A month of un-doing

hppy-shopperSo I’m a month in, give or take a day or two and you want to know how it’s going, this ‘not buying anything’ thing, don’t you?  OK, so maybe it wasn’t top of your need to know list for today, but it’s risen to the top of my need to ‘fess list.  I could say it’s going really well.  It wouldn’t be a lie, maybe just not the whole truth.

Since the start of the year I’ve been stuck in bed a few days between colds and migraines, and I’ve only managed to get to anywhere with shops a few times. My shopping opportunities have been limited.  My resources are limited too because I’m not earning any money at the moment: automatic BIG restriction.  It’s like giving up chocolate for Lent when you don’t even like it – not much of a sacrifice.  The thing is, deciding not to buy anything new has made me more aware of how much I actually buy, full stop.  My plastic gets hit routinely, not for anything superfluous or extravagant, simply ‘everyday stuff’: the groceries, the toiletries, the consumables, those odd bits and pieces which you actually ‘need’. I ran out of parcel tape and genuinely couldn’t think of how else to get packages wrapped and sent.  Perhaps I lack imagination, but I’m probably like lots of other people, trying to do the best they can; caring and failing.

I avoided the sales.  Anyone who sent me discount emails and tried to convince me that I really needed new clothes or kitchenware or books, or whatever, has been solemnly unsubscribed from.  Despite the bombardment, I did not succumb.  It’s amazing how much of an offensive there actually is to prise our hard-earned cash from us.

I suppose a lot of us are immune by now, but why subject yourself to such attacks on your good intentions.  As everyone who is addicted to something knows, you need to remove yourself from the environment where you’re likely to encounter temptation, and whilst that might not be wholly possible 100% of the time it is do-able a lot of the time.

I’ve not been able to avoid being on line.  It’s where I hang out with people.  It’s where I engage when I’m stuck in my ‘remote and isolated hamlet’.  So I run the gauntlet of Facebook advertising and pop-ups and articles that pretend to be news, but are actually trying to sell you something.  I’m relatively savvy, although not entirely immune. We were going to make our own favours for the wedding.  Really.  It was all planned.  And then a sneaky little link came from I-know-not-where and hooked me.  So now we’ve bought our favours instead.  It’s all very kosher – a donation to a charity we believe in, a gift that can do good from the purchaser to the recipient – but still unplanned, and in many ways unnecessary. (If you think I’m being obscure here, you’re right. I don’t want any guests to know what we’re planning!)  I’m not beating myself up.  We have a budget for the wedding and I’m not including it in my ‘buy nothing new’ challenge as I don’t need any additional headaches.  As I’ve said before, lots of things are being done by friends and many would-be purchases have been avoided by borrowing, buying second-hand and making.  My point is that I’ve purchased something I didn’t have to.  Nice as it is, beneficial as it may be, it was something I didn’t need to buy.  And that’s how it happens I suppose.  We know what advertisers are like and we brush them off with a laugh, but then something good and worthy and in-line with our values pops up and we’re suckered in.

No, I’m not being overly hard on myself, but neither am I patting myself on the back.  I could definitely ‘do better’.  I might not ‘technically’ be buying anything new – the book I needed for my course was definitely second-hand – but I still have a ‘buying stuff’ wire in my head somewhere that won’t unplug.  I didn’t think this challenge would be easy, a walk-in-the-park of challenges, but I didn’t expect it to tax me greatly, given my disposition and ethics.  Taxing me is exactly what it is doing, however, as I’m thinking more about things, questioning motive, need, intent; questioning myself. I suppose that’s a good thing.  I’ve re-read my original blog, which outlined the whys and wherefores of this challenge and even after a month I think it sounds rather sanctimonious.  That’s life I suppose.  We do literally live and learn.

I’m sure there will be lots more insights over the next 11 months and I will endeavour to share some of them without being censorious or smug.  I probably don’t do ‘humble’ but I’m aiming for ‘real’ at the very least.

Feel free to comment and share your own travels in un-shopping.

Taking The Challenge

 

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At the weekend my fiancée swam a mile in Loch Lomond as part of the Great Scottish Swim event.  He’s been training for a year and has seen his fitness, stamina and speed improve in that time.  Some of our friends thought he was a bit mad to do it, and some of them thought he was courageous.  In reality you probably need to be a mixture of the two!

It got me thinking about why people take on these sorts of challenges: climbing a mountain, swimming a loch, running a marathon, abseiling from a tall building.  For some people it’s about raising money for charity; doing what you can for a good cause.  Tony has raised, so far, over £500 for a small MS charity that provides support to MS sufferers and their families, though for him that wasn’t the prime motivator, it was more about the personal challenge.

Sometimes it’s good to have an objective focus for our efforts.  As someone who has multiple long term health issues, getting fit, and staying fit, is always a challenge due to my energy (lack of) and pain levels (high). At the start of the year I decided to challenge myself to run a 5k.  I chose the Loch Ness Marathon because it was far enough away in the calendar for me to stand a chance of achieving a degree of fitness and managing to put in some training time before the date, and also because I love their strap line: ‘If you have to put yourself through hell, you may as well do it in heaven’.  This applies to the gruelling rough terrain marathon, but for me it sums up my attitude to the 5k – any distance in fact- as I enjoy being out in the open to train.  I could have got fitter without signing up for a 5K race of course, but there’s something about setting a formal challenge that motivates me to achieve my best.  I guess a lot of people are the same.

The swim on the bank holiday weekend in Loch Lomond was a joyous affair.  There were people of every age, sex and colour.  Participation in these events is open to everyone who can complete the distance, regardless of any other factor, and that is also part of their attraction.  The oldest participant was 80 years old.  He swam a mile in under an hour.  I’m not sure of the age of the youngest participants, but there were certainly people there in there early twenties.  There was a great community spirit from both competitors and supporters, with everyone focused on the same thing: taking part.

For some people a 5K is literally a ‘walk in the park’, for me it’s a really big deal; for some people a marathon is hard and for others it’s relatively easy.  There were a high proportion of first-timers taking part in the swim, and I will be doing the Loch Ness 5K for the first time in September.  A lot of people decide to take action in their 40’s and 50’s.  With youth long gone and the prospect of getting old on the horizon, many people make the decision to get fit, take up a sport, take on a challenge, or otherwise shake up their lives in some way.  I have friends who have taken up cycling, rowing, dancing and running now they are into their 50’s.  I like to think it’s more than a fad, or worse fear, but more a life-affirming joy of living; knowing that we can hone our bodies into some sort of physical shape that makes it possible to swim lochs, cycle continents, climb mountains, for as long as we have the strength to do so.

People have always taken on challenges.  Some are more risky than others – mountain climbing or sailing around the world- but the essential reasons why people do these things are the same.  We do them because we can: the mountain is there to be climbed, the loch is there to be swum, the race to be run.  It gives us a sense of adventure and challenge; the adrenalin rush and the achievement; it instills some sort of discipline and routine and encourages us to learn lessons about ourselves – what motivates us and makes us tick.  We understand on a fundamental level that these things can be good for us both mentally and physically.  We know in our bones that we weren’t designed to sit still in front of gadgets for hours on end.  As it says on my fiancée’s t-shirt ‘if you think adventure is dangerous, try routine – it’s lethal!’ We are designed for thrill, challenge and adventure in the physical world – our ancestors are testament to that, and we are testament to the fact that sedentary stressful lifestyles are not what we are made for.  So, I would urge you to get out there.  Challenge yourself.  Do something adventurous; take a risk.  You will enjoy improved fitness and better mental health.  Find something you enjoy and you will come across others that enjoy the same thing.  There are clubs and societies and events up and down the UK.

If you’re struggling with health issues or have disabilities, there are still active things that you can do.  There’s a father who has pushed his disabled son through a thousand or more marathons in a specially designed chair; there are disabled athletes of every discipline.  And if like me, you are in pain and suffer with a lack of energy, aim for something small – a walk around the block, a length in the pool – enlist the help of a friend to support and motivate you.  We can all benefit from being outside and having a bit of excitement in our lives.

 

Happy adventures!

 

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British Paralympic Association – Find  a Sport. https://parasport.org.uk/find-a-sport/?gclid=Cj0KEQjw3ZS-BRD1xu3qw8uS2s4BEiQA2bcfM9fbdHAiskWcx8FsaYR-fhYQo82Zf10zDUuZjGUbR6kaAje58P8HAQ