people and experiences are more important than things ever will be or can be.
Just One Piece of Life’s “Pie”…
While I don’t want to do a complete “180” and start to demonize shopping, I do want to place it in proper perspective. I really enjoy the different view I experienced in a place I’d visited at least twenty five times before. I still did some shopping, but it didn’t dominate the entire trip like it did in the past. It was a piece of the pie instead of the whole pie.
I feel as if I’m emerging from a fog or removing a pair of long-worn dark glasses. My life seems brighter and more vivid now that much of the “shopping spell” has been broken. I look forward to more trips with my husband when we’ll spend the bulk of our time enjoying each other and our surroundings instead of being ensconced in shops day in, day out.
I also look forward to cultivating new interests and meeting new people (because after all, the salespeople really aren’t my friends). I may have wasted a lot of time, but I’m still here and I get another chance – to live, to love, to enjoy – not just shopping but everything!