I Needed a Coat.

Let me spoil it for you — this is not a post full of excuses.

It was so cold out this weekend that I realized it was time for me to look for a winter coat. I had put it off over the past month, since I also needed new fall jackets (one fleece, one water resistant). I also have that November shopping trip planned with a set budget, but knew I couldn’t wait another couple of weeks to get a thick, warm coat. I decided to shop and decided not to shop, back and forth, all day Saturday. Finally I asked my husband. Yes, I know he’s a practical person and would say of course, go get a coat. But I also talked to him about everything I put in this blog over the past few days. I asked him if he thought I was just giving myself an excuse to shop and would end up in trouble. He repeated, get the coat. I cowered, terrified at the thought of stepping inside a store.

Then I started thinking about my planned shopping trip. Did I really need to delay it? What if I made Sunday my shopping day instead, keeping the same set budget and wishlist in mind, just adding the coat in as the primary goal? I breathed a sigh of relief. It was actually a pretty good solution for me.

As I drove to the store, I made sure to stay calm and focused. I kept the crazy internal butterflies at bay and kept repeating to myself that this is not a free-for-all, this is not a thrill ride, this is just practical shopping for the items that I need now and can afford. It’s silly to think of the effort it took to keep my heart rate down and my palms dry, but it was worth it. It worked. I felt so normal, or what I imagine people without this problem feel like when they shop. Except that I was thinking about all these things the whole time. I’m sure normal people don’t do that.

I found exactly the coat I was looking for plus three items from my list, spent 1/4 of my budget, and had zero guilt or shame. My head felt so clear. It was a refreshing and new shopping experience for me.

Today I found myself with some free time for the only time this week, and tried the same thing again. (If this sounds like a lot of shopping, I went through my closet yesterday and saw many short-sleeved and sleeveless tops, but a dearth of long-sleeved tops and sweaters.) I went to a specific store with a specific mission and a very limited amount of time. I kept calm, found some of the items I was looking for, and spent another 1/4 of the budget. That leaves half of my budget that I can … well … not stress over. I may or may not plan a “big” shopping trip in November. It won’t be as big as originally planned, but it will be under control. I might buy one thing, or a few essential things, or nothing. I will shop calmly and not let an adrenaline rush form in my system.

Someday this might come naturally. But for now, I’ll keep reminding myself to take deep breaths and not let my emotions take over. Maybe I’ll have more and more positive shopping experiences going forward. I would say “One can dream,” except that I know it really will happen!

Why I’ve Been Shopping.

I always wonder if anyone reading this blog doesn’t personally “get” the desire to shop. I wish I knew what that feels like! I’ve been interested in clothes since at least middle school, when I started keeping a journal of my outfits to make sure I didn’t repeat them.

There are the standard shopping reasons for people like me: new trends to try, dated clothing to replace, seasonal update, etc. But I had two big reasons this summer: major body change and an upcoming new job.

I’ve never not been overweight. I was in the “pretty-plus” sizes through elementary school and was mortified when my sister took me shopping only to ask for the “big” kid section. Through the years, my weight fluctuated some, but never to the point below a size 12. That meant there was a whole world of styles that were not meant for me no matter how badly I wanted to make them work. They did not work, and I got used to what did work and made the best of it. A couple of years ago I stepped up my style quite a bit, ditching the daily fitted tees, jeans, and Merrells combination. I also climbed to my highest weight/size combination, effectively slamming the door on most of my previously beloved styles.

You already know that this year I decided to make a health change, and I’m still a bit shocked at the results. I thought it would take another year to get to the point where I am, but my body really responded to weightlifting. Early in the process, I’d gone down one or two sizes, but most of my clothing still fit fine and worked. Six months into it, I was down a total of five sizes. FIVE SIZES. I can’t even believe I’m writing that. Or the fact that some of my new pants are getting a little loose. (Weights, I love you!) But I’m not just a smaller version of my previous self. My body has changed shape. I used to be an unmistakeable pear and now am barely a pear at all. I can wear bodycon things without shapers underneath. The extra lumps and bumps are not terribly visible, though I can assure you I still have some!

This change has opened all those doors that have been closed for a lifetime. I can’t even express how thrilling it is to try stuff on and have pretty much everything fit. Now, I’m not saying I’m a model or anything. I just mean that to my eyes, what I try on looks good on my body, like it’s supposed to look. What?! On me?? This is crazy. But I really, REALLY love the dressing room now. The first month or so, I cried in the dressing room. I’m no stranger to crying in there, but it was usually for the opposite reason. This is why I’ve become very strict with shopping lists. Otherwise I would want to buy out the store.

Another side of that coin is that with this new body, I’m free try out a completely different style persona. I’ve never worn flowy, loose items…but what if I try it now? Maybe it would work for the first time in my life. It makes me want to go to new stores that were previously out of my reach and find out.¬†And, it’s getting cold. I just want warm, cozy clothes and don’t currently have any other than sweatpants. Warm, cozy, and flowy make up my wishlist these days.

Then there’s the job, but it’s not what you think. It’s mostly a work-from-home job, so my desire to shop because of my job is not so that I have something nice to wear to the office. No, it’s the fact that I have an income again for the first time in seven years. An income that doesn’t have to go to anything important. It should, but it doesn’t have to. Finally, I can shop without a budget! I mean, there is a budget, but not the arbitrary low number I used to use.

I’m taking it day by day. I didn’t buy anything this week, but I did browse online. I’m planning a big shopping trip in a couple of weeks and trying not to buy anything before then. What works for me? I keep thinking about how I would feel wearing xyz to school drop-off. Um, not a whole lot different than I did wearing what I did today. There is no paparazzi waiting to take my photo. No one is looking at how I’m dressed, especially now that it’s coat season. And who cares what my coat looks like? Why do I need the most flattering coat I can find? Is waist detailing and a slightly different sheen that life-changing? These thoughts keep me grounded.

Until I see someone that looks fantastic and wish I could be as stylish as her. Then I start browsing online again…