Recognizing our Patterns

Whether we realize it or not, our lives are full of patterns of activity and behavior. Some good. Some not so good. They become ingrained, to the point we do not even realize they are there.

On Friday nights for many years growing up, my family would go to the mall. My mom and dad would give me and my brother some money so we could eat dinner while they went to the restaurant there to enjoy an hour or so without kids. Every Friday, my brother and I would argue over whether we should go to Chick-Fil-A or the Orange Bowl. Most of the time I would win because I was six years older than him. Afterwards, he and I would browse the stores, looking at whatever caught our eye. There would be a designated time to meet back up with mom and dad, usually at the fountain at one end or the other. We would proceed to share what we saw, what we wanted, and do our best to convince them to buy us something. Sometimes we would get something; sometimes not. But the pattern was there. We wanted something new every single week.

The chains

As we got older and the Friday nights became fewer, Saturday shopping caught on. The girls didn’t want the guys around so much anymore anyway so mom and I would, almost without fail, pile into the car on Saturday morning, head for a mall, and usually not get home until nearly dinner time. I recall spending many an hour sitting outside dressing rooms while my mom tried on clothes. Most times, I would come away with a trinket of some sort to signify a successful day.

of patterns

Once I was in college and working a job at the same time, the shopping fell temporarily by the wayside. There just wasn’t room in the schedule. And I did not enjoy it so much alone. That was only a couple of years though, and then I got married. I was finished with school, had a nice job, and could do anything I wanted to do. What did I do? I shopped.

are too weak

On, Sundays, the newspaper came. You know, the thick newspaper full of brightly colored advertisements. Our mornings were spent culling through all the ads, setting aside the ones with potential. After lunch, we headed out, itinerary in hand. We did this every single weekend, because we thought it was fun and we needed more stuff.

to be felt

It has been only recently that I realized how the pattern from my childhood carried into my marriage. While we were having plenty of fun in the midst of it, I regret squandering away those early years of our marriage engaged in mindless consumerism.

until they are

Even as the years went by we sold our homes for the equity to pay of credit cards to get out of the consumer rut. We sought home equity loans for the house we were in. We consolidated our debt. We very much saw where we were headed, but we always thought the bandage would be enough. It did not come to an end until we were completely and without a doubt, out of money and sources for credit.

too strong

We were told more than once to consider bankruptcy, but we did not think it was fair to be so careless with our finances and then absolve ourselves of the responsibility. We did learn how to entertain ourselves for either little or no money. Looking for free stuff to do was sort of like culling through the Sunday ads. But even in all of this, it did not occur to me to want anything different. I thought I should be able to continue to buy stuff. I did learn to do without, but I still very much wanted. It did not occur to me that there was another choice. Desiring stuff, more stuff, different stuff, newer stuff; It is all I had ever known.

to be broken.*

A year or so ago I came across The Minimalists, and about the same time the tiny house movement. We had considered the option of walking away from everything a couple of times over the years, but it was more of a fleeting, fantasy thought. People didn’t really do that, did they? And now, here I was, reading about it, as though it were an acceptable thing to do. Radical. And extremely refreshing.

Be aware

I am fairly certain that had the money kept flowing, the shopping would have continued without pause. I don’t even like shopping anymore. The forced break in the pattern is one I am thankful for. It helped me to step back, to rethink, and to be open to new possibilities.

of your

While I am far from a minimalist, I have learned, without a doubt, that the stuff never made me happy and is never going to make me happy. I am enjoying going the other direction, slowly. Each week, the things that have accumulated over the years are going away. This past weekend it was ties and jewelry. Letting go is so much more fun and freeing.


Stop. Breathe. Consider what you are doing right now. Is it what you want to be doing? What do you want to do? What is holding you back? Be brave. Break. The. Pattern.

*Quote is almost from Samuel Johnson. I substituted “patterns” where he used the word “habits”

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