An enthusiastic teeny-bopper still dwells in a substantial corner of my heart. She used to tight-roll her jeans, wear scrunchies in her hair, create dance routines to Paula Abdul, and hang New Kids on the Block posters in her bedroom. Certain things still coax her out of hiding on a frequent basis—things like top 40 pop music, new clothes, emojis and Bitmojis, and of course, having two daughters.
My girls are ages ten and seven right now. They deal out sass, attitude, and eye-rolls like a deck of cards. They like skinny jeans and Converse sneakers. They make music requests when I’m driving them around, which means we mostly listen to Megan Trainor, Zara Larsson, and Rihanna. We blast beats with the windows down. My oldest daughter checks herself out in the rearview mirror. They think they keep me cool and relevant, but they don’t know I’ve been saying girlish phrases like “OMG” long before they knew how to talk.
One of their favorite girly-dates is going to Starbucks and Target with me. Clearly, I’m succeeding in some aspects of life. When we walk into Target, there are a lot of OMGs flying around. Each aisle yields a new exclamation.
Target is an icon of marketing genius. I know this because every time I go there for dogfood, I walk out with new throw pillows and an area rug. My husband wants to burn my Red Card. I don’t really know what happens to me when I walk into the store. The word “budget” suddenly vacates my consciousness. It’s like I become an easily seduced teeny-bopper all over again, the world so fresh and immediate, full of instant delight, rosy hues, and sparkles. In a sense, I become just like my daughters, whose desires are as tangible and touchable as the vivid arrays of color-coated nail polish aligned neatly on the shelf.
Unfortunately, since I have to pass for a responsible adult, and since I recently quit my big-time nursing job to further pursue a writing career (LOL, Seriously), I had to pull back the reigns on my ridiculous Target habit. So, channeling my most prudent grown-up vibes, I decided to give up Target for Lent.
When I told my suburban girlfriends that I’d banned Target for 40ish days, they gasped, OMG! Their responses were so dramatic; you’d have thought I’d given up my five o’clock glass of wine. But, I was feeling really convicted about my spending habits, so I vowed to abstain from the Red Bullseye, and if I had to visit the store, I would only purchase Ziploc bags and toothpaste. (Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.)
Overall, I have done really well. I slipped up one time and bought new candles, but otherwise, it was all dogfood and Advil. My biggest moment of temptation happened the other week, however, when I went to purchase something boring and stumbled upon this gorgeous home display instead—a bounty of bright tribal prints and woven bohemian textures. It was my love language arranged perfectly under fluorescent lights.
To satiate my lust, I took a photo of the coveted items and reminded myself of a wise little poem, which I’ve held close to my heart this past month. It’s called “Shopping” by Faith Shearin:
My husband and I stood together in the new mall
which was clean and white and full of possibility.
We were poor so we liked to walk through the stores
since this was like walking through our dreams.
In one we admired coffee makers, blue pottery
bowls, toaster ovens as big as televisions. In another,
we eased into a leather couch and imagined
cocktails in a room overlooking the sea. When we
sniffed scented candles we saw our future faces,
softly lit, over a dinner of pasta and wine. When
we touched thick bathrobes we saw midnight
swims and bathtubs so vast they might be
mistaken for lakes. My husband’s glasses hurt
his face and his shoes were full of holes.
There was a space in our living room where
a couch should have been. We longed for
fancy shower curtains, flannel sheets,
shiny silverware, expensive coats.
Sometimes, at night, we sat up and made lists.
We pressed our heads together and wrote
our wants all over torn notebook pages.
Nearly everyone we loved was alive and we
were in love but we liked wanting. Nothing
was ever as nice when we brought it home.
The objects in stores looked best in stores.
The stores were possible futures and, young
and poor, we went shopping. It was nice
then: we didn’t know we already had everything.
This season of retail-abstinence has provoked quite a few thoughts in my teeny-bopper brain. Lent is all about pulling back, slowing down, digging deeper into our immediate urges and riding their evocative tide back to the Source of all desire—Jesus Christ. As I’ve plunged into the core of my own cravings, I’ve considered how much I like wanting, but not necessarily having. I fear that the things I’ve strived so ardently for are things I already possess. OMG—it’s like a tragic comedy.
I’m remembering that the Kingdom of God is here, it is now, and it’s already mysteriously present in my own heart.
It’s hidden in plain sight, amidst the empty spaces of my inner life where a couch should be, amidst cluttered cabinets where forgotten items continue to gather dust. What might I find if I dig in there? Perhaps these places aren’t as white and shiny as the Target aisles, but when I think of how nuanced and complex and full of poetic potential they are, it makes my inner teeny-bopper loudly cheer, OMG! Everything I’ve been searching for I’ve had the whole time!
Elizabeth (Libby) Kurz holds a BS in Nursing and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in The Poet’s Billow and Relief Journal. After years of moving cross-country with the US Air Force, she now resides on the coast of Virginia with her family. When she’s not reading, writing, and keeping tabs on her three kids, she works as a registered nurse in the cardiac operating room. She is a self-proclaimed coffee snob, wino, and beach bum, who appreciates finding meaning in the ordinary moments of life. She occasionally writes at www.libbykurz.com.