Yesterday, in the middle of a weekday, I uncharacteristically rewarded myself.

No, not a drink. Not a drive to the beach. No chocolate. No bling. Not the mall.

Nope, none of those.

All I need is half an hour in TJ Maxx and I have a big enough dose of deliciousness to last for some time.

Funny thing is, I am not a shopper. At all. But there is something about that time that feeds me. It just makes me happy. (For those of you who don’t live in the U.S. or don’t have a TJ near you or shun everything from the outside world, TJ Maxx is a store you can read about here.)

What I realized yesterday, as I did a quick I-have-no-time-but-I-deserve-a-reward visit, is that I have gained a lot from these forays into Retail Land. Obviously the physical gains are visibly apparent, from jeans to purses to home accessories to the flower ring I bought a couple months ago while my visiting friend Laura Scholz sat in a manicure chair next door.

But beyond the physical and tangible, I have learned lots in that store about myself and about how life works. May sound weird, but it’s the truth.

1) So, really, that is my first lesson from TJ Maxx: My thing may not be your thing and your thing may not be my thing. What works for me, what nourishes me, what fuels me may sound weird or bizarre or totally “off” to someone else. Conversely, your “happy place” may be foreign or unknown or even appalling to me. That is totally OK. Just don’t try to make me into you and I promise I will never try to make you into me.

2) Which leads me to my second lesson: You cannot will change in something — or someone — else. If it isn’t perfect in the dressing room, it will never be perfect. You know how this one goes: You try it on in the dressing room. You so badly want it to be perfect. The price is great. It’s “your” color. It was exactly what you thought you were looking for. But, well, it doesn’t look great. You tug on it, adjust it, rationalize it, try to figure out when you can get it taken in/let out/shortened/lengthened.

You haven’t bought it and you are already trying to make it into something else. It is pretty darn clear in showing you “Hey, Buyer, this is who I am. There’s not much you can do to change my guts” but maybe you do not want to hear. (Sound familiar?)

2a) Sub-lesson: Pink is not nor will it ever be my color. Ditto for yellow.

3) Yes, you will know it when it is right.
Ground Zero of my Happy Place is a the back of my TJ Maxx. Small, seemingly inconsequential things like picture frames and vases and notepads and what my grandmother would have called “tchotchkes,” live back there and, once in a while, one will take my breath awae. Something for $4.99 or $7.99 that elicits a response in me that is, well, priceless. I know I am to buy it, even if I wasn’t looking for it specifically and even if, in that one moment, I have no idea where I will put it or where in my home it will end up. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I will be able to look at it and enjoy it and feel that emotion every day.

4) Nothing beats a great deal – but price alone does not a great deal make. The prices at this place are sick. Sick as in, I cannot believe some of these things are so freakin cheap! And sure, I love a good deal. But cheap or inexpensive or even a good deal does not mean it is a must-buy. I cannot tell you how many things I have bought for no other reason than “This is on sale” or “This is an amazing price.” I didn’t need them. I didn’t even want them. I definitely didn’t have a place for them and they certainly didn’t strike that emotional chord in me….but I had to have that deal, right? And guess what? Those are always the purchases that end up in the charity pile sooner rather than later.

5) Stupid rules are….well, stupid. That whole “six items in the dressing room maximum” thing is just ridiculous. I mean, what happens when I bring seven items? Is it proven that shoplifters always take the 7th item but never the 6th? If I really, really was planning to steal, would a maximum even matter to me? I would find a way. And for those of us who are not stealing and who are open to making a big purchase, having to go in and out of the dressing room to swap items to stay at six is a huge pain. More often than not, I will just go with my Top 6 and forget the rest, thus lessening my total bill in the store. So, the store is actually losing money off of a non-shoplifting customer, likely more money than whatever the potential value of stolen stuff may be. Put that in your pipe and smoke it TJ Maxx!

6) People, people, people. Sometimes the cashier or the lady guarding the dressing room are super-nice and sweet. Sometimes it is obvious they are having a terrible day and they hate their jobs. Sometimes, the ladies with the overloaded wagons hogging the aisles and not remotely caring that they aren’t the only people in the place annoy the crap out of me. Like an “excuse me” or a “thank you” would kill them?! But…like anyone anywhere, they are human. I do know that a smile or a nice word or a little extra anything goes a long way, at least with me. I am not telling people to be more friendly, I am just remarking that when they are (and when I am), everyone seems to feel a little better. And I mean that profoundly, not in a fairy tale kind of way.

7) Speaking of profound, I have learned that I am able to (actually, I must) have the most profound yet unsubstantial experiences all by myself. Part of the deliciousness for me in the TJ Maxx experience is that I am all alone in it. For me, being alone gives me a certain kind of freedom and peace that I crave. It is that simple.

8 )  Nothing stays the same.
And finally, those of you who have experienced TJ Maxx (or its cousins Marshalls or Ross) firsthand know that you never have the same place or the same experience twice. Without exception, a new day in one of these places means new circumstances and new inventory. Yesterday, there may have been nothing that fit or looked halfway decent. Today, it may seem as if everything looks great and fits perfectly. Such is the nature of the beast. Like life, assumptions don’t serve you. To get the real scoop and to have the true experience, you will have to check it out again and again.