If you asked me what some of my rituals are, I’d probably not mention TJ Maxx. I might say that I walk the dog around a certain block every night or that I always have whole wheat toast with peanut butter and apples every morning. But I don’t think I’d tell you that there is a particular peace that settles over me the instant I walk into the discount retailer I became all too familiar with during my midwestern youth.

It’s only been recently that I discovered shopping was not the central recreational outlet of most children.

But for me and my mom, shopping — particularly shopping at TJ Maxx, and sure, sometimes its nearby competitor Marshalls — was beyond a hobby and more of a, dare I say, meditative escape? Yes, there’s the thrill of the hunt and all that, but more often than not, we wouldn’t end up buying anything.

No, I think I’ve figured out that what brought us there and the thing that brings me back even today — today when I have become all but completely uninterested in shopping at all anywhere period — is that particular haze of subconscious, that meditative state I slip into as I’m flipping through the hangers on the clearance rack, trying to find my size but really letting my mind wander over much more important things like, “What’s our life going to be like when Nate is in school?” “Should I approach that author about working for them?”  even ‘Do I have ricotta cheese so I can make lasagne this weekend?” Somehow, amidst the flourescent lighting and lite rock, the discount shoes and the clearance rack of coats, my mind untangles a bit.

Strange? Perhaps. And don’t think I haven’t thought about what this says about me and conspicuous consumption and our consumer culture and my part in it. I think about it all the time. But this habit, learned young, is proving tough to break. Is this something particular to being a girl in rust belt Ohio growing up in the late 80s? I’m not sure. All I know is every once in a while, I go in, I walk through, have a good think, and walk out. Feeling slightly ashamed, but better somehow too.

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