I remember years ago watching in amazement at a friend who's pantry was almost completely empty except for a few sauces, herbs and condiments. She would simply decide that day what she wanted to cook her family for dinner, then go off to the supermarket and buy it, right down to any vegetables or salad that she chose to accompany it. I have to say, money wasn't really an object for their household and although I had a lot more back then, even in my completely green and cabbage-like days before SS as this was back then, I thought surely it must be an expensive way to shop. Back then my mother-in-law and I went shopping together once a week, just like she had always done and taught me to do. I got everything I needed during that trip and basically didn't leave the house again from one shopping day to the next. Still, I remember thinking it must be rather nice, simply to wake up, think 'Ooh, I fancy this for dinner tonight!' and go out and get whatever you felt like. I wonder if she still does it now?
Lately however I've found myself falling into the same pattern - quite by accident really but for different reasons. Through lack of energy, lack of focus and lack of motivation, I simply haven't been able to face doing a big shop. My organisational skills have gone out the window and cooking dinner and making lunches have become something I just want to get over with, rather than revelling in it as I was. Thank goodness my boys need feeding or with my lack of appetite I probably wouldn't bother at all! Still, if there is one thing I've learned from the past few weeks, it's that shopping every day is not good for either time OR money management. Like my friend from years ago, I've just been thinking as dinner time approaches 'Right, we can eat this tonight', jumping in the car at the last possible moment and going and getting it. Shop, cook, repeat. Shop, cook, repeat. The downside to this is that of course it costs me a huge amount time-wise. Instead of doing something else around the home, or using my time in a more productive and enjoyable way, it feels as though I pretty much live in the supermarket. So much so that then often I can't be bothered going to the supermarket and wind up at one of the smaller foodmarkets instead, paying through the nose for things which are much cheaper at the supermarket. When you're already feeling down, it's a fabulous feeling I can tell you to also be beating yourself up on the inside for knowingly neglecting one of the most basic money saving rules!
And then there's the other problem of running out of everything. All the time. You just go and buy the things you need for dinner to get home and discover you've also run out of bread for sandwiches tomorrow, or cat food, or half a dozen other essentials. Normally it wouldn't be a problem for Penny the Positive - what, no bread? I'll just make three-ingredient cheese scones from the $21 Challenge book! But that isn't an option when you open the fridge to find you've also run out of cheese and milk! I know, I'm sure you must be reading this and thinking 'What on earth is wrong with Penny? How can she let such basic things slide after all these years?' In a word, mindset my friends. I often used to wonder how many people living on the breadline could have such a dreadful lack of money saving skills. How can you be so bad with money when you don't have any to start with? Now I realise that it's very easy when you feel so blooming awful! When you have the right mindset, you are in control and can accomplish anything with the little you have, just like the mother of eight I had the pleasure to meet recently. When you don't, even the smallest things can all seem just too much.
But just when you think you're never going to get out of this self-destructive cycle, something can come along to change all that. An old school friend I'm in touch with on Facebook who coincidentally also moved to NZ broke up with his fiancee last week and understandably was heartbroken but today I was delighted to see that, just when he had lost all faith in the world, something happened which turned his mindset around and completely changed his view on life. I've yet to find out what it actually was! However he referred to today as his 'yay!' day and I immediately loved the expression, particularly as it so perfectly described a day I had earlier this week too!
As you may have picked up, the past few weeks I've been feeling horribly low. I haven't wanted to talk to anyone, see anyone, all in all I truly believed I was the most useless, worthless, unimportant person on the planet. I guess you could say it's a collaboration of all sorts of things but in a nutshell I've been trying to save the world lately and be all things to all people, like many of us do. All that negativity I'd been trying to help bring out of the people I loved ended up getting a hold of me and bringing me down instead! But on Tuesday morning the sun was shining so I told myself to pull myself together, stop hiding away and go to the supermarket for a proper, organised shop. It turned out to be a good move, as thanks to some careful planning (something which had been completely missing of late), I managed to do our entire week's shopping for $58. That in itself lifted my spirits! But there was more to come.
As I was about to get into my car to go home, a man walked over to me and said 'Excuse me, are you Penny?' He introduced himself as the owner of New World supermarket. 'You have a lot of - how should I say it - fans, don't you?' he looked at me quizzically. 'I do?' I said, rather taken aback. 'You sure do, both in this town and out of it. I just wanted to meet you and shake your hand and thank you for everything you do for everyone else. Good things will come to you, you'll see soon enough', he winked. I watched him walk away, absolutely gobsmacked, then promptly got into my car and burst into tears! Thank you, thank you Matthew Heap, you have no idea what you did for me that day, but it couldn't have come at a better time!
I couldn't resist from sharing my 'yay!' day on Facebook when I got home and was overwhelmed at the response. I received so many wonderful messages and texts from caring friends all over the world, but best and most surprising of all were the number of people who came out of the woodwork and also admitted to carrying around their own 'black dog' but after reading my post felt better to realise that they're not alone. And since Tuesday I have been counting my blessings every day this week. First my lovely father-in-law suffered a huge stroke and we all thought we were going to lose him but not only did he pull through, he is recovering better than anyone ever thought possible. I am so, so glad he is still with us; you never realise how important someone is to you until something threatens to take them away. Next, a friend and much-loved member of our community was injured in a horrific freak accident when her hair became caught in a paint mixing machine and she had to undergo emergency brain surgery. Seeing our little town immediately rally to help this popular family has been immensely uplifting - you can't help but feel good to see it! Finally, Ali came home from a day out with his best friend and revealed that his friend's father had been told that day that he has a serious heart condition and will not live to see 50 years old. He is currently 45 and has brought his son up single-handedly since he was two. 'I feel so sad for them Mum, they've always had it so hard', Ali told me. So at the earliest opportunity, Ali took some of the venison he had recently brought back from a hunting trip round to them. 'I was telling them about all the hunting spots me and Dad go to and I realised they have never had so many of the opportunities I have. I just wanted them to be able to try some', he said. Bless his heart.
There are some big new challenges upon me right now and I will explain those soon enough but I will try my best to face them with bravery and positivity, because if there's one thing I have learned this week, even when you think times are tough, there is always so much and so many people to be grateful for!