Good gracious, my apologies, it's been a while hasn't it! Among other things, since I last wrote we've had to have our dear little 16-year-old cat put to sleep and I've had my kitchen taken over by a giant mutant eel. Not even kidding - in fact the eel story probably deserves its own blog! But all in good time. On the positive side at least the eel episode got me out of the rock I was hiding under. You know, the one I was under a few months ago? Yes, I'm afraid I've been hibernating under it again. But this time I haven't just been languishing and feeling sorry for myself, no sirree! I've been on a journey - a journey of self discovery if you like (which is about the only journey you CAN go on from under a rock, let's be honest) - and although it's been incredibly hard, it's been more valuable than I could have ever imagined. Hooray! The hard part is, where to begin?
Let's start with an interview I did recently for the Sunday Star Times. One of the many fun and interesting questions I was asked was what my thoughts were on the connection between money and happiness. Ironically had I not so newly emerged from under my rock I may have given a completely different answer! However I feel the answer I gave was the right one, at least for me. I would like to say that I have never believed that money and happiness are connected, however surely that would be a lie. After all, years ago when I was a Sad Sally, I must have felt that they were because I often saw spending money as a way to feel better. If I was having a good day, I would go shopping to make it even better. If I was having a bad day I would go shopping to make it less awful. If I was having a fat day, a thin day or a bad hair day, I would go shopping to give myself a lift. Obviously I stopped believing that years ago when Simple Savings became part of my life and I can honestly say that even though I own less now and have less in the bank than I've ever had, I am absolutely content with what I have. The only way that I feel that money and happiness are truly connected is if you use the wealth that you have to help other people. That brings a huge buzz of happiness. I'll get to that.
But if there is one thing I know for certain about happiness is that it MUST come from within. You absolutely cannot rely on anyone or anything else to make you happy. How do I know? Because that's what put me under that rock. For a long time I've been relying on someone else to make me happy. Of course I've known it; just didn't want to admit it! But I knew it alright and so did he - yes, 'twas someone of the male species. Which was wonderful while it lasted - except he didn't want me to rely on him to be happy. For starters it's not fair to put that kind of burden on someone else! But he wanted me to learn how to be happy for myself, so he pushed me away. At first I hated him for it, he broke my heart! More than once. But I'm also extremely grateful to him because at the end of the day all he wanted for me was to reach the potential he saw in me and be the best I could be. I haven't reached that potential yet - hey, it's only been a few weeks! But I will. And when I do I know there will be nobody prouder than him. But it's been one hell of a journey towards healing my heart and learning to create my own happiness.
At first I wasn't sure HOW to be happy. For starters I was incredibly lonely, I didn't fit anywhere! I'm not a kindy mum, a soccer mum, a retiree, an avid church-goer - any of the little groups which make up much of our town's population. I've never been a 'popper-inner' either - you know, someone who just 'pops in' for a chat or a cup of tea. I'm the kind of person who never likes to disturb anyone, I've always figured everyone else is too busy to be disturbed, just like me. I've always loved walking on the beach and would do so for hours every day but even that lost its appeal. Still, sitting around moping is no good for anyone so I installed a pedometer app on my phone to make sure I did at least 10,000 steps every day. It became important to me - even if I achieved nothing else I had walked 10,000 steps and it had made me get out of the house. It's a good habit to get into and apart from being good for both body and soul it costs nothing and you can pretty much guarantee you'll see something wonderful every day to lift your spirits.
And there was ONE group I was part of - a Facebook group. Two actually! One was our town's Buy, Sell and Swap group. It's a buzzing little group of buyers and sellers all keen to save or make a little extra money. Over the past few months I've watched it grow and I love how even though most of us don't personally know each other, everyone is always so keen to help each other out and their names and faces soon became familiar. The other was a spin-off of that group called Pay it Forward. This group was similar but the rules were that everything had to be free. It was amazing how kind people were and how willing they were to give some really good items away and soon I found myself doing the same. Then one day a woman - one of the regulars - posted with the idea of having a weekend cook-up. She encouraged everyone to post whatever they would be willing to cook or bake on the page that weekend and those items would be collected and then distributed to struggling families in the area. I thought it was such a wonderful, selfless idea and watched, smiling as the list of names grew. And as they did, one other woman pointed out 'isn't it ironic, that the people who give the most so often have the least to give?' That really struck a chord with me - and she was absolutely right.
I think we all go through times when we feel like hiding under a rock! But the world keeps turning and life has a habit of going on, no matter how hard we try to avoid it. And all the while I was hibernating, the sun continued to shine, the rain continued to fall and my garden, which had been so beautifully tended all summer but was now being neglected, continued to grow. I kept trying to ignore it; I didn't want to look out of the window and see all the work that needed doing but one day I forced myself to go out and pick whatever needed picking. I took a big bowl but soon filled it up and had to keep coming back inside to grab another and another. Apples were all over the ground, the old bed frames heaved under the weight of scarlet runner beans and I had never seen so many tomatoes in my life. In addition there were olives, feijoas, tamarillos, cabbages, caulflower, silverbeet - I looked around my garden and couldn't believe how rich and abundant I was. All this food - this staggering amount of food was FREE. One thing was for sure, there was no way the boys and I alone could eat it all - and we didn't need it all. So I did the only thing I could do - post plenty of bragging photos on Facebook. I'm kidding! Well kind of - I did post a couple - I was proud after all! Particularly of my giant tomato which bore an uncanny resemblance to Animal from The Muppet Show. But I also put out a call for help. I posted on my own Facebook page, as well as the Buy and Sell and the Pay it Forward pages and asked for people to help by please taking some of our mass of produce off our hands.
Just a small sample of my wares!
Immediately the responses began appearing and I had to start writing a list of who wanted what. This was great! I was so happy that all this food wasn't going to go to waste after all. The next afternoon I bagged everything up and set about delivering them around town. I dropped some off to the new bride who had no fresh fruit or vegetables and was waiting impatiently for her own garden to grow. I dropped some off to a lady who lives alone in a unit and loves nothing more than cooking and baking for her grandchildren when they come to visit. I dropped some off to the young couple who work in Bunnings and are saving all their pennies for travelling. I popped some around to some neighbours I had never met and I dropped a big lot off to a wonderful lady who knew of a family in desperate need and was going to take them round to them herself. This was a lady I had seen around a lot and I always thought she looked like a lovely, warm person but had never really spoken to her much. As it turned out we got on like a house on fire and by the time I left her home she had invited me to join the local singing group and volunteer every Friday at the community garden!
More deliveries followed and everyone was so genuinely grateful it was quite humbling but most of all my little afternoon adventure made me so, so happy and had cost me the grand total of $4 for two packets of freezer bags. These days I have no hesitation in posting anything I have to give and as for the community garden, you have to see it to believe it. It is beautiful!
My tale hasn't finished yet - I still have more to share and I can't wait to tell you, I'm so excited! And none of it would have happened if I hadn't taken a deep breath, pulled on my Bridget Jones knickers like a big girl and gone out there and picked those vegies. I promise to tell you just as soon as I can. I guess what I'm trying to say is, happiness really does come from the simplest things. And it's something that we all have within us. I still believe that happiness does indeed have to come from within yourself. But it's OK to go out and find it too :-)