Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Gift of Struggle

Earlier this year, we started Tonga’s first ever health food store. I put in such a huge effort to get it up and running...little did I know!! The challenges were just getting started...

On top of learning how to run a retail shop – something I’ve never done before, in a country which had never had a health-food shop before, there were the added challenges of living on an island. Everything has to be shipped in, which not only takes time but a lot of money too. You basically need to be ordering two months in advance.

I’ve made more than my share of stuff-ups. In fact, more stuff-ups than you can poke a stick at. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see clearly that I didn’t have enough capital behind me, I set my prices waaaaay to low ( I was worried that people wouldn’t buy the products, and I wanted healthy food options to be available to as many people as possible. In fact, what happened was that people gleefully snapped up the bargains, and then I was left with empty shelves and still not enough money to import my next shipment of goods), chose a location where the rent was too high, didn’t have a reliable person to consolidate and ship my goods....Ah, hindsight! Such a wonderful thing...!!

Long story short, we are now faced with the very real prospect of closing our shop. The shelves are half-empty and our next shipment of goods is sitting in New Zealand, and I have no money to pay for the shipping. Our rent is over-due, the electricity is due, our ute has broken down and it will cost over $1000 to fix it, so I am riding my bike everywhere.

And because all of my popular products have sold out, it’s got really quiet. Like, reeeeaaallly quiet.The other day, I rode all the way into town on my bike, opened the shop and spent the entire day here...and for my troubles, I sold one packet of garam masala....for a grand total of $2.

That was a low point – I was really struggling to keep my chin up. I rode home again on my bike, and racked my brains what I could feed my children for dinner. We ended up getting some packets of noodles, and cooking it with some butter, some garlic and the last onion left in the fridge. Out the window goes my gluten-free diet...

That’s the bad news.

But it’s not all bad. When I sat down and gave thanks for that meal of noodles – and for every meal since – I’ve felt the most overwhelming sense of gratitude. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so those noodles tasted better than a gourmet meal to me. Yesterday, as I rode home, I stopped at a little roadside stall selling vegetables, and got a big bagful of capsicum and tomato for $4, and it felt like I’d won the lottery...

As I left for work yesterday, I joked to my husband that if I was really lucky I might even sell $1 worth of products, and then we’d be down to two packets of noodles to feed all five of us...

I won’t tell a lie. I had a moment where I looked up to the sky and wondered what I did to deserve this – after all, this entire project was an effort to help others? (Actually, I shook my fist at the sky, but let’s not get too melodramatic.) I’ve considered packing up and going home...except I have no money to buy a ticket....and I am not a quitter. I’ve thrown myself on the bed and had a little cry in self-pity.

But I have come to the most wonderful realisation. Everything that happens to me is a gift.


Struggle, pain, doubts, sorrow...these are gifts that allow us to fully experience their opposites. Without them, achievements, joy, faith, all of these would mean nothing. We wouldn’t even know how to appreciate them. The prospect of having no food to eat is what makes a plate of noodles taste like a gourmet meal. The struggle is what makes our achievements so memorable. There can be no such thing as abundance if there is no lack. One gives meaning to the other.

I have also come to believe that my soul (my true self), attracts and manifests the experiences I need, in order to become all that I was meant to be. On a conscious level, I would never have chosen this situation for myself, but perhaps, deep down I know that I need to learn appreciation, or I need to learn resilience, or I need to learn understanding and empathy for people in similar circumstances.

Or maybe I just need to get fitter ;-)

3 comments:

Tonga Man said...

kate, thanks so much for this post, i can relate to this sooooo much. It seems you have a much better attitude than me. I hope to get to that point and see the positive. I'm so encouraged by this and it helps me to see past my own pity party and that others are suffering as well! I read through a lot of your Facebook posts and i think you are an amazing women with a lot of wisdom. seriously. lets hang out.

Tonga Man said...

this is ash, not chris!

Kate Punivai said...

Thanks so much, Ash. You are also a very inspiring woman, part of an inspiring family - and I know it probably doesn't feel that way at times. We never can tell who is getting encouragement or learning from our lessons and struggle...