Years of poverty had led to a queer result for Amy.

You see, in college Amy hadn't had enough money for the basics, let alone for any frivolous shopping. Every penny was saved and put towards things like rent and just enough groceries to get buy. Those years had been hard for Amy but she'd gotten through them. Those were her lean years as she liked to think of them.

But the lean years were finally over and each year was getting progressively fatter. Work was going well. She had started lower on the totem pole but had steadily risen up it. Amy may not have been at her goal, but she was in a place where things were comfortable. She made all of her payments on time, didn't have to carefully calculate the cost of each item at the grocery store (or even worse--chose between items when she realized that she didn't have enough money to cover the food), and had started a tidy little nest egg.  Even with all that planning and budgeting, Amy had a little cash left over to be spent however she wanted.

Today, Amy was going shopping.

She walked into one of her favorite stores and made a beeline for the sale racks. Old habits died hard so while she was no longer only able to afford sale items, she still preferred to do the bulk of her shopping there.

After carefully selecting a few items, Amy headed to the dressing room.

That's when it started. As she tried on each item, Amy began to feel progressively more nauseous. She fought the urge to return all the clothes to the racks and run from the store. Instead, she took a few deep breaths and kept going.

 The nausea began to abate after two more tops.

Then came the guilt.

It crashed into her, almost knocking her to the ground. Amy quickly sat down on the little chair in her dressing room and put her head between her knees. What was she thinking? She couldn't afford any of this. How could she seriously consider buying clothes? Didn't she know how big that car payment was? Had she thought about rent?

Amy pushed back on the thoughts. Yes she could afford this. Yes she could seriously consider it--she needed spring appropriate work clothes. She did know how big that car payment was and she had thought about rent. Amy knew exactly how much she could spend without impacting her negatively. She wouldn't go over that number by a single penny.

But still the guilt persisted. It shifted, but it persisted. She was so irresponsible. How could she ever expect to accomplish anything if she couldn't say no to a shirt? Stupid. That's really what Amy was: stupid and weak.

She wasn't though. Amy wasn't any of those things. And she knew that. So she marshaled her strength and pushed back. Soon, those demons faded too.

Exhausted, Amy rose from the chair and began sorting through the clothes she had liked in an attempt to narrow her purchases down and bring herself within budget. As she went, she found herself putting more and more items into the "no" pile, not because she didn't want to them but because she was simply too tired. She didn't really need another shirt, did she? Was that skirt really worth all that effort?

Finally Amy was left with one item: a clearance top that would cost her a whopping $8. Holding the top in one arm, she gathered the rejects in her other arm and returned them to the kind sales associate in charge of the dressing rooms. Amy drifted listlessly towards the register.

Today would go like every other shopping trip: it started with high hopes and ended with exhaustion and disappointment. Sure she had found the things she had set out to find in exactly the right fit but still she put them back, like she always did. Most days, the non-monetary expense of shopping was too high for her to bear so she left with minimal.

Some day, Amy would break this cycle. Some day, every purchase from new deodorant to a new dress wouldn't bring with it such a mental battle. Today wasn't that day. But it was still a victory; she'd bought an item that she didn't strictly need. And for Amy, that was huge.

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