“Full Life Project” Update – August 2014

I’m long overdue to share an update on what I’ve termed my “2014 Full Life Project,” as the last time I wrote about this at any length was back in April.  Today’s update is going to be a bit different from the last one I gave.  Instead of going through each of the goals I made and reporting on the current status, I’ll be doing more of a “stream of consciousness” update.  I’ll write about how my life is going today – what is working and what is not working, as well as highlight the areas in which I’ve made progress since the beginning of the year.

Road to a better life

Increased Focus on the “Full Life Project”

A wonderful reader recently made a suggestion to me privately that I’ve decided to implement.  She recommended that instead of writing periodic, lengthy updates about my “Full Life Project,” I might instead share tidbits about my life and how it’s going within standard blog posts.  I think this is an excellent idea, especially in light of what I wrote in the conclusion of my July accountability update:

In some respects, the way we do one part of our lives is the way we do all portions of our lives, so I’m guessing many of you have struggles in other areas as well.  I find that when I feel better about myself and my life as a whole, I am less compelled to overshop, but I feel a lot more exploration of that subject is needed as I continue my recovering shopaholic journey.”

I do feel that more exploration is needed in other areas of my life besides my wardrobe, personal style, and shopping behavior.  While those topics are definitely important, I realize I sometimes stick to those areas because it’s easier and less threatening for me.  Although I often feel stuck and lost about what to do with my wardrobe, I feel a lot more confused about other areas of my life.

As I’ve stated before, I think a big part of my overshopping was an effort to distract myself from more troubling aspects of life and to deal with difficult emotional states.  At long last, I’m ready to face that which was so terribly scary for me to look at before, and why not do that here on the blog so that others can learn from this part of my journey as well?  

About that Simplicity and Joy…

So that’s a bit of a foreshadowing of things to come on “Recovering Shopaholic.”  You’ll see more focus on other parts of life and recovery beyond the closet and shopping, even if it’s just a short section at the end of other posts on my standard topics.  But today’s post is a full-fledged life update from yours truly.  Let’s first dive in to my theme for 2014, “simplicity and joy.”

For a while, I wasn’t placing a whole lot of attention on simplifying my life and making it more joyous.  To be honest, I got caught up in my day-to-day tasks and my lengthy to-do list and just plain forgot that my main objective for the year was to cultivate more joy in the simple aspects of life.  Perhaps I had to reach a sort of “rock bottom” in certain areas in order to regain my focus on what I believed mattered most as 2014 started out.

Breaking Free from Information Overload

I reached that sort of down place with information overload and fear of missing out (FOMO) back in July.  Although both of those issues had long been major obstacles in the way of my happiness, I didn’t truly “get” that in my bones until last month.  I had a huge pile of magazines taking over my bedroom, hundreds of articles in multiple “to read” folders (both physical and virtual), and a definite lack of inner peace as a result.  I got to the point where I was “mad as hell and couldn’t take it anymore!”  I was finally ready to do something about it – and I did!

Since the time when I wrote my post on information overload, I have cancelled all of my magazine subscriptions and eliminated almost all of my information backlogs (mostly through deleting articles or throwing them away).  I still have a small folder of article clippings which I’m now using as bedtime reading material, and a handful of online articles I plan to finish reading this week, but that’s it.  As a result of this pare-down, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  I feel a burst of joy and peace when I consider that I have released myself from such a tremendous burden.

I still find myself spending too much time online and not enough time reading books, so this is something I still need to work on.  FOMO still has me reading style blogs and visiting fashion forums, but I plan to cut back on both of these activities, especially since they lead me to want to shop more.  Fortunately, however, I’ve been spending far less time browsing online shopping sites in recent weeks.  The feverish attempt to fill in all of the gaps in my wardrobe has abated following my July compulsive shopping relapse.

Embracing Joy in the “Little Things”

I truly believe that joy is possible for all of us and that it is more present in the “little things” in life than in those earthshattering events that occur only once in a great while.  While I’m good at delighting in some of life’s small joys, such as my evening walks with my husband, my daily smoothies (more on that below), and petting my two adorable cats, I would like to cultivate a deeper appreciation of the beauty and magic that is always there for the taking. You see, sometimes when I’m on one of those long walks, I am so wrapped up in thinking about my problems that the beauty of the water and the night sky escapes my notice.

I think I need more quiet and contemplation in my life.  I have long known of the benefits of slowing down and meditation, but I have stubbornly resisted including these activities in my life.  However, as I release myself from the bondage of information overload and FOMO, I feel a small space opening up in my mind and in my life for silence.  Even if I spend a few moments a day just “being,” I think that could make a difference in my experience of joy.  I have a mind that virtually never stops, so much so that I have difficulty sleeping and never really get enough rest.  Slowing down and embracing calm would probably do a lot for both my emotional and physical health.

On the Topic of Health

Speaking of health, my primary goal for the year is to improve the state of my physical well-being.  I have a laundry list of health complaints that adversely impact the quality of my life, including migraines – and migraine vertigo, joint issues, and multiple digestive maladies.  I may not be able to eliminate all of these issues, but I want to do whatever is in my power to improve the state of my body, as I know good health is critical to having a happy and joyous life.

To that end, I have continued to explore treatment options and lifestyle changes that could help me to live a higher quality life.  I prefer to pursue holistic alternatives, as many of the pharmaceutical options I’ve tried in the past have either not worked or have been accompanied by severe side effects.  As such, I have made numerous changes to my diet over the past year, with varying success.  I am still a work in progress in this respect, but I have experienced some relief as a result of my dietary exploration.

I have never really liked cooking, mostly because I struggled with eating disorders for many years.  I didn’t want to focus too much of my time and attention on food after years of it being a major preoccupation.  Because of this, I used to eat far too many processed and “convenience” foods, many of which could lead to adverse health consequences I was unaware of until recently.  I am pleased to report that I now eat almost no processed foods and have discovered a love of cooking that I never thought would be possible for me.

One thing that has made a big difference for me in recent months was the purchase of a refurbished Vitamix blender which we were able to buy at a great discount over the versions sold in stores.  It still has a 5-year warranty and has been a real workhorse in the kitchen.  I’ve started making daily green smoothies for my husband and me, using excellent recipes found on this site and this site.   We also eat a big salad every day for lunch and have been integrating a lot more fruits and vegetables into our diet. My husband is lucky to be “as healthy as a horse,” but even he feels better as a result of our dietary changes.

I recently went gluten-free and it seems to be helping my migraines, but it’s still a bit too early to tell (I’m doing a 4-6 week trial).  Unfortunately, however, I’ve had a flare-up in some of my digestive complaints, so I’m struggling to manage that at present.  Sadly, it seems like when I do something that helps one of my physical complaints, it often leads to a flare-up in one of the others.  But I’m trying to stay positive and keep trying new things until I find something that will alleviate my pain and discomfort.

Some Other Positives in Brief

So I’m happy to be making some progress with my primary goal for the year of improving my health.  There have been some other positives, too.

My Books

I published my first e-book, which is steadily selling and has received some good reviews thus far (thanks to all those who have purchased and reviewed “UnShopping”!).  My second e-book is under way and I plan to finish it this month.  It may not be available until sometime in September, however, as it will still need to be formatted for e-readers.

A few people have asked if my books will ever be available in paperback format.  At this point, I’m unsure if that would be cost-effective for me, but I will revisit that issue later in the year based upon how well the e-books sell in the interim.   The whole publishing process is very new to me and I still have a lot to learn!  I’m very pleased to now be a published author, but I want to be careful not to pour more money into the process than I am earning. That has been a bad habit of mine in the past and I want to avoid such mistakes today.

Real Simple Article

My story was also featured in a major national magazine.  While I didn’t seek this out, I’m very happy to have been able to reach a wider audience through the Real Simple article.  I have received mostly very positive feedback on the piece and have attracted a number of new readers to this blog.  It remains to be seen whether or not the article will lead to other opportunities for me, but I’m doing my best to just be grateful for what it is instead of holding additional expectations about the future.

New Hobbies, Growth, and Learning

I wanted to cultivate two new hobbies this year.  So far, I have one new hobby that I enjoy, cooking.  I’ve been trying out a number of new recipes and embracing an activity that I used to view as a chore.  Thus far, it’s only been something I’ve shared with my husband, but I’d like to venture out and take a few cooking classes at some point as well.

I’m definitely continuing to learn and grow in many respects of life.    Much of my reading has been confined to the topics of health, style, and personal development, but I enjoy learning about other subjects as well.   I haven’t taken any classes this year as of yet, but as I continue to simplify my life, I believe I’ll feel less tired and overwhelmed and more open to new pursuits.  I didn’t realize how much all of the information overload was draining me, but I’m glad I finally saw the light and turned things around.

Now for the Downside

Instead of itemizing the goals have yet to accomplish, I’ll write instead about what I feel is still missing in my life.  Other than the vibrant good health that I have yet to attain, I’m also really feeling my lack of close personal relationships.  It’s not that I don’t have any friendships or family connections (I’m very blessed to have my wonderful husband); it’s that many of them feel superficial or one-sided.  Oftentimes, it feels as if my interactions with others are all or mostly about them – and my needs aren’t really being met.

I realize I need to take responsibility for this.  I know we teach people how to treat us and I must have taught others not to really be interested in me and my life.  For so long, I felt that what I was up to didn’t really matter because I didn’t have children or a “real job.”  I got really good at asking other people a lot of questions and keeping the focus on them, and that is how all future interactions progressed.  I felt ashamed about my lack of income and the fact that I changed jobs/careers so often, so I did everything I could to take the focus off of myself.  I’m now feeling the effects of not being okay with who I was and where I was in life.

I don’t want to give up hope about turning my existing relationships around, but I’d also like to meet new people.  I know I will need to put myself out there in order to do that, but I haven’t had the physical or emotional energy to do so.  I’ve very much enjoyed the interactions I’ve had through this blog and those have fulfilled much of my need for connection in recent months.  But while online connections are fulfilling in many ways, they can’t take the place of face-to-face contact.  I would love to be able to grab a meal or a cup of coffee with some of you, but the likelihood of this taking place is fairly remote.  So I need to get out into the world more so I can potentially meet people with whom I can spend a few hours every now and then.

I could write an entire post on the topic of adult friendships and how hard they can be to cultivate, and I likely will explore that topic in greater depth at some point. But for now, I’ll just say that I really miss having more friends, especially those who will be there for me as much as I am there for them.

I think I often “settled” for the level of connection I found while shopping because that was all I really had.  I headed out to the mall to feel closer to other people, but the interactions never truly fulfilled my needs, as they were mostly one-sided and lacked depth.  Such exchanges involved very little risk, but also led to very few rewards.

I have come to grips with the fact that I have to risk being hurt or rejected in order to have the opportunity to experience deep friendships.  I’m afraid, but my loneliness is pushing me to put my fear aside, push through my introversion, and take some chances that could lead to my making meaningful connections with other people.

What’s Next?

I know I used shopping to take the focus off of other areas of my life, but shopping doesn’t numb my pain the way it used to.  I’ve become too conscious of what I’m doing that I no longer gain that anesthetizing effect.  I tried to use shopping as an escape during July and part of August, but I still felt hurt, scared, and lonely.  I have to find other, more productive and effective ways of dealing with my difficult emotions.

I believe the only way I will ever have a full life is to stop hiding, quit being afraid, and take some risks.  While I acknowledge that every blog post I publish involves my taking a risk, I need to extend this courage into other areas of life.  I need to find new ways of cultivating joy, dealing with pain, and connecting with other people.  I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do.  I’ve received many suggestions before from readers and through my own searching, but I have to find the path that’s right for me. What’s worked for you might not work for me, and vice versa. We all have to forge our own paths, and we all need to course-correct along the way.

My “Full Life Project” is ongoing and will likely continue for the remainder of my life.  I never want to stop learning and growing and becoming even more of the person I can be.  When we stop growing, we start dying, and although I know I will die one day, I want to squeeze as much life out of my time on earth as I can.  I no longer want to waste the precious time I’ve been given on shopping, obsessing about clothing and my appearance, and feeling like I’m not good enough to claim my happiness and joy in this world.  I deserve to be here, I deserve to be happy, and I’m ready to stop hiding and start living more deliberately and more fully – today and from here on forth.

Your Thoughts?

I know many of you are also on a path to create a fuller and more rewarding life.  What successes have you achieved this year in living a happier, more passionate, and more peaceful life?  Where are you still feeling challenged?  I’d love for you to share your thoughts, experiences, questions, and quandaries.   Perhaps we can help each other with the journey to that fuller life for which we’re looking to exchange our full closets.  If nothing else, we can help each other to feel less alone.  This blog has definitely done that for me – and I’m incredibly grateful to all of you for this!

75 thoughts on ““Full Life Project” Update – August 2014

    • Thanks so much, Fiona! I visited New Zealand on my honeymoon and it was one of my favorite places. I’d love to make it back there one day…

  1. Debbie, I felt so happy for you reading this post! You have made such wonderful improvements to your life. I feel we are on much the same journey. I have many of the same health complaints that you do, and recently splurged on a Vitamix! I freeze my smoothie mixes in individual containers 2 weeks in advance because I am so rushed in the morning and often feel too nauseous to eat breakfast. I’m going on vacation to California in a few weeks- San Francisco, unfortunately- I almost chose San Diego! I can so relate to the weight being lifted off your shoulders as I’ve been paring down my possessions and burdens (and also unfortunately my friendships) over the last 2 years. New beginnings can be scary but it’s so awesome that you’re diving in. I still have so many things going on- full time work, part time graduate school, and a part time craft business- that I’m not exactly sure what I would fill my time with if I weren’t working. Maybe I’m too scared to find out? Or do I just really enjoy my work? I hope I will figure it out along with you.

    • You will love San Francisco, Sarah! I’m originally from that area and always love going back there. Great idea to freeze your smoothie mixes. I am not as rushed in the mornings as you are, but sometimes I have smoothies as a quick meal when I am in a hurry, so I will keep your tip in mind. I think it’s great that you’re asking yourself the types of questions you include in your comment. If you work a lot because you really enjoy your work, that’s wonderful. But sometimes people fill their time with work in order to avoid having to deal with other things. Only you can know what the answer is for yourself. I hope you will figure it all out soon, too!

      • Oh yes I do love it. I should have mentioned that I lived there for a year after college and have been wanting to go back ever since. 😉 It’s also one of the great areas for biotech, which is my field– I’m planning to move back when my graduate degree is complete.

        I think I just enjoy the feeling that I’m accomplishing something. I don’t particularly love my job but I do like having a full day. Probably part of it is motivated by distraction but I’m in a very weird place in my life, having gone through a divorce and temporarily moved back in with my family (at age 30….eek), and all sorts of health problems, so I think maybe for now distraction is a good thing. I’m sure my life will look very different when I move back out west.

        I’ve also been gluten-free for 5 years and I can say it definitely gets easier with time. If you enjoy baking, check out Elana’s Pantry blog and books. Almond flour is amazing to cook with! I’ve been reading a lot about its connection with thyroid issues lately, so I’m sure it’s a good step to try. I found a lot of my joint issues relieved without gluten in my diet, so I hope it has some advantage for you. You may find yourself developing other sensitivities like dairy and soy though (or finally discovering them– the gut is such a mystery, even when you have a graduate degree in biology, lol) Also, I know the standard is a 4-6 week trial, but I didn’t start feeling totally better until 6 months into a gluten free diet, so stick with it if you think it might help!

      • Thanks for the recommendations on the gluten-free diet, Sarah. I will check out the site you mentioned. I bought some almond flour the other day but haven’t cooked with it yet. I have heard about the connection between gluten and thyroid issues, too. I have tried gluten-free before (twice) for migraines, but it didn’t help – after 1-3 month trials. I tried it again this time for my joint pain, but I haven’t noticed any changes yet. My headaches were better but have been worse again this week (got a bad one not long after I wrote the post), so I’m not sure if not having gluten is helping there. I don’t know how long I will stick with the trial because as I said, it’s flared up my IBS and that hasn’t improved. So frustrating to try to work with health issues!

        I know the Bay Area is great for biotech. So is San Diego, actually. It’s one of our biggest industries here. I wouldn’t mind moving back to the Bay Area again one day. I like it here, too, but my heart will always be there since it’s where I grew up. Enjoy your trip!

  2. I recognize myself in so much of what you’re writing, but the difference is that you were brave enough to say it in public. I’m sending you good wishes! Thank you for sharing your story with all of us who need to hear it.

    • I really appreciate this comment, Mia. I’m glad that my story is resonating with you and others. Thanks for the good wishes – sending them right back to you!

  3. Thanks for sharing. I can very much relate. Funny how one day you just ‘wake up’ and realize the band aids just aren’t doing the trick anymore. But I’m also feeling less restless with not living the exact life I want right now. I’ll be very happy to get back home to my friends and social life later this year, but I’m also content being a homebody with the BF and doing the simple things – tv on the couch at night, occasional evening walks like you, Sunday dates with matinee movies and going out to eat.
    For my personal growth and distraction, training for and doing a triathlon this summer was great to get me going every day and out of my comfort zone. My next hope is to having the cooking bug bite me. I’ve always wanted to, but just don’t enjoy it. I love food, so it’s ironic for sure.
    I think stepping back from the shopping too much, and even planning when we are not actually shopping, just obsessing about the wardrobe, gives us the space to begin to look at other aspects of our lives. We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge, and if we are ‘shopping away’ the issues, it’s hard to get to fixing them.

    • I think it’s wonderful that you took on the triathlon, Mo, and that you’re enjoying simple things more these days (we also do Sunday matinees and going out to eat!). I was very surprised to be bitten by the cooking bug! I still only cook very simple things and will likely keep it that way, but I’m happy to be able to make things that taste great and are healthy without spending hours in the kitchen. I will never be a gourmet cook like my stepmother is (she’s like Martha Stewart!), but I am finding my own way with food and cooking and I like it. Your last sentence is spot on. I think I was shopping away my issues for so long that I buried them under layers and layers of stuff, reasons, and excuses. I’m not thrilled to face them now, but I know it’s necessary for my recovery and future happiness.

  4. What a wonderful post. I love the idea of a Full Life Project! It sounds to me like you are making many moves in the right direction!

  5. Thanks for sharing, Debbie. I can relate to a lot of what you say, especially about friendships and loneliness. These have been a huge factor in my over shopping, partly because the shooping high filled the void and partly because I believed that I needed to dress perfectly to be likable (of course I was never satisfied with how looked, which fueled more shopping…). My shopping is always much better under control when things are going well in the friendship department.
    It sounds like you’re moving in the right direction, and I hope things continue to improve for you. While I’m sorry you’re having health issues (I also have to avoid most processed foods), I’m glad you’re enjoying cooking. It’s funny how new interests tend to present themselves out of the blue, or, at least, that’s what usually happens to me. I think my chances of ever visiting San Diego are slim, but I know I’d love to meet you if I ever have the chance! 🙂

    • What you wrote about wanting to dress perfectly to be likable – and then never being satisfied with how you look – really resonates with me, Kayla. I feel like I was always fighting an uphill battle, a war I was never able to win. The target seemed to always be moving. Things haven’t been going well for me in the friendship department for a long time, which I think really made my shopping spiral out of control for the couple of years before I started this blog. I hope to turn things around in terms of my relationships soon, as I agree that it’s easier to shop less when I feel more connected to others. I think you are in Japan judging from a recent comment. I don’t know if I’ll get there, either, but if I do, I would love to meet you! We never know where our paths might lead us, but I hope to meet at least some of the readers of this blog at some point.

      • I know what you mean about dressing “perfectly” being a losing battle. Giving up the fight (well, to an extent anyway) was a huge weight off my shoulders, and helped me to be satisfied with what I have rather than rushing out to buy the right top/skirt/bag/necklace to complete an outfit. I wish adult friendship wasn’t so hard! The older I get the more I overanalyze, and that in turn makes things harder. I had an incident with a “friend” several years ago which has made me very wary since, and also fueled my overshopping for a while. I hope for improvement in the friend department for both of us! I’m Australian but have lived in Japan for most of my adult life. As you say, we really don’t know where our paths will take us! I’ve been to the US a few times and hope to have the opportunity to visit again one day.

      • I also had some friend incidents that have made me wary of getting close to people and also fueled my overshopping. I am still wary but am also lonely, so I’m feeling more willing to take risks with letting people in.

        Australia… That’s where I want to visit the most! I would like to visit Japan one day, too. Through this blog, I may end up knowing someone in any place I end up visiting. Very cool!

      • Hehe, you guys are on the verge of coining a new word to describe this phenomenon of incidents with friends, a la “frincidents”. A variation on the “frenemies” theme maybe? Putting my hand up here as also having some pretty shitty frincidents/frenemies, definitely serious enough to shift my whole perspective on adult friendships.

        I have a great husband and a few solid girlfriends in other states, but I do find that I am happier when I also have some local pals. I’ve always done pretty well at meeting people, but one issue I’m running into more and more as I get older… and there’s really no getting around how this might sound, but frankly…. I just don’t find many people I sincerely like/want to hang out with. Like, sometimes the more I get to know people, the less I want to hang. Has anyone else run into that? And I have moved four different states and one country in the past 9 years and whenever I start to actually make some progress, we move and I’m faced with starting from scratch again.

        Anyway, I think I just mean that first you have to find some potential people to get to know, and then it really takes a while to see if you’re truly compatible as friends. It takes so much energy (frenergy, haha). I have a bunch health problems too and sometimes I’m just too wiped out for that process, and I feel like I can’t afford to expend all that energy (uh, frenergy). I guess it’s on my mind b/c we just moved again. So just thinking out loud a bit. I will say that one side effect is that I’ve gotten a lot better at meeting my own emotional needs which is a skill that I was not really raised with. So I guess maybe I approach friendships differently now than I did when I was younger. I’m still sorting all this through though, and would be very interested in a post on the topic and the ensuing commentary from this thoughtful group.

      • Claire, that cracked me up. I like your sass, we should be friends! 😉 Over the past year or two I’ve been getting rid of frenemies, or rather they’ve been working themselves out through frincidents and I’m finding it’s not really bothering me to have all the drama gone. With one exception… a man I dated for half a year moved away and we stopped talking, but I still miss him every day. It makes me notice how much time and energy I’ve been expending on relationships, very few of which have been really beneficial for me. I’m sort of taking a break from dating and even making new friends, and focusing on getting my life together (one wardrobe post at a time, haha). It’s a little lonely sometimes, but then I have to remind myself how awesome I am and I get over it. 😉

      • Some great discussion here! I can relate to what you wrote, Claire, about not finding many people you want to hang out with. That’s increasingly become the case for me, too, as I’ve gotten older. And when I do meet people I like, they seem to always be too busy. That seems to be the pattern I’ve found. I either seem to meet people who are “emotional vampires” and it’s all about them, or those who are too busy and I only see them a few times per year. Sigh…

        I love the new coined word “frincident”! I may have to add that one to my lexicon. “Frenergy” is also good! I can relate to what you wrote, too, Sarah, about the energy expended on relationships that aren’t beneficial to you. I go through that, too, which is why I pulled back into myself more in recent years. I need a balance and that can be difficult to find.

      • Sarah E, you do sound awesome and like you would be a lovely friend (you as well, Debbie)! There’s so much truth in what you’ve both said. Last year I had to end a friendship that had become toxic. I didn’t realize how much so until after I was free of the kind of “drama” that Sarah E described, but my friend was struggling with her own demons and had become jealous and insensitive. I did not see things for what they were and I was having my own struggles as well (I’m certain I was not the perfect friend either). I did try to address the individual frincidents at first, but eventually I pulled away. It was very painful, but I knew it was right to let go because I was so relieved and tranquil afterwards (even though there are still aspects of the friendship I miss – I think that’s why we keep hanging on so long!).

        I was also thinking about what Debbie said – when you do meet someone you like and connect with, they are often busy. Perhaps it makes sense that the emotional vampire types tend to be less busy/more available, because if they are overly/inappropriately needy, others tend to burn out on them or avoid them altogether. I think I used to get extremely invested in others, to my own detriment (friends and dating). Now I, too, am looking for more of a balance. I think I still crave a certain amount of depth in a friendship – yet I must protect myself from depth with the wrong people, so at times it seems it’s almost not worth expending the tremendous frenergy! What a conundrum – ouch my brain hurts now. 🙂 Well, I do believe there’s a way for each of us and we can find it. For me, I’m hoping that cultivating healthy boundaries and emotional self-sufficiency will lead to more balance, but I admit it all still seems very mysterious, these modern-day friendships!

      • I felt like I was reading my own words when I read your comment, Claire. We are very much in the same boat! I think the fact that you felt tranquil and relieved after releasing your toxic friend tells you all you need to know. I have had that same feeling. Often, if I find myself missing someone I’ve let go, I realize I’m missing who they used to be or just the positive elements of them (everyone has these). I have to remind myself of the drama and how drained I felt when they called or emailed me. Or that I’d find myself contacting them because I “should” and not because I truly wanted to. I have a lot to say about this and yes, it can make my brain hurt! Your last sentence says it all. That’s what I want, too, but it feels so elusive…

  6. Hmm… you mention that your friends or perhaps acquaintances did not meet your needs so much as you met their needs. So you did a very thoughtful analysis of why that might be. But I think there is another question: what would meeting your needs look like? What are your needs (more specifically)? Is it casual conversation that has a more balanced give and take? Would that give you any joy at all? Obviously, this is a complex subject, but this is another starting place to think about.

    Recent studies show that contemporary Americans have very, very few good friends. The fabric of “community” has shredded for most Americans, and most friends are found in communities. You have plenty of company… probably the majority of Americans if the studies are accurate.

    • Very good questions to ponder, Susan. I really need to give that all some thought and will likely write about it in a future post. I think most of us don’t really take the time to consider what we really want from the people in our lives, so it’s definitely some good food for thought!

      I have read about the studies on Americans and friends, too. I have this article bookmarked on the topic: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2058281/So-Facebook-Most-people-TWO-close-friends.html It says that most people only have two close friends, so I’m definitely not alone in that respect. The people I feel closest to, with the exception of my husband, all live far away and I haven’t been in touch with them all that often as of late. I really long for a community and am happy to have this online one. I need to find an in-person community, but am not really sure where to look! Something to ponder and explore.

  7. Another thoughtful and in-depth post Debbie. It’s ironic isn’t it, that while you are looking for a major purpose in your life, in fact, you’re already doing it with this blog. It’s become the “go-to” blog for those of us looking for discussion on a range of personal issues.
    I’ve said it before, but I think we often find friendship when we’re not particularly searching for it. For example if we are doing activities with other people, such as bush walks, or cooking classes, we sometimes meet people who gradually become friends. I think friendships take quite a long time to develop, which is part of why they’re so valuable – because they’re not easily come by.

    • Thanks for your kind words about this blog, Katy. I think you’re right in that the blog has given me a lot of purpose in life. I’d like to expand it somehow and am considering ways to do that, as it really is quite fulfilling for me. I’m happy that you and others are finding it to be a “go-to” blog for a range of personal issues!

      I agree that we often find our best connections when we’re not looking for it. Case in point, I met my husband in a chance encounter, not through a deliberate dating search. I know that close friendships can take a long time to develop and I will need to be patient. It doesn’t happen overnight for adults like it does for kids, but you are right that such connections are very valuable and to be cherished.

  8. It is wonderful to read about all the progress you have made! I never would have thought you would enjoy cooking, since you have mentioned your eating disorder in the past.
    It is a relief to read about your challenges and struggles, because people rarely talk about these things and many of us have the same struggles.
    I hope you will meet new people (I would love to meet you, but Holland is quite far away ;-)) and remember: you are good enough!

    • My enjoyment of cooking comes as a big surprise to me, too, Jessica! I still don’t like to spend a lot of time on it, but I’ve been pleased to find that it doesn’t have to take hours to prepare food that tastes good and is healthy. I’m glad that reading about my struggles is helpful to you and others. I knew I couldn’t be alone in these challenges, so I’m glad I decided to put them out there.

      I hope to visit Holland one day and have the chance to meet you! My husband is Dutch (bet you’re one of the few readers who knows how to pronounce my last name correctly!) and he has quite a few relatives in Holland. I am also 1/4 Dutch and would love to visit the town where my grandfather is from (Vlaardingen), so hopefully I’ll make it to your fine country one of these days!

      • I knew we had a lot in in common with over shopping. I didn’t know your husband was Dutch. My husband is Dutch, too!

      • Yay for the Dutch contingent! Thanks for sharing that we also have Dutch husbands in common. Do people mispronounce your last name all the time, too? For the record, my last name is pronounced like “Roos,” not like “Rose,” but I can understand why people would get it wrong. I’m sure I would, too.

  9. Bless your heart with the digestive issues… my two daughters and I deal with that on a daily basis. Here’s a couple thoughts. If you had a flare up when you went off of gluten, think about what you added in when you took it out. Many times it could be soy or corn based products – or even certain vegetables – that your body can’t handle, or it might simply be your body detoxing. Personally I’ve found that I had to go off of all refined sugar. First for the migraines and joint pain, but after the detox period, I found that it had also been affecting my view of myself and life around me. When I have a little sugar now the world looks black, I become afraid of shadows of what might be or what has been, I am confused, sad and lonely. If I stay off the sugar I can see things much more rationally and trust God much more fully. {{hugs}} on your journey!!

    • Thanks for your comment, Trish. I’m sorry to hear that you and your daughters are also struggling with digestive issues. I wouldn’t wish such problems on anyone! Very good point about the flare-ups and what might be causing them. I don’t eat much if any soy, but do eat corn and some sugar (but a lot less than I used to eat). Interesting how sugar affects you. Perhaps it has a similar impact on me… It’s amazing how what we eat affects us. Not enough attention is given to diet in our society, except for weight loss, but it is really a very, very important factor in our health! Blessing for good health to you and your daughters.

  10. This article made me alternately smile and tear up. I feel so much like yourself, but without the health impediments!!! I have a small child and a great job, but still feel like there is so much similarity overall that I really feel a connection to you and your blog. I feel isolated sometimes, even when surrounded by people. I have people I care about, but everyone (including myself) is so ‘busy’ that it’s difficult to even talk to them on the phone once in a while. I really feel like minimalism is the answer- including finding free time for myself, rhough it hasn’t happened yet.

    I wish I could get coffee with you! I am also so so happy for you with finding joy in cooking!!! I hope you do take some classes in the future, it would be a great experience. And of course, I hope you feel much better soon. I suffered with severe GERD and unidentified digestive pain for years, since I was a child. It got so bad I couldn’t barely eat anything and was in pain all the time. I got better suddenly after leaving my last prescription before trying to get pregnant (just a coincidence), and wow is life amazing when you can eat whatevee you want!!!! but now 2+ years later I am having some flare-ups. I hope it does not continue!!!

    • I feel we have a lot of similarities, too, Meli, despite the fact that I’m old enough to be your mother! You’re so right about the epidemic of “busyness” in our society. People wear the “busy” label like a badge of honor, but does it really make any of them happy? I agree with you that minimalism can really be the key to peace and joy for many of us.

      I feel your pain about the GERD. I don’t have that problem, but I have what’s known as LPR, also called “silent reflux.” It’s basically reflux in the throat and can be very painful and uncomfortable (not really “silent” at all but there is no heartburn – the pain is in the throat). I had it really bad about 4 years ago and have regular flare-ups. I know better how to control it now, but it’s no fun at all. I haven’t been able to eat whatever I want for years, but I can eat a lot of things I like now that I have it more under control. I hope you can get a handle on your GERD, too. For me, taking a supplement called GI Complete has helped, along with manuka honey, avoiding acidic foods (and getting off coffee for the most part), elevating my bed, and not eating for 3 hours before bed have helped. I used to take meds, but have been able to mostly avoid them for the past year.

      • Thanks Debbie!!! Unfortunetly I know exactly what that reflux feels like, I have a hiatle hernia (sp?) which means things reflux up into my throat (and grossly, mouth) easily. I opted out of the surgery when I was 21 because there was a possibility it would worsen the pain… Very glad I didn’t do it!!!

        I think that age doesn’t have as much to do with connecting with people as we think 😉 I enjoy that you don’t immediately make age distinctions, I feel it can be an impediment to conversations sometimes!

      • Sounds like you have your share of digestive issues, too, Meli. Very sorry to hear that, especially since you’re so young. I had an ulcer at age 19, but I brought it on myself through eating disorders. I think my many years of eating disorders may have messed up my GI for good, but I’m not giving up hope yet for healing. I’m glad to hear that you have had some relief. Thanks for the good wishes for me!

        I agree with you that age isn’t all that important in terms of connection. I have had friends who were either a lot older or a lot younger than me and I am still open to friends of all ages. It’s hard enough to meet people with whom we connect on a deep level. Why discriminate in terms of age!

  11. Debbie, have you read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin? Really interesting and fun recap of her own journey down the path you are peeking at. I’m hoping to employ some of her ideas myself.

    • I have not read this book yet, Susie, but I have it in my personal library. I’ve mentioned previously that I buy too many books, then I don’t get around to reading them all! But several readers have mentioned this book now, so I think I need to read it very soon. It sounds like it would be a good idea to adopt some of the ideas for my “Full Life Project”!

      • Debbie , maybe you could do a “book club” as part of your idea to expand your blog? I so look forward to these discussions in the comments, and I know many others do as well, maybe we could all read one of these highly recommended books and discuss it together in the comments?

      • What a great idea, Sarah! I know of one blogger who did that but I didn’t participate. I think she included information about the book in one of her posts each week and people could comment about the book as well as the other things in her post. This could be something to do here, too! There have been a lot of books that have been recommended, but the two that I really want to read are “The Happiness Project” and “The Paradox of Choice.” Some interesting discussions could take place with either of those books, I’m sure!

    • Although I’ve read it at least twice previously, I recently started re-reading “The Happiness Project” in hopes that it would help me get out of the “stuck” phase I’ve been in. I highly recommend this very common sense book to anyone seeking to improve the quality of their daily lives in small but significant ways!

      • I think I really need to read this book, as it keep coming up again and again. I’m going to dig it out now and put it on my nightstand. Maybe I’ll end up coming up with my own happiness project (that’s different from my full life project), as I’ve felt stuck in many ways, too. It may end up inspiring some blog posts, too!

  12. Debbie, a thought popped in when reading the part about symptoms sometimes emerging when you change what you are eating. I’m not certain I recall the exact phrase, “healing crisis” might be it. My understanding of it is that at times something will be temporarily exacerbated in the process of healing. In this case, possibly as the body detoxes from its long familiarity of having the yummy-yet-not-so-healthy-ingredients such as gluten and sugar.

    Your posts are both forthright and friendly, Debbie, I feel as if I’m sitting down to tea with a friend. My heart holds the space for you to have blossoming in-person friendships.

    Hugs,
    ~ Dena

    • Good to see you commenting here, Dena! I have heard of a healing crisis and I definitely think I might be going through that. That’s why I’m giving the no gluten trial at least 4-6 weeks because it very well be helping me more than I realize. I’ve read that one can really see if gluten is an issue for them when they try to add it back after not having it for a while. So we’ll see… It’s not as hard not to have it as I thought, especially since I’m cooking more now. I still probably eat too much sugar, but I’ve decreased that a lot, too. It’s all a process…

      I appreciate your kind words about my posts. I definitely want to come across as real and relatable, so I’m glad that’s what’s happening. Thanks for your wishes for the friendships – much appreciated!

  13. Wonderful post – lots to think about!
    I’ve had a lot of digestive issues, too – I don’t know the exact nature of your issues, but I accidentally stumbled on a list of “low FODMAP foods” and it has made a huge positive difference for me. FODMAP is an acronym for something to do with foods that ferment when digested, which some people’s systems can’t handle. Anyway, just an idea.

    • I’m glad you liked this post, Murphy. My digestive issues mainly involve LPR (silent reflux – reflux in the throat) and IBS. I recently heard about FODMAP on a podcast I was listening to, but haven’t investigated it yet. I just Googled it and found this: http://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-food-list/ Wow, it’s a very long list! But it could be worth exploring. I think that one only has to avoid everything for awhile and then can gradually add some items back. I will have to look into it more. Thanks for sharing and best of luck for you in overcoming your digestive issues!

      • Hi Debbie, funny I was reading your post and all the comments and thought, maybe it’s IBS? Because I have it too and tried all sorts of things, including cutting out the gluten which in my case did nothing. We do eat very naturally though coffee and wine are my two devils. My experience with IBS was, the more I stressed about it, the worse it got. It was when I stopped focussing on my tummy and address my mental wellbeing that it got better. Now I get it when there is actually something wrong – especially when I’m anxious. But if I feel mentally ok it’s just gone.
        Anyway I was very pleased for you reading this post. It sounds like things are shifting for you slowly. Well done and I wish you all the best as always.

      • My IBS was actually not that bad recently until I cut out the gluten, K. It is worse than it’s been in 10 years now and I can’t seem to get it under control, which is why I’m not sure about staying gluten-free. I keep holding on, though, as it seemed my migraines were better. But this past week, I’ve had headaches again, so maybe the lower incidence of headaches was a coincidence and not related to going gluten-free. I’ve tried the gf diet twice before but it didn’t help my migraines or other issues. I did it this time for my joint pain, but no change there as of yet. Coffee and wine were two “devils” of mine, too, but I can’t have wine anymore due to migraines (can’t have any alcohol, sadly) and I gave up coffee a year ago (also due to migraines – it was a double-edged sword). I have only one vice these days – shopping. Once I give that one up, I might be ready for sainthood 🙂

        Interesting what you write about focus. I HAVE been focusing a lot on my tummy in the past few weeks (because symptoms have been so bad), but perhaps I should try to shift more to my mental well-being. I do tend to be quite an anxious person and I know that doesn’t benefit my gut.

  14. Hi Debbie,

    Have you tried probiotics? They are supposed to help with digestion. There are pills that you can take. I usually try to stick with food sources such as raw sauerkraut, kefir/yogurt pasteurized at low temperatures, and kvass.

    • I’ve been taking probiotics for a long time, Cynthia, but I just started taking a more heavy-duty one I learned about. Perhaps it takes a while to kick in, as it’s only been 5 days so far. I was not familiar with kvass and had to look it up! I’m not a fan of sauerkraut, but could try kefir (have had it a long time ag0). Thanks for the recommendations.

  15. I am so happy to see how far you’ve come. Between the blog,your book, your new hobby, and most of all how you are making yourself more vulnerable, I see big changes happening. I am sure you would like them to come more quickly, but this is a very solid start.
    I also had some friendships that seemed one sided and I have been working hard to change them. It hasn’t been always pleasant, but I feel like the end result will be worth it. It was always easier to me to be a helper to people than to open up myself.
    I also enjoy cooking, along with a few other hobbies such as reading, watching baseball, and painting. I have started spending more time on these things in the past year. I’d like to spend even more time and develop some new interests just to keep things interesting.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Tonya. I’m glad you are noticing the changes in me. I think it’s important for us to work on our relationships and the way we interact with other people. It’s easy to get complacent, but we will continue to be happy if we don’t work on turning things around. Congrats on the hard work you’ve done there and in cultivating new hobbies and spending more time on existing ones. I enjoy reading, too, and need to start reading more things that are not on the internet!

  16. Another great post Debbie! Thanks for sharing your personal experience. A year ago, my husband and I moved into a small 1000 sq. ft cottage. I’m loving living in a small space . My goal is to be a minimalist. With every bag of stuff I donate I feel less stressed. I still have more in storage to sort. I can’t wait to be free of all the excess! I find that contentment brings me joy. I’m still working on this. The people I’m closest to live far away in different states, we’re good with keeping in touch. I also want to make friends that live nearby, but I’m kind of a homebody so I need to work on that! Here is one way to look at it, we are cheating others out of our friendship by not being available. This is what I want to work on . 🙂 I have 2 autoimmune conditions, mild psoriasis and low thyroid. I went gluten and dairy free last October. It took 3 months for me to feel & see the benefits, psoriasis is almost completely gone and I have more energy. Not sure but you may need to go gluten free longer than 6 weeks to see improvement. Thanks .

    • Congrats on your downsizing and minimizing success, Jan! My husband and I have also downsized considerably in recent years and are happier as a result. I like what you said about cheating others out of our friendship by not being available. I know I have a lot to offer and I need to put myself out there more.

      Like you, I also have low thyroid (just found out a few months ago). You mentioned that it took you 3 months to see the benefits of your gluten and dairy-free diet. Did you notice ANY benefits before that? Did you have any problems with the dietary changes? I feel a bit better in terms of my headaches, but my joint pains (why I decided to go off gluten) are the same, and my digestive issues are worse. I would be willing to do gluten-free forever, but I am getting frustrated about the digestive problems. From what I read, most people start feeling better within a few days to 2 weeks, even if it takes 3-6 months before they feel totally better. I’m not sure what to do…

  17. Please, focus on your health, but do write an article on adult friendships when the time is right. This is something I struggle with as well. Thank you!

    • I will definitely write about that topic, Katherine. I would love to have some wisdom and advice to share, but maybe writing about it will help me gain clarity. That has worked with other things. Right now, I feel pretty lost about the friendship issue, sadly.

  18. Debbie, I just wanted to say, thank you so much! Thank you for your honesty about shopping, friendships, health, FOMO, and everything. Thanks for always shining a light on your own life, even when it is uncomfortable – when you do this, it shines a light on us all, and helps all of us to see the way forward. I really appreciate you sharing your journey like this!

    • I am very grateful for this comment, Marianne. It actually brought tears to my eyes when I read it. Sometimes when I write some posts, I don’t know how they’ll “land.” But I’m happy to know that my sharing my journey is helping other people!

  19. What courage to publicly acknowledge this addiction and share your journey with others. I am a first-time visitor to your blog after having read the Real Simple article. Your early August installment could have been a page out of my journal. I have resisted admitting that I am a shopaholic; now, I must admit it AND do something about it.

    • Welcome, DuncMom! I’m glad that you are feeling resonance with my posts. Admitting you have a problem is a very important first step toward overcoming it! Stick with us here and take things one day at a time. There will undoubtedly be ups and downs, but it IS possible to overcome a compulsive shopping problem.

  20. So much to think about. I can totally relate to what you are dealing with regarding friendships and lack of deep relationships. I am fortunate to have a very supportive husband, but beyond that, my female relationships aren’t very deep and certainly aren’t where I’d like them to be. I do feel like shopping solves some of that loneliness and boredom that we apparently suffer from…but it’s only temporary and I usually feel worse.

    I just wish I could like anything…any hobby or activity as much as I like shopping.

    But so far, nothing fulfills that for me and I continue to shop. I need a change, but it feels like it’s always only temporary or a bandaid on the issue. I need to find more concrete friendships with women and I need to find happiness in something other than the inside of a store… So much to think about.

    Ps. I eat a completely GF diet (celiac) if you need any guidance or anything I would love to talk to you about it. It can be overwhelming to go GF all at once, but in time it will become second nature for you 🙂

    • I am in a similar boat to you in terms of friendships, Chelsea. I do feel very, very fortunate to have a supportive husband, too, but I think that women need other women, too. Shopping can’t take the place of those deep relationships we crave, as you and I now know. I haven’t found an activity I like as much as shopping, either, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist! Jill Chivers has said that it took a while for her to love other activities as much, but now she loves many of them far more than shopping. So there is hope for us, for sure!

      Thanks for offering to help me with the gluten-free guidance. I remember you mentioning that you have celiac in another comment. I’m wondering how you learned you had it. I don’t think I have celiac, but I may be gluten-intolerant. I’m not yet sure at this point. I’ve tried going gluten-free twice in the past to try to address my migraines, but it didn’t help (tried for a month once and 3 months another time). This time, I did it to see if my joint pain would improve. So far, it hasn’t and I’ve been g.f. since July 24th. The frustration I’m having is that my IBS has gotten a lot worse since going off gluten. I can’t seem to overcome it no matter what I try and I’m not eating a bunch of “fake” g.f. foods. I read this can happen, but I would have thought it would be better by now. If you have any insights or advice to offer, I would really appreciate it. Feel free to send me a private message if you’d prefer to not comment here (use the “Connect” page). Thanks for your support!

  21. I identify with what you write about friendships. Now, when I’m with a person who I’d like to be friends with, I pay attention to how I feel when with them and how I feel afterward. I also am very careful to make sure that I want to see that person or if I bend to their needs. I have made a few good friends this year and have noticed this change in myself. I try to meet friends halfway, instead of all the way. Nice post!

    • Thanks for sharing your insights, Andrea. I think it’s very important to pay attention to how we feel both when we’re with people and afterwards. Too many people don’t consider these things – and it applies to our phone and virtual time with others as well! I try to look at whether or not I feel obligated to contact someone or spend time with them. If so, that’s not a good sign! Congrats on making some new friends this year and to meeting them only halfway now instead of all the way. Good for you!

  22. Your blog posts always inspire me and make me think. Your writing challenges me to explore aspects of my own life. Not always easy, but always rewarding. Thank you for being so honest and open.

    • Thank you for sharing this, Hilda! I’m so glad my writing is having such an effect on you, as my intention is to help others to learn and grow. You’re so right that growth is not always easy, but I agree that the rewards are worth it!

  23. Great post Debbie. This piece shines a bright light on the fact that you have a very full life and that shopping is only a small slice of it these days, and your excellent writing of your story and heart felt honesty draws me in.

    • As always, I appreciate your kind words, Terra. I’m happy that shopping is occupying a smaller slice of my life these days. I was a bit worried back in July and early August, but I feel I’m back on track now. I hope my life will continue to get more and more full as I stop spending so much of it in shops, whether they be real or virtual.

  24. Great post, Debbie. I can relate to so many of the things you mentioned! Thank you for your honesty. It sounds like you are making progress. One thing that has worked for me as an entree into adult friendships is meeting other couples. I am introverted too and always feel more comfortable meeting someone new if there’s a “buffer” person involved. Recently as we’ve gotten closer to being “empty nesters,” my husband and I have gotten involved in some activities where we’ve met couples that we both enjoy spending time with. This could be a way for you to start meeting some new people. Perhaps Sierra Club walks, church or some type of similar activity? Wishing you continued success and growth,

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Karin. My husband and I love to meet other couples, but we’ve been challenged in that area, too. I know we need to try harder, though. I hadn’t thought of the Sierra Club walks, but that’s a good suggestion. I agree that it’s easier to try to connect with others where there’s a “buffer” person involved. I appreciate your feedback and your good wishes!

  25. I think you’ve really hit pay dirt in connecting the desire for connection with shopping. I agree with Karin that for many people joining a group is a good way to connect with others.

    Cooking is an excellent hobby and it’s fun to invite people over to eat up the results.

    • Agreed about cooking, Ginger, and joining new groups. Whatever I do, it’s bound to be more fulfilling than shopping, as the connection I get that way really doesn’t do much of anything for me long term. I’m tired of settling, too!

  26. I’m with you Debbie, it is very hard to meet new people once one is out of school. And I haven’t been able to make new friends easily either since then. It’s funny how I can see coworkers everyday, yet there are no lasting friendships to come from it. Everyone seems to have their personal group of people and picking up one from work is not on the agenda.

    And I have also turned to more minimalism for the overall home and not just my closet over time. Once one sees how ‘freeing’ it is to have less, it sort of just spreads to other places naturally.

    • Yes, Lisa, sometimes I think that if I had a “regular job,” I would be able to connect with more people, but I remember that many of those work relationships were pretty superficial. It was much easier in my 20s, but I know that younger people have problems in connecting, too, especially if they’re introverts.

      Agreed about minimalism. It’s kind of addicting, but in a good way. I feel SO much freer than I did a few years ago. I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I’m gradually reclaiming my life as I let go of more stuff and activities that aren’t serving me.

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