Thrift Shop Salvation
For many years now I’ve been poor. Poor in the ways of the world. Poor by American standards. At first it was almost impossible to make peace with the idea of not having much money. It crushed my identity and caused me to feel like the lowest scrap of a failure. The change in how I perceived myself took a long time and a whole new attitude to finally discover that I had been provided for all along in ways that I didn’t recognize.
Yesterday I wore my $4.00 turquoise leather pants from the Wisteria Thrift Shop. Though they seem to be a little ‘out there’ I loved them when I saw them and couldn’t resist taking them home where they’ve sat in the closet for months, just waiting for the right occasion. My friend Marie Cartier’s party celebrating her doctoral degree and the approval of her thesis on older lesbians of a bygone era was the right occasion and I got so many compliments that I wore them to church the next day.
When my income dropped, I felt paralyzed, ashamed. Without money, it seemed that I had lost my identity. I spent years ashamed of my fall in life, satisfying the urge to buy something ‘new’ and feel a slight degree of empowerment through the grace of thrift shops. At first I was embarrassed to be seen there. Now that I see things differently, I feel so grateful for all of the many places, people, and ways of adaptive living that I never knew about. My graduate school professor referred to it as the underground economy. What a blessing it is! And there are so many people who participate by giving their clothes, their time, their smiles, and the bounty of their lives.
When I had money and the illusion of the personal power that it brings, I didn’t realize the extent of the supportive web in which we live. Now, I almost wouldn’t trade this new way of living for all the clothes in Nordstrom’s.
Life at the so-called ‘bottom’ is so different than we can imagine.