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Check Me Out

they whispered. I followed the murmur through the stacks. Not
knowing what was there, where it would lead me, how my world might open when I
arrived.
No, it was not Jeanette
Winterson.
It was the rows and rows of Public Library magazines – with a placard above them, “Magazines available for Check-Out.”
I have never heard of such a thing. Like reference books, I
assumed, and thought, and thought I knew that magazines stayed in the library,
confined to be read in a hard, wooden, straight back chair, in a few
captured minutes that aren’t enough to feed or satisfy.
Yesterday, I found out you could check magazines out from the library. I cannot tell you what alteration
this caused the entire rest of my day.
This discovery came about as I stood in another set of
stacks – the grocery store. In the cleaning supply aisle, comparing the truly
eco friendly ways of the eco friendly disinfectant wipes. Which were sold in
less plastic; which had the most wipes for the price; which stated they were
the happy product of happy plastic trees and happy compost fodder?
In my mildly manic musings, I got the return phone call from
a friend I’d called earlier that day. It was the timing of the gods.
I told her what I was doing; that I’d come into the grocery
store to buy apples and carrots, and am now contemplating buying something I
completely do not need.
I told her that with this month’s spending plan (aka budget), and knowing
– or vaguely knowing – that next month’s is the same, I felt pinched. I told her I felt like if I
couldn’t make the major purchase of a therapy session or a chiropractor’s
visit, I’m finding myself wanting to make these tiny little purchases for shit
I don’t need, just to set off some release.
I’m not a shopper. That’s not what sent me into financial
recovery. But, part of my pattern of behavior is that I live on such meager
means, that eventually I crack, and buy shit I only marginally need – or
perhaps do need, but not everything-all-at-once-right-now — in a fit of violent grabbing. Then I feel remorse, I constrict again, until the pattern cycles over again.
Because I have marginal income at the moment, as my student
loans dwindle to their last sputtering sips, I am having to live within my
means. And my means, are not generous at the moment. Though, for real, I’m glad
to have what I do. I am living with electricity and shelter. And that’s what I
can afford this month. Electricity, shelter, internet, cell phone, travel,
food. Period, end of sentence. There is no money for anything else, if I’m to
manage another month of any of those things.
So, no money for entertainment, or self care, or toiletries,
or hobby supplies. No money for biodegradable, eco-friendly, let’s feel good
about yourself disposable wipes.
But particularly, no money this month for the self care
categories of therapy and chiropractor. Each important. Each cut this month and
next.
So, I’d put out a phone call to my friend earlier in the day to ask if I could make an appointment with either next month. When she called me
back in the store, she asked me, so you’re asking my permission to spend money
you don’t have? Well… yes. [insert laughter…hers] And of course, I see the
insanity of that, but I really needed someone else to tell me.
Because I don’t want to be at the end of May without food.
And that’s what will always be cut, if I’m given my druthers. Not in an
anorexic way, just in a, I can survive on less way.
But, really, as I stand ready to buy things I can’t afford –
can I survive on less?
She said it sounded like I was feeling deprived. I agreed.
By this point I’d put back the wipes, and grabbed the apples and carrots I’d
come in for, and was on the check-out line. I said, I’m just feeling itchy to
just buy something, anything – if I
can’t have what I really need or want (therapy or chiro) – that now I’m staring at
these magazines living the check out aisle.
She said, and here’s where it all changed, that sometimes
she just goes to the library and reads the magazines there. That that feels
like a luxurious activity to her. That it sounds like I needed some luxury. I fully
agreed, and although I envisioned the hard straight wooden backed chairs, I
agreed inwardly that it was better than purchasing shit I don’t need to ease a
feeling of deprivation.
So, I went to the library. I asked where the magazine stacks
were. And above them, like the Burning Bush, was the sign, “Magazines Available
for Check Out.”
I. was elated. I’d never heard of such a thing. I yelped my
joy at a passing library patron who edged a little farther away from me. I
waddled up to the check-out counter with a stack of almost 10 magazines – current magazines. And I expressed my shock and joy to the
worker – who was none too keen to join in my elation, and sent me off with a
parting, dryly sarcastic, I’m glad we could be a part of that.
And I came home with my bounty. I fanned them out on my coffee
table, heated some tea, settled beneath my chenille blanket on my cozy couch,
and felt, honestly, for the first time in a long time, like myself.
This is a Molly
activity. This is something I do to feel pampered and cared for and more than a
bit indulgent. I felt like it would be alright. For two hours, I snuggled
deeper into the cushions and pages, with the covers of
Dwell, and Scientific American, and Vanity Fair … and Martha Stewart Living circled around me like an offering of spring
blossoms.
I was being indulgent – and it didn’t cost me a dime. 

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