93: Going Back

93: Going Back

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

Going Back

There are people who have money and people who are rich.

~Coco Chanel

Funny how something as simple as a grocery store can cause pain. Armed with a grocery list, calculator and coupons, I cross the threshold and enter a vast display of options and delights that tempt my eyes and stomach. I walk the aisles dropping items into my cart, entering the amount in my calculator and crossing those items off my list. About three-fourths of the way through my list, the calculator shows I am close to the limit of what I have in my wallet for this shopping trip. I look at my list to see what is left and I look in my cart and ask myself, “What should I put back?” There are things still not crossed off that I must get. Going back down the aisles I have already walked, I put items back on the shelves and recalculate my spending, as the tears begin to fall and my lips taste salt.

Will I ever walk into a grocery store without my calculator and fill my cart with anything I want? Will I ever be able to buy my children all new clothes instead of garage sale finds? My wallet is empty, with not even enough change to drive through McDonald’s for a Coke. More tears.

That was in the late 1970s. Life did get better. I was able to put away my calculator and could afford a Coke; even better than that, I could afford Starbucks several times a week. I could go out to eat with friends and pay for their lunch. I got my nails done once a month so my hands would look pretty and people would notice my nails and not the age spots on my hands. On birthdays and Christmas my husband and I lavished gifts on our three children and their spouses and our granddaughter. My husband and I went out to eat once a week; the long hours I worked made this a special treat. How good it felt to not be weighted down with money worries.

We tend to think that once we have a breakthrough, we will always be there, no “going back.” 2008 was a “going back” year for us. My husband, Bob, and I both lost our good jobs. My husband sent out resumés and started receiving calls right away for interviews, so we thought it wouldn’t be more than a couple of months before he was employed again. That couple of months has stretched into almost a year.

At the start of our backward walk we looked at our expenses and began to cut back. We don’t drink or smoke, so we never had those expenses to cut. Dinners out—well those were now “out.” I miss the lunches with my friends, and my nails are looking pretty ragged. Birthday and Christmas gifts are minimal and Starbucks—well that’s not happening either. Bob gave up his monthly massages, we dropped our dental insurance, and we dropped long distance service from our home phone. Angel Food Ministries is helping us keep our food budget in check. We cut back spending wherever we could.

I know that things wear out, but the timing of those happenings always seems to be the worst. Our hot water heater began leaking and we finally had to replace it. The tires on my car were so bald that when I braked it took a while for my car to finish sliding and come to a stop, a fun sensation if I wasn’t too close to the car in front of me. Winter was coming and there was no way I could continue to drive on those tires, so four new tires and an alignment later, I was safely on the road again but with a drained checkbook. Heavy vet bills for a sick dog pressed in more. Our savings are dwindling.

Every day we wake with the hope that our breakthrough will be this day.

My husband is working right now on a temporary project. We are told it will only last two months but we are praying it will be longer.

Truthfully I don’t like the “going back” but the tears are not there like before. I have something I didn’t have in the 1970s. I have peace, strength, joy and hope that comes from Jesus. We will get to the other side again. The things we have given up are not really important things and we may have more yet to give up, but that’s okay too.

There is a saying, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, rich is better.” That’s true. Rich is better, but rich doesn’t always mean having money. Richness comes in relationships and from having peace, which is something money can’t buy.

There have been high points in this last year. Our children gave us a surprise fortieth wedding anniversary party—children and friends came from out of state and friends from church joined us to celebrate. It was such a fountain of refreshment in a dry place. We even got gift cards for restaurants—yeah! Church friends gave us a new dog when we had to put our old dog to sleep. Walks with our new dog, Sammy, are getting me the exercise I very much need. My husband and I share home-cooked meals every night and I enjoy spending time looking at cookbooks for new dishes to try. We take one day at a time. Worrying about what “may” happen tomorrow only takes away peace.

~Diane Shaw

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