The Sunday Muse, January 24

Food, Money and Love

This week i’ve been thinking about how my compost worms used to be the best fed worms in Melbourne. Perhaps Australia.

I’m going somewhere with this, I promise…just stay with me.

When I was working a regular, 9-5 job, getting paid on a fortnightly basis, my life and spending habits revolved around that schedule…everything was arranged to be paid, bought or spent within that two week period, and it would all re-set and start again once the next fortnightly pay cycle came around.

I never really questioned whether I needed to spend money on this schedule…I just did. You get paid, you buy stuff. I don’t mean going out and buying all manner of unnecessary crap like some teenager with a credit card – for the most part anyway (ask me about my eBay/op shopping addiction some other time) – I mean regular stuff like groceries and things for the garden, and clothing and toiletries whenever the need arose. But the point was, when it came to buying all these things, I was on a treadmill of spending…I just did it because i’d been paid, and because it was part of my fortnightly routine.

It was only when I left my last job and decided to take a bit of a career break, that I started to realise that I didn’t, in fact, need to shop every fortnight, or even every month for that matter. And when it came to grocery shopping in particular, I realised that not only did I shop far too often, I also bought far too much.

Of course, after buying all this beautiful food, I felt guilty if I let any of it go to waste…so i’d end up eating far too much to compensate. And even then much of it started to go bad before I could eat it, but I rationalised it by telling myself that the worms were being well taken care of, and that my compost would be so incredibly amazing because of all the uneaten produce that ended up in there.

When this arbitrary shopping schedule was removed, I was able to take a bit of a breath, and I started to pick apart the reasons behind this relentless cycle of buying food, and why exactly I felt the need to keep the pantry, and the fridge, stocked to the brim at all times. And what I realised was that it was inextricably caught up in a feeling of security for me – having plenty of food, so much you could go for weeks and weeks without ever running out – gave me a sense of safety, a sense of calm…a sense of control.

I knew where this came from, of course…for various reasons, growing up we had many periods where food was scarce, and it came to be a source of great anxiety for me. I grew to associate the lack of food with fear, arguments about money, and deep unhappiness; on the flip side, when money issues seemed less pressing and the cupboards were full as a result, I associated this abundance with safety, security, and a general sense of happiness in the home.

It’s not surprising then that I developed so many issues around food…I remember hoarding and hiding food at a young age, and of being comforted by the feeling of happiness this food gave me, in often unhappy circumstances. Eating in secret became both a source of pleasure and shame for me, and as my weight rose, so did the sense of isolation I felt. I was already a fairly shy child, socially awkward and often the target of bullies, so food became a friend I could always rely upon.

Except it wasn’t always so reliable, and when those lean times came, as they inevitably seemed to, those associations between food and happiness, food and security, food and love, became increasingly entrenched.

So as I came to survey my groaning pantry, my stuffed freezer and my well stocked fridge over the past few months, I began to grasp how this scarcity mentality that I grew up with was completely dominating my current attitude toward money, food, and love.

I realised that both money and food had a ‘use it or lose it’ it connotation for me – you need to spend it now, or eat it immediately, before it dries up or disappears. And love…well, if love was safety and security and a sense of wellbeing, well…that was food. So by keeping the pantry stocked I made sure I felt safe, and protected, and never, ever alone.

Anyway, fast forward to today…I can’t say my pantry or fridge looks significantly different these days…but the fact i’m shopping once every six weeks, instead of every two, is a big change for me. When it comes to money and food, i’m making huge strides in disconnecting them both from those intensely negative associations, and from each other.  And incredibly, i’m starting to feel safe – even joyful – managing with less of both.

When it comes to love…well, I think that one might take a little longer. Food has been my boon companion for quite some years now, and when i’m feeling lonely, it’s the friend I turn to from long habit, most of the time without realising why i’m doing it. And I think the surgery required to disentangle those two things is going to be as much a spiritual process, as a physical or mental one. But i’m getting there. And i’m thankful for that.

Week In Review & Looking Ahead

Last week was pretty well dominated by looking for work, wrestling with my internet provider over my terrible connection, spending time with family, and cooking.

Next week i’ll be focussing on…

  • Getting a job! It’s time to start bringing a regular wage in again…come on Universe, do me a solid.
  • Uni work. I never really finished with Anatomy & Physiology last term…I was so distracted by everything that was going on at work, I just couldn’t seem to absorb anything at the time. It was into my eyeballs and then got lost somewhere on its way to my brain…how I scraped into a distinction is anyone’s guess.  Anyway, I actually have to catch up on the last four weeks of that term, if i’m going to understand anything this term, so there’s that. Wish me luck.
  • Exercise…ohhhhhhhhhhh exercise, I love you but why do I find it so hard to start you? I’m doing practically nothing but the gardening right now, and while this poor old body often finds that strenuous, the rest of the time i’m sitting in front of the computer working…so something has to change. It’s the annual full moon in Leo tonight, and Mercury goes direct tomorrow…so i’m taking both of these things as my cue to get off my butt and moving, for the good of my health.

In the Garden This Week

  • I’m seeing my dwindling bank account as an opportunity to get serious about the food i’m growing – up til now, it has been something fun and relaxing and if I get some food out of it, that’s great. I’m shifting gears a little now, to think about what I could be growing instead of buying, and getting all those seedlings going…mainly leafy greens and brassicas, and some beans and peas for now. I’ve spent the last week weeding and getting some of the beds ready for these, and as soon as they’re big enough to plant out (and resist the burrowings of the black birds), into the ground they go. I really need to start looking at a planting cycle next…i’m a bit clueless about what goes into the ground when, i’m sort of making it up as I go along!
  • If the weather is kind, and the mower decides to start, i’ll get to the lawns…we’ll see.
  • My poor rhododendron has suffered terribly in the 40C plus days we’ve had recently. I planted it in a particular spot because it’s in shade for most of the year, which it loves…however it so happens that during the hottest part of the year, it’s in full sun, which has burned it to a crisp. So this week it gets its own little shade house 🙂
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