It’s funny how cravings can get you in trouble!
I recently talked with a male friend who called to check on how I’d been doing lately. After chatting about generalities, our conversation drifted to a topic that has been our insatiable craving. For years, we have been drooling over becoming the first to buy and boast about our new 750 IL BMW. His color, naturally, is blue; my dream color is a “hot” cranberry red.
A pinky-promise sealed the deal between us and, over the years, we worked mightily to out-maneuver the other to acquire the car. Needless to say, the friendly competition turned fiercely heated. I was determined not to let my friend beat me to purchasing this prized possession. And, of course, my friend had the same amount of competitive spirit!
He won the bet.
Not so long ago, I took my dad on a sightseeing trip to look at some elegant homes in an exclusive community, wanting him to view some houses where the “rich and famous” resided, as I had a craving to upgrade from a paid-off home to another one that announced I was on the upper echelon of power, prominence and prestige.
Dad’s opinion was that my mortgage-free house was equally impressive, stately, and just as charming as these status homes—if not better.
Dad suggested I’d lost my freaking mind to be tempted to buy a 5,000-square-foot home for only three people, which would soon drop to two when my daughter graduates from high school. He also wanted to know what was wrong with the 3,200-square-foot home that I own, as he knew plenty of folks who’d die to live there—including him. He could not justify paying a million dollars for an extra 1,800 square feet of living space.
Finally, Dad reminded me that as I aged, I’d regret trying to climb those Gone With the Wind stairs and would curse cleaning those unused rooms. He further added that being in a gated community would require me to pay escalating fees and assessments even after satisfying the mortgage. Pouring salt into an open wound, he ended our tour with deadpan sarcasm, asking, “Have you priced prescriptions lately?”
My dad’s editorialization pissed me off and severely punctured a hole into the imagery of me cascading down my Scarlett O’Hara stairway! Honestly, Dad struck a damn nerve by dousing hoo-doo on my Martha Stewart castle. Evilly, I thought he was housing a pinch of jealousy as his seed had skyrocketed into the financial stratosphere while he had wallowed.
However, upon contemplation, thoughts of father-daughter jealousies soon waned. Examining my life, I realized that I’ve made dozens of ridiculous decisions when I indulged cravings for material acquisitions. Instead of operating rationally, I allowed my oppressed feelings of unworthiness to take control.
I’d always been in motion, buying an inanimate object, a shiny new toy or getting the latest “must have now” contraption. My cravings reached their zenith when I compared myself to my contemporaries. I’d felt justified to intensify my habit of acquiring, buying and collecting to satisfy that elusive itch.
Have you seen my closets? How many shoes, purses, blouses, scarves, hats, coats, sweaters, pants, T-shirts, socks, jewelry and other fashion faux pas do I really need?
My friend was rendered speechless by my lackadaisical attitude and cool reception to his newly purchased (financed) BMW. I regret that he was not on the receiving end of my dad’s profound statement that helped cure my need for greed.
Dad said that, at some point in our lives, we must learn to be content. If not, we would constantly be chasing something or someone to fill the void. For example, Dad said, once I’d purchased that million-dollar house, it was doubtful that I’d feel satisfied. He suspected (accurately) that I would always be in a state of flux, yearning for another expensive house a tad more prestigious than the last.
Fortunately, Dad’s insightful wisdom permeated my soul; he’d mentioned that he didn’t think updating the house was really the driving force. Instead of giving me his suppositions, Dad challenged me to dig internally to ascertain why I had an insatiable appetite to needlessly accumulate, toss and replace.
Though I had mixed emotions accepting advice from a recovering alcoholic, after his lecture I began picturing Dad having an identical gut-wrenching dialogue with his inebriated self decades ago. This is purely speculation on my part, but I imagine that was the day when he finally awoke from his cravings and declared that enough was enough.
I also suspect that was why he could so impassionedly relate to and succinctly address my “disease.” He had firsthand experience of how often we use external means, such as chemicals or trinkets, to medicate our traumas. Dad used alcohol. I used things. According to him, “one drink was too many and all that I could drink was never enough!”
Hence, I am radically transformed. My pursuit to buy, buy, buy is now gone—over—finished! Hallelujah … you won’t find me in stores losing my dime, losing my mind or losing my time. Gosh, folks, how can I express to you how liberating it is to know that, with a sprinkle of wisdom from Dad, I was rescued from demons enticing me to indulge my cravings to fill my emptiness?
So, instead of craving for that $100,000 impractical dream car, I bought a practical $30,000 dream van with cash, thus avoiding finance charges.
And it’s a (hot) cranberry red!
It took years, but now I can claim VICTORY. Today, I have a sense of fulfillment and a degree of serenity because I no longer have the desire to replenish my cravings. And I am so much happier practicing and applying a life of simplicity.
Withdrawing from my cravings has allowed me to recalibrate my scale and to make room for what I truly needed … more fatherly advice!
Giggetts is president and CEO of Giggetts & Associates, a management consulting company.