I don’t do anything for me anymore. Okay, so we have the house (and the mortgage, and the bills) and I have more yarn than the local yarn store. It’s not like I need much of anything, really. I consider that a good thing, because there’s a big difference between “need” and “want”. There’s also a big difference between “selfish” and “selfless” and “self-sacrificing”.
When I’m making plans, I put everyone else first on the list. When I go to the store, my focus is that we’re out of detergent; Ryan needs sneakers; Alex is out of sunscreen. If the boys want a toy and they don’t have the cash, sometimes I oblige. It makes sense; I mean, I’m a Mom. I have to prioritize that way. But lately it’s gone beyond just that. Even when I need something, I don’t get it. I’ve bought nearly $100 in clothes in the last month and returned it all. Some of it didn’t fit, but the rest, I couldn’t justify buying for myself. It’s not like I don’t already have a closet full of clothes, right? Just because nothing in there is under a year old…? (I pulled out my blue dress shoes this morning. The left heel came loose, and both heels are so worn away at the bottoms that you can see the plastic. It looks like a compound fracture. Am I going to replace them? Not if the glue holds.)
Anyway, being the gadget girl I’ve turned into, when my iPod died—it wouldn’t sync; something about a corrupted hard drive—I fought it tooth and nail. I tried every remedy under “Help” and scoured the internet, trying to fix the thing. When I bought it 4 years ago, the 4 gig Nano cost $250. We had Christmas money (and no house), and I wanted an iPod so bad that it hurt. Now that we have even less disposable income, dropping $150 on the 8 gig version made me nervous.
Apparently what made me even more nervous was the concept of buying something purely for myself, because I wanted it. Honestly, I didn’t need it. I could make do with the old one, even though all my newly downloaded songs were stuck on iTunes, and it was driving me slowly out of my mind.
When the iPod died, I browsed, shopped, read reviews, compared prices (aka, hesitated), until finally I forced myself to get in the car, drive to BestBuy, and get another one. It was the oddest feeling because even in the car, waiting at a red light with my turn signal on, I kept thinking, “I don’t really have to do this. I could just make a u-turn and go do…whatever else.” But I had the gift card from my new phone, and nothing else I needed to use it on. Altogether, between the gift card and the sale price, it only cost me $90. (Oddly enough, I wasn’t nearly so reticent about getting a new cell phone. That was a necessity; when the old one was stolen, I was in the AT&T store that night buying a replacement. I never thought twice.) It’s a new toy and I really didn’t need it to live, but I got it, I love it, it’s fun as all hell, and I still feel guilty that I bought something for myself.
This is something I’m going to have to get over. It’s okay to treat myself. I work hard, I do the best I can at the things I feel are important, and I always put family and friends first, but when the time is right, once in a while, it’s okay to do for myself too. I also deserve to stand up for myself, and when someone does something against me, I have every right to defend myself. It’s been too long that I’ll sit back and say, “Okay, let me put aside my own work and see what I can do to help you with this.” Hell, half the time I take the task right off their hands and do it for them.
I think it’s hereditary. When we were kids and money was tight, we’d get 3 steaks for dinner; Pete and my mom and I each got one, and Dad got the bones to gnaw on. Until he bought the Mercedes (which is since gone), I don’t remember anything he ever did for purely himself, because he wanted to. Yes, he had more tools than a NASCAR intern, but he used those either on the house, on our cars, or on someone else’s car as a side job. Knowing what I now know about how it feels to deny yourself all the time, I can’t imagine how he stayed sane all those years. I know he was working toward the future, putting away for our needs, taking care of his family. Now that he’s retired, I’m deliriously happy to see him doing for himself, but it was a risky proposition, planning on a future that no one knows will actually come about.
The lesson learned here is this: Do for yourself. You count, too.