The first time I noticed a curious pattern in my behavior, wanting one more thing, I was in my early twenties picking up a coat on layaway. It took a while to save enough money, but finally, the coat was mine. Walking out the door, I notice this out-of-the-world cute yellow summer dress. I could put it on layaway. It would make it a better story if I could say that I heard my mother’s voice of wisdom, or had a vision of Jesus, reminding me to focus on others, but no. It was the ego calling. It will look great on you. People will really notice. Even better, it looks expensive.
When my daughters were teenagers, I tried to pass on this lesson. “Naomi, if you buy that jacket, you open the door to wanting the next thing and the one after that.” My daughters were not the least impressed with my wisdom; instead followed their mother’s footsteps minus the layaway part. I reasoned with another daughter that she should think of that dress she wanted for the prom (that showed too much skin) as the gatekeeper to keep other wants (and boys) in check. “Your blue dress (that left more to the imagination) is plenty cute enough.” No luck with her either. At that moment, her only goal was to transfer my credit card from my purse to hers.
This urge to buy comes not from the seat of our soul, but the ego’s desire that it’s the next thing that will fulfill us. Twenty years ago, Gary Zukav wrote, The Seat of the Soul. To find our ultimate contentment is to ignore the ego and think from the heart. Why buy a Gucci handbag if not to show off that I can afford it? Billionaires have to step up their game to separate themselves from the little men or women who can “only” afford Gucci, so they buy a $120,000 Matte Crocodile Biking bag.
Our need for more is big and all-consuming. We kid ourselves when we don’t acknowledge, even to ourselves, that the Lamborghini purchase was not because of its safety rating. The car is an extension of ego. My car is more powerful and more expensive than all those puny ones around me. Look at me! My house is bigger, my jewelry collection greater, and my kids more successful. Not only is my external wealth greater, but I may also be more religious than you are, certainly more spiritual. I read and quote the Bible, and I feed the hungry on the last Friday of each month. You probably know that because I find a way to work it into conversations. For a while, my ego is sated. I feel complete. But it never lasts long before my-ego is eyeing the next thing to retain the “I’ve arrived” status.
Falling in love is the ultimate delusion. “He makes me so happy,” you tell your friends. “He’s just the kind of person I wanted.” You post the honeymoon pictures, hour-by-hour, on your Instagram. You send a mental note to God to thank her for bringing this perfect person into your life. This “I’ve made it” feeling can last a while. Then his habit of ordering for you gets irritating. It used to feel so sweet, but that phase has ended. Also, his nails are often dirty. For goodness sake, he’s an accountant. How do accountants end up with dirty nails? Was he always so self-focused and incapable of putting down the toilet seat? Maybe you got the perfect one out of layaway too soon.
You’ve moved to Florida, a paradise. Florida is just the remedy for shoveling snow and walking on ice. Your first new build. The community has a heated indoor pool, and the clay tennis courts will be so much better on your legs. There are 30 miles of trails to walk, and the intracoastal is walking distance away. I’m going to get into the best shape of my life. My old friends won’t recognize me. You love birds, sign up for a photography class and buy a camera along with a 600 zoom lens, the best money could buy. It’s just what you’ve prayed for. You sign up for jewelry making class. Okay, so the husband didn’t quite complete you, but this will make me happy, and my new girlfriends will fulfill the rest of my life.
In the first few months, you are delighted. God came through for you big time. You send her a finger kiss; us girls stick together. But there are mosquitoes in paradise.
With a new house you seem to miss out on a lot of fun waiting for warranty people to fix caulking around the bathtub, fixing the dryer hose that was blocked, and sanding the kitchen drawers that don’t close properly. After six months, you have been to the pool twice. The trail to the intracoastal is so dusty that the second time you went, you drove. The camera lens you purchased is incredibly heavy. Then you discover that the software you need to transfer your photos is incompatible with the old software, so you will to need help with it. You overdid tennis, even clay courts only go so far with 70-year-old legs, and you switch to pickleball. But after an unfortunate fall, broken wrist, you quit both. You’ve gained five pounds since you moved to Florida.
The ego is a trickster who promises contentment but delivers only brief illusionary moments. Our search for more to complete us is as likely as finding the end of the rainbow. Watch toddlers play with an empty box or cats chase a ball of yarn, neither looks for more to fulfill them. Our deep-seated mental condition to seek more is a pool of quicksand. Recognizing this need to add more of anything and how addictive it can be, means we can call the ego’s bluff. When we accept this wholly and utterly, there is peace.