“Sometimes, the mechanism of the answer is something ludicrously complex, a thing that must be pieced out bit by bit. Other times, the solution …The Cabin on the Mountain
What I Want to Know of Kindness — Discover
As Devin Kelly recalls the death of his friend’s mom and how that spurred him to reconnect with his own mother, he reconsiders masculinity through the lens of grief and what we learn from suffering.What I Want to Know of Kindness — Discover
I remember that I was in a 6th floor classroom of the high school where I used to teach when I got the text. I read some words: Nancy…about to happen…they moved her.
I remember leaving the classroom and all those kids, finding my department head, and huffing out a rush of phrases.
My friend’s mom is about to die, I said. She’s like my aunt, I said. No, no, I said. She’s like my second mom.
I remember how bright it was outside as I walk-jogged to Grand Central to catch a northbound train out of the city. I remember the polish on the shoes of blue-suited men, and the tinny clack they made as they slapped along the sidewalk. I remember thinking how odd it was, and how much I felt alone, and how the world felt stilled and tilted on its axis, but that I was the only one who felt it, like I was leaning sideways while each other person I passed stood upright.
Two hours later I saw them: my boys. Julian, Nick, Ben. They were standing there, outside Nancy’s room. When I saw her, nestled in the bed like a chipped chess queen cupped in the palm of a hand, I felt deranged. I didn’t know someone could become so small and still be alive. But there, too, as the boys took me and led me to the oncology ward’s waiting room, I felt something else. What was it? Old? Not yet. Tall? I haven’t grown since 7th grade. It was something larger. Something like grace. The broadness of these boys’ shoulders, even if they were not broad at all. How quickly they adapted toward care, leaning gently into it.
I first met them in 2009. We were runners, the four of us, the only four male distance runners in our class in college, bonded by the simple objectivity of rules and restrictions. It’s amazing, to use a simple word, what four years can do to a bunch of boys, a handful of bodies.
We arrived still settling into these vessels the world had given us, Julian sporting the close-cut shaved head of someone who took, at 18, what he did with a great deal of seriousness. Five years later, a graduate student at a different college, he ran 4:01 in the mile on an indoor track in Boston. Nick, a transplant from Iowa, arrived looking quite literally like a stalk of corn. If I close my eyes, I can imagine the wind tilting him toward the ground. Three years later, running a 10k on a track in North Carolina, he lost one of his spikes and proceeded, dogged and forever a little unhinged, to run the rest of the race with one foot bare. At lunch the next day, he leaned his crutches against a chair and put his foot up for all to see. It looked like the surface of Mars. And Ben, lest I forget, my companion in athletic mediocrity, walked onto campus having once done a recreation of A Clockwork Orange that now exists somewhere lodged against the dark edges of YouTube. He left college having taught what must’ve been hundreds of high school health classes around New York City.
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In between all of that, the four of us logged somewhere approaching 10 thousand miles together. Runs spent bleary-eyed as we labored ourselves into our various romping, rambling gaits along the chilly trails of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Runs spent hammering some near-unachievable pace until our legs flooded lactic and became rock-like in their heaviness. Runs spent sprinting so hard a headache formed in one singular spot right between our eyes and pulsed there as we wandered our vomiting mouths toward a trash can. Runs spent hungover, beginning as a groaning shuffle, this protest from our bones. If you run enough with someone, you learn to hear them in a different way. You can conjure up their stride in your sleep. You can feel them without speaking. Their anxiety, their discomfort, their will, their struggle. It all arises without words, this love-language of footfall and breath. Run with someone long enough and the intimacy that builds will allow you to pull out of them the fine line of their suffering and carry them along with you the same way they carry you along with them.
But it wasn’t the runs that cemented our relationship. It was a woman. Julian’s mother, Nancy. She strode out along the long green fields of Van Cortlandt Park at every single cross country race, her hair, imbued with this goldenwheat lightness, tossing in the wind, big sunglasses on her face, a smile wide, flooded with joy. My boys, she’d come to call us, I’m here to see my boys.
The boys don’t know this, but earlier this year, as Nancy was dying, I was in therapy thinking about something else: my own mother, and her place in my life as a way to fixate on obsession and its aftermath, permission and its consequences, shame and its unendingness. I was choked up, near-sobbing, remembering the way my mother’s feet hung out the window of my father’s car as we drove her to the hospital in the middle of the night. My therapist asked me to remember a moment of mothering that gave me some kind of joy, and I thought of Nancy.
I didn’t drink for a long time because of my mother’s own struggle with addiction. Not in high school, not for the first two years of college, despite the pressure from others, and with great gratitude to Ben, who would buy a six-pack of non-alcoholic O’Doul’s and drink it with me at parties (go on, get yourself a friend like that). I had my first glass of wine far removed from the apartments and basements of college: at a kitchen table with the boys and Nancy.
We had gone up to Julian’s house one weekend in September, to get a long run in and enjoy the company of each other and his parents. The first night, Nancy and her husband Michael cooked in the kitchen while we sat and offered small gestures to help which were always and forever refused. To be waited on, even when you know you don’t deserve it, or, at the very least, assume you don’t — this is a kind of grace. And so we were waited on.
To be waited on, even when you know you don’t deserve it, or, at the very least, assume you don’t — this is a kind of grace. And so we were waited on.
No one asked me if I wanted a glass of wine. No one pressured me or made me feel all the more unwelcome if I didn’t want one. As I explained it to my therapist, near 10 years after that night, I finally felt — what was the word? — safe enough to have one. So I said it as nonchalantly as I could, and the boys and our second mom and dad took it as nonchalantly as they did, and I poured myself my first glass of wine. That night stays embedded deep in the joy file of my memory, not because of drunkenness, but because it was the first time I ever felt at home. The conversation moved between each of us like water around rocks, and we learned to love each other for our own individualities. For the way Julian would correct his own parents and they would love him for it. For the way Nick always had a story that brought us near tears in laughter. For Ben’s deep, unrelenting kindness. For the way I always somehow managed to make things a little weird.https://c0.pubmine.com/sf/0.0.3/html/safeframe.htmlREPORT THIS AD
That night, after the parents locked themselves in their rooms, the boys and I took a car outside and played Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” on repeat, singing it to the moon. We went to Julian’s high school football field and stared at the stars. I remember yelling at the moon. Hey moon, I yelled, you’re so close!
I lost the benefit of having a present mother in my life when I was 11 and addiction and separation took her away from me for a long time. The joy of adulthood is getting to know her again, and the deeper joy is getting to be proud of her. But during those years of college, I never knew until later how much I was searching for family, chasing the ideal of what a family could mean. I found it that night and the many nights that followed with my second mom, my second dad, and my brothers — and I mean that last word, despite the way the word brothers has come to exemplify so much of what is wrong about masculinity. The pulse and grind of it. The way you surround yourself with men not to hold you accountable, but to give yourself permission to be all that men can be when at their worst — self-serving, abusive, wrong.
The way you surround yourself with men not to hold you accountable, but to give yourself permission to be all that men can be when at their worst — self-serving, abusive, wrong.
How many times in this world has it taken a woman to teach a man something? Not just in movies, when the bewildered man is stunned on the doorstep of loss, and the woman steps, sure and poised, to put her hand on his shoulder. Think. Think beyond the movie, into the fact of daily life. Ask yourself: how many times has it taken a woman suffering to really teach a man something? When I ask myself, I know the answer is: too often.
When Nancy was diagnosed with cancer, too young, and then beat it, and then was diagnosed again, and then again — well, it taught me something. It mostly taught me something about the deep inner strength that can exist inside a person, the grace that encapsulates such strength, and how strength itself should be divorced from any mention of stereotypical masculinity, should be redefined as moving through the reality of suffering with a compassion for the world. It taught me something, too, about boys, and what they are capable of loving, and how they are capable of loving it.
We thought she would die that night. I remember buying a pack of cigarettes and smoking them as we excused ourselves for a breath of fresh air. The four of us stared at the sun setting over Bridgeport and I tried really hard not to cry. I don’t know how you become an adult. I think it takes a moment — standing outside a hospital with the friends you once did everything with and realizing you were never taught how to deal with any of this. That moment, when you realize no one taught you how to handle this specific instance of life — that is adulthood in a nutshell.
We spent the night at Julian’s because Nancy — true to her spirit — kept breathing. I slept on a couch and woke with Nick and Ben, and caught the early train to teach my classes in the same clothes I taught the last day in.
Once, on a particularly heated long run, I got into a fight with Julian. We had just doubled back along the trail that ran along Van Cortlandt, and, as was our style, the whole gang of us began to pick up the pace, moving from the easy loping strides of a 7 minute pace to the relentless forward motion of a 6 minute pace and faster. I was feeling particularly good, and I moved from the back of our small pack to the front, beginning to, as they say, hammer the pace. It was then that I felt a literal hand on the cuff of my shirt. Julian’s. He was pulling me back, telling me to cool it. I flipped out, yelled at him, and settled behind him as we still ramped up the pace all the way back home.
The beauty of running with people for a long time is that there is no secret about the ways you hold each other accountable. Some people spend their whole lives trying to figure out if their friends are really their friends. When you run with someone long enough, you know what it’s like to share in their suffering, albeit physical, albeit for a moment. It transcends language. It is like sharing a singular, collective, beating heart. When one person’s pulse quickens, the rest do too. When someone feels the anxiety of a dawdling pace, that anxiety giddies up the rest of the group into pushing down on the pedal.
Run with someone long enough and the intimacy that builds will allow you to pull out of them the fine line of their suffering and carry them along with you the same way they carry you along with them.
You learn the more serious effects of that kind of shared heart later in life, though. After the Sunday long runs are over, and the bus drives to races in Jersey, Pennsylvania, everywhere along the East Coast. After the ice baths and twisted ankles on rooted trails. You learn it later, when you get the call about Nancy, and don’t even have to call Nick or Ben to see what they are doing. How you just know they are, wherever they are, hopping on trains, getting in cars, moving toward the same place as a singular noun, this batch of friends running toward the new finish lines of life.
When Nancy died, it was during the 10th year of my friendship with Nick, Ben, and Julian. Months after the funeral, we celebrated this anniversary and attempted to find some joy by going on a trip together to Ireland. We did the things one might expect of a group of 20-somethings on a trip to Ireland; namely, we drank a lot of Guinness and sang a lot of songs we didn’t quite know all the words to. We did some less stereotypical things, too. When we went to the Cliffs of Moher, we watched as Julian, a new burgeoning master of the art of Qigong, moved through his system of meditation and breathing on what seemed like the end of the continent. Ben and I later darted like little kids, attempting to find a puffin perched along the crags. Walking back to the car, I thought about how young we felt and how old we soon would be. I wanted to reach out and hold the long moment of our becoming.
I went for many runs in Ireland, and more than a few alone. Once, on a particularly foggy morning on the west coast, I found myself running along a road, barely able to see more than a few meters ahead. I assumed what would happen next as if I was in a movie of my life. I assumed the road would rise steeply through the fog, that I’d begin ascending an apex-less mountain, ignorant of its height, caught up in the relentless grind of it. And then I’d emerge, at the very top, sweat steaming off my skin, and see the ocean below me, and feel closer to god, whatever god means. But I was wrong. The fog cleared, and I saw the road bend left and amble kindly down toward the coast, where a few boats bobbed gently off the shore. I was so struck by the gift of it — this gift of ease, this kindness I didn’t deserve — that I crouched down and almost cried. I never went down to the water. I turned around and ran home.
I was so struck by the gift of it — this gift of ease, this kindness I didn’t deserve — that I crouched down and almost cried.
I think so many men don’t know what to do with kindness. And I think, then, that many men don’t know how to be kind. It has so often been my fantasy to be relentless, to be trapped in grit, and to imagine a world watching, and to earn its love that way. My childhood taught me this. My father called me Maverick on the playing fields of my youth. He gave me lead pipes filled with ball bearings to run with so I could learn to hold my arms low, to relax my shoulders over the course of miles. How funny, gripping steel to teach myself the compassion of a gentle stride. It took a long time for me to see in my father’s urging the kind of care that is tender, so often reserved for mothers, because, with a mother gone, the three of us — father, brother, me — acted so much like men. Silent, unfeeling, eating dinner in front of the television while the football game crunched its bones for us.
Over the course of Nancy’s passing, I witnessed the way grief can carve away at men and boys until one sees the gentleness that always lingers beneath the surface. It was there when Michael, Nancy’s husband, sat with me in a living room, going through songs to play at the funeral. And it was there in the pauses between our comments. This would be perfect, he would say, and I would nod yes, and then we would let the tears fill up the silence that happened after. To give yourself permission to cry, to not let yourself have to act as someone, but rather to let yourself be acted upon — how do you learn this other than grief?
I realized that us boys had been learning it our whole lives together. Each run, slowly. I have other friends I can talk more easily with about the stuff of warmth, those who know everything about my poems. But none of them have seen me bent over myself. Have heard me groan something animal. This is both powerful and its own problem. Suffering should not have to be what triggers compassion. The sight of it, the sounds. As a world, our kindness so often exists as a reaction. A crisis only engenders a response when it is seen as a crisis, when the images flash across our screens. If we are paying attention, it’s only then that we realize that the people closest to the crisis have been talking about it for a long time. And it’s only then that we do something tangentially close to listening. The sooner we realize that crisis and suffering are part and parcel of living, the sooner compassion becomes a requirement for living as well.
To give yourself permission to cry, to not let yourself have to act as someone, but rather to let yourself be acted upon — how do you learn this other than grief?
Men have a lot to learn from this because men are not taught to suffer openly, and they learn their response to suffering from those who suffer openly, so often, at the hands and words of men. This is a destructive paradox. To confront it openly is to realize how much work and care are needed to create a more vulnerable and less hardened masculinity.
This is why I hold my memory of Nancy so close, because to fail to realize what she taught me about being a man is to fail her memory. I think of her every time I receive a small kindness. I say to myself: it is alright to be loved. I think: to receive kindness is an act of kindness in itself. And this is why I hold my boys close. And why I keep the memory of our miles so close to my chest. Because to suffer openly with another is also an act of kindness, and trust. The sound of a footstep next to another on a long run is the sound of two voices saying I need you over and over again.
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The question is not: what does a world without suffering look like? The question is: what does a world look like where suffering is not what calls forth a man’s kindness? When Nancy finally passed, Nick, Ben, and I went back to the kitchen table without her to be with Julian and Michael. We learned how to laugh again. We drank wine and told stories with the rotating guests who joined us to do the same thing. We went out at dark again, drunk and grieving, and threw paper airplanes into the night and bet money we didn’t really have. Grief will always be a teacher. It closes a door that was once wide open, and forces you to live in this new structure.
When I think of Nancy now, I think of her laughing. The way she wanted to know things, to try them. The way curiosity, which is so often portrayed as being neglected with age, was her mode of living. How Julian would offer her a new way of thinking about something, and how she’d consider it, and then take it up. The way, at her grave, those gathered took hands and shared in one collective, earth-feeling Ohm all at once. The way she never stopped asking me about my life. When I was with her, I missed her already.
I say to myself: it is alright to be loved. I think: to receive kindness is an act of kindness in itself.
At her funeral, I thought of how, when my grandmother died, my mother, who had not seen my father’s mother in over a decade, arrived at the funeral where only a few of us had gathered. In the years after the divorce, my grandmother had not spoken highly of my mother. But my mom still was there, on that cold day in Rochester, because it was important to show up. At the time, I didn’t know what to make of it. But when Nancy died, I understood how much I had to learn from my mom, who I spent a childhood not really talking to, whose suffering was so absent from me, whose suffering I never asked about. I thank Nancy for that, too, for the way her mothering stopped making me grow further from my mom, and made me want to call her, again and again, so I could know her life.
Six months after Nancy’s death, my boys and I went up to Julian’s to be with Julian and Michael. It made me proud of us, this recognition that grief continues always, that it doesn’t end in the moments after the moment of crisis. We sat back at the kitchen table, ate Michael’s cooking, helped in the ways we knew we were supposed to, and listened as the conversation moved where we knew it would. Stories, more stories, endless stories. Nancy in labor in Michael’s car, driving north out of New York City, refusing every hospital pit stop until they reached Bridgeport, where they both grew up and where she would have Julian. Hours of this persistence, and Michael unrelenting in his acknowledgement of it. I listened to this and thought of Michael as a model of what a man could be: embodying the road that slopes down toward the coast, gentle and unassuming, forever saying I will not be the cause of your suffering, and I will not be your savior; I will just be who I can be for you. You don’t have to change the world to be a man. You only have to feel it. It’s why my boys and I ran to the same place the moment we each got the text. It’s what running taught us. When you spend a near-infinite amount of hours in the stillness of breath and heartbeats, you realize that the same ground can inspire different reactions. One of us lagging behind as the trail climbs, another surging ahead before realizing they have to come back and guide the other home. Because home, when we arrive, is where we all are. It’s here, in each of us, complex and loaded with love and grief. A house with so many doors closing and opening. Is that you talking at the kitchen table? Can I join you? I want to laugh again.
Devin Kelly is the author of In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen, (published by Civil Coping Mechanisms) and the co-host of the Dead Rabbits Reading Series. He is the winner of a Best of the Net Prize, and his writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Guardian, LitHub, Catapult, DIAGRAM, Redivider, and more. He lives and teaches high school in New York City.
12 Delicious Ways to Use Saffron
We’re always looking for easy meal upgrades that make cooking satisfying weeknight meals a no-brainer. Sometimes, that means trying a new technique, like pressure cooking; other times, it means introducing a new spice, like ginger. But nothing makes a meal feel instantly more elegant and refined than just a pinch of saffron. The stamens of crocus plants, saffron threads are hand-picked, a little pricy, and totally worth it. Just a pinch lends a unique aroma and irresistible flavor to the 12 recipes below.
1. Saffron Rice Pilaf With Chicken: Chicken and rice is always a comforting dish, but in this case, it gets a little fancier. It’s infused with saffron, then tossed with dried fruits, cashews, and herbs to make for a more complex dish. (via Nutrizonia)
2. Homemade Tagliatelle With Saffron Zucchini: Homemade tagliatelle will change your pasta game forever. Pair it with a flavorful zucchini sauté that will complement but not overwhelm the tender noodles. (via Healthy World Cuisine)
3. Creamy Pork Chops With Saffron Mascarpone Sauce: Boneless pork chops are a go-to weeknight option, thanks to their quick cooking time and big flavor. A creamy sauce helps elevate the dish so it tastes like more than just a quick meal. (via Italian Recipe Book)
4. Pulled Oats Paella: Choose a plant-based protein substitute to make this vegetarian paella. Rice, cooked with saffron, is folded into the protein and a mix of sautéed veggies for a nutritious and tasty meal. (via Cashew Kitchen)
5. Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse: Move over clam chowder — there’s a better soup on the table. A saffron-infused fish stock is the base of this stew made with shrimp, flaky white fish, and mussels. (via Family Style Food)
6. Saffron Pasta With Chicken, Eggplant, and Bell Pepper: Sautéed eggplant and bell pepper add a hearty texture to this pasta recipe. Add some chicken on the side for extra protein, and pine nuts on top for crunch. (via Pinch Me I’m Eating)
7. Whole Grain Persian Jeweled Pilaf: Use a blend of healthy whole grains to make this pilaf. A blend of nuts, fruits, and spices keep each bite interesting. (via At the Corner of Happy and Harried)
8. Moroccan Chicken Tagine: Chicken thighs become meltingly tender when gently cooked in a tagine or Dutch oven. This recipe marinates them before they cook in a blend of aromatics, then adds olives and preserved lemons to the pan along with the meat to flavor it as it cooks. (via White Plate Blank Slate)
9. Butter Beans and Clams in Saffron: Dried butter beans have a creamy texture that’s the perfect base for a homey meal. Serrano ham and Manila clams add a savory, briny flavor to the beans, and help to create a sauce you’ll want to sop up with bread. (via My Kitchen in Spain)
10. Homemade Moussaka: Saffron, red wine, cinnamon, and turmeric flavor this layered Greek dish. It features eggplant, ground turkey, veggies, and a creamy topping of potatoes and cheesy yogurt. (via Simply Sophisticated Cooking)
11. Angel Hair Crab Cakes With Saffron Aioli: Crispy angel hair pasta delicately cradles succulent crab meat to make these seafood cakes. The accompanying saffron aioli is so good, you’ll want to put it on everything. (via Rhubarb and Cod)
12. Baked Saffron and Chorizo Risotto: Getting creamy risotto is easier than you might think — just use your oven. It does the work for you, while chorizo, saffron, and white wine add big flavor. (via My Little Larder)
You can now take a virtual tour of the Netherlands most spectacular tulip garden
At this time of year, the Netherlands are basically one enormous carpet of tulips. Or, at least, that’s what the annual Keukenhof Flower Exhibit would have you believe.
Usually, the popular event, which has been taking place since 1857, attracts thousands of visitors keen to see a sea of springtime blooms.
Just like last year, the 2021 event is cancelled as the Netherlands and much of the rest of the planet still practises social distancing. But that won’t stop you getting an eyeful of the colourful petals. The garden, which is at its blooming best right now, has decided to share its fields of technicolour tulips, daffodils and hyacinths online, via a series of videos, so that they can still be enjoyed.
Because you cannot visit Keukenhof right now, we decided to bring Keukenhof to you!’ says the park’s managing director.
Saffron Health Benefits: It May Boost the Immune System Against COVID-19
Saffron is an ancient spice obtained from the Crocus sativus plant. It is highly prized and costly. To obtain a single pound of the golden spice requires 75,000 flower heads. The flowerheads’ crimson-coloured stigmas are harvested and dried to produce saffron. The unique flavour is coveted by chefs, especially for dishes such as paella and bouillabaisse. For centuries it has also been used as a vibrant natural food colour. However, one of the lesser-known saffron health benefits is its reputed ability to boost the immune system. As health officials around the globe scramble to battle the coronavirus (COVID-19), people are turning to ancient holistic supplements such as saffron to assist their immune system in coping with the onslaught of the potentially deadly virus.
SAFFRON HEALTH BENEFITS
Yes, saffron benefits not only the palate but also the immune system. The plant is brimming with B vitamins such as B1, B2, and B6 plus vitamin C which are all crucial for a healthy, functioning immune system. In addition, it also has carotenoids which affect the body’s immune response. Even the plant’s essential oils, including phytochemicals, are believed to boost the immune response. At low doses, researchers have found that saffron benefits the immune systems ability to function by stimulating a rapid cellular response and acting as a potential immunostimulant. Interestingly, the same study found one of the most integral saffron benefits as that of an anticancer agent. The plant’s immunomodulatory effects hold a great deal of promise in perhaps treating or preventing future diseases and viruses.
SAFFRON BENEFITS AGAINST THE CORONAVIRUS
The Coronavirus (being commonly referred to as COVID-19) has rapidly evolved into a worldwide pandemic that is sending health officials scrambling for answers and the ability to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination. Sadly, unlike many common viruses, the human immune system has not previously been exposed to the new and unique coronavirus which makes it harder to battle the virulent and highly contagious COVID-19. Many people, especially the elderly, are looking for ways to boost their immune system against the often-deadly virus. Saffron health benefits appear to help aid the body’s immune response which may prove crucial for recovery after coronavirus exposure. Recent research shows that taking 100mg of saffron a day offers temporary immunomodulatory response which might prove beneficial against the dreaded coronavirus. In addition, such a dosage has no adverse effects on a user.
BUYING SAFFRON ONLINE
If you are wondering where to buy saffron then rest assured that you don’t have to hunt it down at health food stores. You can quickly and effortlessly order the spice online. Purchase as little or as much as you want. Called the Golden Spice, saffron benefits are truly remarkable. The spice’s unique chemical composition is what sets it apart not only for your culinary needs but also to bolster your body’s immunity.
The main saffron health benefit is to support the body’s immune system so it can withstand the onslaught of viruses such as the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is a virulent virus and the only true way to cure it is for your body’s own immune system to battle the virus. Although medical professionals can offer supportive care and the reality of a vaccine is growing closer (at least a year away), you can take steps to strengthen your immune system so you can hopefully recover quickly.
Kakeibo: The Japanese Art Of Saving Money
( 5 min read) – By Jacqui Agate
Saving money is hard. Really, really hard. However much you feel you’re scrimping, you’re always left with nothing more than a few pitiful pounds rattling around your account at the end of the month, right? We hear you.
A huge chunk of your pay probably goes on rent, and then there are the bills and travel costs that eat away your precious pennies without you even noticing.
Then there’s that voice. That tiny, niggling voice at the back of your mind that says: “Why bother? You’ll never afford a house anyway. Treat yourself to that coconut flat white from Pret. You deserve it.”
Enter the kakeibo, a “budgeting journal” and the latest Japanese lifestyle trend to get people talking. The kakeibo was invented back in 1904 by Hani Motoko, Japan’s first female journalist, and was designed to help busy women keep on top of their finances. Now, the first English-language kakeibo, by writer Fumiko Chiba, has just been released, so it’s time to put it to work.
The concept goes like this: At the start of each month, you sit down with your kakeibo and you plan what you’re going to spend, what you’re going to save and what you need to do to reach your goals. You then review what you’ve achieved. Sound simple? It is.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. We need to shift our focus from saving to spending
No problem, we hear you say. Spending is not the issue. Then you’ll like this.
Chiba explains that we need to reshape our attitude towards budgeting — we must “spend well” in order to “save well” and vice versa.
“We all work very hard in order to live, and also to enjoy things,” Chiba tells us. “It’s important to remember this fact when saving.”
In other words, if saving is all about what we can’t do and can’t have, it’s a chore, and we’ll likely quit. If it becomes about budgeting meticulously so we can do and can have what we really want, it becomes a much more inviting prospect.
2. Writing things down will help
Keeping a kakeibo is all about recording your spending, but it’s not enough to plug numbers into a spreadsheet. Putting pen to paper is a fundamental part of the practice.
“So much of our lives is lived on our phones or on computer screens,” Chiba says. “[Recording our finances online] mimics the instantaneous way we spend money. The journal is one remove from this, and it gives us the space and time to look at our spending in detail.”
In this sense, Chiba says, using a kakeibo becomes a kind of mindfulness exercise. “Our world is now so fast that everything can be bought and paid for very quickly. A kakeibo helps us slow down and really consider what we buy in a calm, measured way.”
So at the beginning of the month, you need to figure out and write down how much money you actually have. Look at what you’ve got, from your salary to any freelance bits to that £20 of birthday money from your mum, and tot it all up.
Then take your “fixed expenditure”: the stuff you have to pay, like rent and bills, and take it away from your total amount. Easy enough.
This will leave you with a sum that you can choose to “save” or “spend well”. Don’t worry if it’s in single figures right now — we’re just getting started.
3. You need to be honest about your “musts” and “wants”
Using a kakeibo is about decluttering your finances. If you’ve followed the last step, you know how much money is coming in, and you know what has to go out — so it’s time to figure out how you’re spending the rest, and the ways you can do it better.
The kakeibo works by dividing your spending into categories and getting really specific about it. For example: one category could be takeaways. The things listed here could run the gamut from a full-blown Deliveroo night to a quick takeaway coffee that slipped your mind as soon as you’d guzzled it. Be rigorous.
Once you know where your money’s going, you can sort your “musts” from your “wants”: what you absolutely need, and what you can survive without. Sure, we all need to eat — that’s a “must”. But let’s be honest, that lunchtime Itsu habit is a big old want. And sure, clothes are a “must” too — but does that really equate to spending all your spare money in Topshop?
Chiba advises: “To realise your ‘musts’, write down things that would go wrong if you did not spend money on them — these are usually costs that do not go away from month to month, like food.”
By looking at your spending in chunks (rather than a never-ending, guilt-inducing list of outgoings), you can identify the areas you may be able to cut back.
4. Cash is better than card
Nowadays, we’re more likely to have a wad of cards than cash (we wish) in our purse. But this, Chiba tells Refinery29, could be where we’re going wrong. Using a card makes us less accountable for our spending, while the physical act of handing over cash is something we’re more likely to think twice about.
Chiba even suggests taking cash out of the bank and dividing it into labelled envelopes to help you keep within your limits.
“For me the physical placing of cash in envelopes makes you less likely to spend it on other things, like drinks with your friends,” she explains. “Small acts can make a big difference in your saving goals. Acting with patience and consistency is what the kakeibo encourages.”
5. You should finish the month by reflecting on your progress
A glimpse at your mobile-banking app (followed by a cold sweat when you spy single figures) won’t cut it. At the end of each month, your kakeibo demands that you scrutinise your past four weeks of spending, acknowledging successes and weaknesses, and setting goals for the following month.
Tracking spending in apps just shows us where we’re going wrong, Chiba says. But by using a kakeibo, you can get a broader perspective.
“I find joy in saving small amounts every month. They seem like nothing at the time, but lead to a bigger total in the end,” she explains. “Your review period keeps you reminded of this progress.”
So get yourself a kakeibo, get scribbling and don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back after a month well spent.