stepping back

Living within my means has always been a challenge to me.  I veer from extreme parsimony to the kind of shopping extravaganzas that would make Madame Bovary shiver with fear.  Fortunately the fear of penury means that on the shopping front at least my sensible head does have the edge enough of the time to ensure food on the table and perfume on the wrists.

However, it cannot have escaped anyone other than perhaps a smattering of non doms, the odd hedge fund manager and the board of RBS, that we are experiencing straightened circumstances and purses must be superglued shut if we are to avoid financial disaster.  Although Runner One has posited the theory that we should all shop furiously in order to pull the country out of recession.  Her theory collapsed at the source of the required finance to achieve this.

I have to confess to being a little peeved to discover that the habits and tricks learned from my mother are now being written up in glossy bestsellers and sold for a tidy sum.   On the other hand I can now point out to the Runners and Dancer that it is extremely cool and trendy to get four meals for five out of a lamb roast (roast, sticky lamb stir fry, stovies and soup, if you want the recipes I accept paypal 🙂 ).  Furthermore they should be jolly grateful I didn’t cut the toes out of their school shoes when they got too small and make them wear them as sandals (as my mother did to me, I have yet to find anyone else whose play sandals were start rite crepe soled shoes with a hole cut in them).

I have been thinking long and hard about Lent, what to give up or take up.  I don’t drink anymore and am on a diet so giving up the standard chocolate or booze is no good.  I am currently reading several books at once about the desert hermits and think that is probably enough food for the soul at present.  Last year we only bought essentials and lived off the contents of the freezer and pantry with the unspent housekeeping going to charity.  All very pious  but even I will agree the latter meals were a little tiresome and there was some sneaky off list purchasing (made on a Sunday to assuage the guilt – we are so pathetic).  I had considered meat only on Sundays, that would be fine for the runners, dancer and me but would turn the boss into a raving lunatic.  Lack of challenge for us and thought of meatless boss both kiboshed that plan too.

Like Archimedes, the Eureka moment hit at a most unexpected time.  I have a morning ritual involving porridge, gratitude journal, morning pages (read Julia Cameron I heartily recommend her),  Simple Abundance (Sarah Ban Breathnach – excellent day book) and New Daylight.  A theme began to emerge.  Stand back from the material world and learn to distinguish between your needs and your wants.  Ha! I thought.  I can do that, I know the difference.  Ha! I thought again indeed you do but do you act on the difference .  Hang head in shame – frequently not.

Sarah BB suggests you stand back completely, don’t read newspapers or magazines, don’t watch or listen to the news (no Radio 4??).  For only then will you force yourself to look at yourself in a clear light and see what you can live without and what both spiritually and materially  you cannot.  Then you are in a position to develop the understanding and patience to wait gracefully for what you want.

I want a lot, far more than I need.  That is not necessarily wrong, wants are very important, they are the drivers for invention, passion and creativity.  But put diesel in a petrol car or vice versa and the whole engine dies a messy and expensive death.  Fuel your life with the wrong wants and you’ll need more than the AA to get you back on the road.

So I shall stand back.  I’m not sure if I will manage without  radio 4 completely, but perhaps the Today programme will have to go.  The papers will be hard but not impossible.  Not shopping for anything other than groceries and essentials for house and home will be very hard, very very hard indeed.  I hope come Easter Sunday I will have found grace and patience and not a burning desire to hit the Metro Centre!


7 responses to “stepping back

  1. your sister in law

    After calling you to scold you for posting this when I was in Monsoon, thanks to Blackberry technology, where I was investigating a previous email ‘15% discount on all outerwear and kntwear from 11-3 today”, after picking up a pair of much wanted (needed?) calf length black riding boots, on sale for £35 from £99 at East, and taking advantage of Clinique’s ‘Get Coloured’ promotion, buying two lipsticks (red and pink – to offset the grey weather) in order to get a £25 eyeshadow trio (green!) some serious reflection on your blog was done….this added to reflection done after a lecture at uni this week, entitled “Is Postmodernism dead or alive” and after spending two hours discussing this (and coming away hoping it is indeed dead, and I will supply the shovel and JCB personally to make sure it stays buried) and

  2. your sister in law

    and (hopefully) turning to an age of authenticism, where we look more at values and ethos i.e. the local food movement. Yes, I love my clothes, make-up and shoes…but as much as the wardrobe doors struggle to close, I do value and relish the more simple things such as family, good friends, a good book, and more and more, my beloved Public Health degree, which I’m sorry, I would give up shoes for academia if pushed (oh please no)to choose. So, as agreed, I am with you on the Lent front. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, dont do drugs (do caffeine and paracetamol count? I am a student after all), so aside from shameless retail indulgence, fuelled every 28 days by a whacking dose of oestrogen, there is really nothing else to give up. Yes, it will be a test of character, but also a good opportunity for reflection and allow me to focus on completing my dissertation, which has become an all encompassing passion, and I expect it to fully compete with the retail front, and I am contemplating going for a full PhD as opposed to a Masters…….so give up the retail for Lent, yes count me in, I love a challenge, but can we discuss being a glamourous academic in the future? Can I give critically appraised, evidence based presentations teetering in stilettos?

  3. You made me laugh out loud with the sandals! I shall quote that example to my children the next time they think my thriftiness has gone too far.

  4. Rebecca – I hope it works mine just laugh. I’m sure they think I am making it up. I will have to find a photograph.
    Yitka – excellent, yes and yes 🙂

  5. Perhaps these rough times will teach some of us to shift our values from Gucci to Good Food and Good Friends. As someone who’s committed to local EVERYTHING, I loved this post and since I gave up TV lo these many years ago I embrace the evenings of conversation and dinners with friends and reading. As to Lent! Chocolate is easy to give up. I’d have to forego my coffee to be truly sacrificing. I’m a coffee-special grind-only one perfect cup a day kind of person.

    Lovely post, skybluepinkish. S’more please.

  6. When I was head of music in a girl’s convent school many years ago the headmistress nun used to ask the girls to do ‘something extra for folk’ for Lent. I always found that harder than giving up chocolate or crisps! I think she’d got something there!

  7. Thank you Ann and CLee. I try to make Lent a time when I do something positive. I’m looking at how to make doing without all but essentials, reassessing how much I am blessed with both spiritually and materially. Being more mindful and grateful. I’ll let you know how I get on!

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