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!