It’s hard to look at my left-over Gatorade and broth.

DH = Dear Husband

DD3 = Dear Third Daughter

My experience of fasting

This week, I had to fast for a period of forty-five hours. It was in preparation for a preventative medical procedure, and I was informed that I could have water, sports drink, jello, broth, and tea. I bought some blue Gatorade to tide me over. No sweat, I thought.

I woke up the first morning of my fast with optimism. I would be able to get so much done on this day home from work – house work, marking, blog work, reading . . . Blue sports drink in hand, I maintained my sunny disposition until about noon. “Did you get some broth and jello?” DH asked me. “No,” I answered with faltering confidence. “I thought I’d be OK with the Gatorade.” DH advised both beef and chicken broth as well as two kinds of jello. I held out for about fifteen minutes longer. Then I went to the store to get all of the above.

Broth and jello notwithstanding, I was utterly miserable by the evening. Sitting on a cushy chair in the family room, wrapped in a cushy blanket, feet propped up on a cushy footstool, I was bored, grumpy, and unable to concentrate. I grabbed the remote and found myself searching through Netflix documentaries. About food. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead sounded just about right.

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

What a great documentary! If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a watch. Joe Cross, an overweight, over-stressed Australian in line for a heart attack, turns his life around by radically changing his diet. I won’t give too much away, but a significant part of the movie follows Cross’ sixty-day juice fast. No broth or jello for him – just juice from fruits and vegetables. I found comfort in the brief peek offered by the documentary at his first three days. Misery seeks company, and I could thoroughly relate to Cross at the starting point of his fast. Foul. Anti-social. Drained. Hiding under covers in his bed.  But it’s all upwards and onward from there, and one man’s miserable experience of food detox and withdrawal has given way to inspiration for  renewed health to millions.

Resolution detox & withdrawal

Our main resolution for 2015 is to cut $25 off of our weekly grocery bill to bring it down to $150. We succeeded week #1 with $146.46. Week #2 is even better: $139.79. So far, so good with the main resolution.

Resolution byproduct: eyes on the budget

A byproduct of our focus on the grocery bill has been a renewed vigilance upon our budgeting and tracking of expenses overall. Budgeting has been a sore spot for us. I, more than DH, have recognized our need for regular meetings to budget, track, and review expenses. DH, who manages his very detailed and complicated business accounts, also oversees the vast majority of our household finances, and he has not been keen to come on board. It’s understandable. The last thing he wants is another painstaking look at numbers. “It’s the same every month!” he has said, sloughing off many of my efforts to set aside time to discuss our budget since our journey out of debt began.

The Christmas rush is an absolutely crazy business time for DH. The good news is that December of 2014 was his most successful month in terms of revenue since he launched his home-based business in 2009. The bad news is that in the midst of his nonstop work, DH lost track of our finances to such an extent that our December mortgage payment bounced – a first in over twenty years of mortgage payments. And while it was quickly corrected (at a cost of $45), it provided in-your-face evidence of our need to focus on our budget.

Before the New Year, DH and I reconciled months’ worth of household accounts so that going into January, we had a very clear idea of where we were at. It was like untangling a hopeless knot. “I feel so good about this,” said DH. “If we take our eyes off the money, it evaporates into the ether. We don’t even know where it goes. Every week we have to sit down and keep tabs on our accounts and budget. It’s going to make a big difference.”

Hmmm . . .  Wish I’d thought of that.

I have learned, after years of parenting and teaching especially, that when someone adopts an idea – something that you have been trying to impart to them for some time – as an independently-discovered, new-found revelation , it’s best not to disturb the notion. The important thing is that we’re on the same page.

Grumpy

This morning, we had our second weekly budget meeting. Problem #1: We found one expense for $25.71 that was unaccounted for. After several brain-scratching minutes, I realized it was mine. Acknowledged, entered, resolved. Problem #2: We hadn’t taken into account the fact that my pay is decreased for the first several months of every year, due to taxes that aren’t applied uniformly throughout the year. The oversight was made after I had raised the point that I’d get paid less and DH asserted that I wouldn’t. We’re not used to me being right about these things. There was some discomfort. We had options to consider in balancing out. Would we simply increase DH’s pay by the amount needed? Would we try to cut back on some expenses? Would we defer some expenses? A combination of any or all of the above? DH wanted to do it all by cutting back on expenses. I said we’d self-defeat trying to draw blood from a stone. In the end, we decided each to give up $100 of our discretionary money for the month, and to take advantage of some flexibility to defer complete payment for DD3’s sport.

We left our budget meeting this morning feeling a bit foul. Some mistakes to admit to. Some disagreement to work through. Some shifting patterns and paradigms to withstand. No more pumped enthusiasm for the difference it would make. I tried to give DH a high-five for mission accomplished, but we weren’t feeling it. I returned to my laptop, and he asked me what I was writing about this week. I read the title that I’d decided upon earlier in the morning: “Debt, Resolutions & Grumpiness,” I said. “It’s perfect because we’re both grumpy now.” DH laughed in spite of himself. “I’m glad I can provide fodder for your blog!” he said.

Renege? No way!

It would be deceptive for me to try to convey a steady, positive enthusiasm about our journey out of debt. I am genuinely hopeful though. Just as I felt the wretchedness of detox and withdrawal in my fasting earlier this week, we’re feeling the drudgery, conflict, and discomfort of tight budgeting now. This is the point at which many of us renege on our resolutions. We don’t like discomfort. We’re embarrassed by our bad moods. Is it really worth it? we start to ask. I say it is, and I for one am going to allow this period of detox to work through its unpleasantness . . . and to pass. I believe in what lies beyond it. Our new habits will make a difference.


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