I’m finally coming out of poverty mode, and it’s the most wonderfully relaxed feeling. I no longer have to panic about whether we’ll be eating or having the heating on. I don’t get worked up that we’ve been bailed out by friends-and-relations again in order to make rent. There isn’t any cause for agonising over every penny spent.
There are so many things I want to do with our wealth. Not that there’s loads of it, but we’re certainly not struggling, and there’s been money left over at the end of the month for the last two months. It feels like I’ve been given the moon and stars because the strain of that burden of financial hardship has been lifted and I’m no longer plagued by knee-jerk panic responses to things which Might Require Paying For.
Like having more than one light on at a time.
Like buying something a little extra when we shop for groceries.
Like allowing ourselves take-out once a month.
Like having two computers running for hours at a time.
Like needing new clothes (which sends me tailspinning for other reasons, but the lack of anxiety around finance sure helps).
All of these things, and more, are finally taken care of. Husby continues in his usual, unflappable way, to navigate life with calm, but I now don’t have breakdowns over the shopping list, or over finding a light left on in a room neither of us are using, or using the oven and the hob when I cook. That we only had the heating on for ONE HOUR over winter was also remarkable, and a testament to a) the warmth of winter in England, b) the wonderfulness of having a first floor flat surrounded by other flats, and c) that our downstairs neighbours clearly have their heating on.
And let me tell you, being Not In Poverty-Mode is a huge, blissful luxury. It’s amazing.
It’s not that the wealth has gone to my head (though I’m beginning to plan my Bloggy Tour Of America, so it’s clearly germinating a seed of self-indulgence) but it’s freed me from panic and the perpetual fear of being a failure – an incompetent adult unable to support herself (even though none of our struggles were a result of ‘fault’ so much as the circumstance of Husby’s illness and the deferred beginning of my job), and the fears and anxieties of Not-Even-Proper-Poverty are receding into the distance.
I never had to sell any of my possessions. We were never actually made homeless. We never ran out of food. We were (almost) always warm enough. And we had a car throughout, which puts us into (as I recall the statistics) the top 9% of richest people in the world (or something). So in spite of all my concerns, we were never really that badly off.
But the mental space is giving me far more richness than the financial situation is. I am finally able to just *be*.
My mind is able to soar unfettered and hook into the deep, rich seams of life. I can burrow into them in my heart, undistracted and revelling in their golden, shining wonders. Vast tracts of my experience of life have been revealed to me anew, the tarnish and stain of worry now soaked away to reveal the glittering treasures beneath.
Marriage – Relaxing into hugs and just standing, tangled, breathing and sharing the moment. Laughing together again. Long conversations about everything and nothing. Inventing silly songs together and then singing them at the tops of our voices, giggling. Holding hands and knowing I’m where I’m meant to be.
Family – Reaching out and lifting Niece or Neff into a massive hug. Feeling their little bodies relax against me and snuggling them tighter, absorbing every bit of wonder and joy their small forms contain. Holding a small hand and skipping down the road together. Superhero fights in the street and round the shops. Treating them to ice-cream or sweeties. Having the petrol to take them out to the beach. Being able to give back to other family members and finally pass on some of the same generosity I’ve received. Spending time without tricky financial conversations, but chatting instead about poetry, plans for the week and desires of the heart.
Friends – Hosting friends is once again an occasion for generosity and outpouring and making them feel special by getting the Good Biscuits in. I love that I can invite people round without that sinking of the heart, knowing I’m offering them something a bit pitiful. And I now feel I can accept invitations to other people’s houses, knowing that I can reciprocate. I can share the pleasure of buying a friend a coffee, or can at least rest in the knowledge that I could if they accepted. My attitude has changed, and in having the financial back-up, I feel confidence in my ability to be a good friend. I am willing to spend time with others, enjoying their company, rather than shutting myself off due to shame.
Blogosphere – I indulge, no longer plagued by thoughts of how much my hours online are costing me in terms of electricity and telephone bills. There is a lightness to my being which may not be perceptible, but from my end, makes the time spent that much sweeter, knowing that I have all the freedom in the world to engage.
World Around Me – At the weekend I flew kites and climbed a tree house and ran around. I dug the earth in my garden, stopped to smell the scent of the flowers, toiled under the sun and got good and muddy. I was able to whizz up and down with cup of teas for mum and I, and a neighbour who was also gardening. She let me borrow her garden canes. I built her a path to her compost from left-over paving slabs. We passed the time of day, talking about squirrels and Franciscans and mutual acquaintances. Birds sang to us. Darkness finally chased us back indoors. My head was up, and my eyes were bright and absorbing the loveliness of even my simple patch of garden – the vibrancy of the colours, textures and scents there.
Time – Now measured in the Good Things I am doing, or can do, rather than in negative increments of what I should have done to bring in some extra cash. Time is my friend again, and I can allow it to pass peacefully, appreciating it rather than feeling it bearing down on me like a crushing weight. It flows through my life and out the other side, with nary a ripple to show it’s been, bar the enjoyment engendered by spending it as I choose. It’s back to being wonderfully wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff, rather than a bully.
And so it is that with the influx of cold, hard cash, I’ve found that greed has arisen within me like a roused beast, and is reaching out with both hands, clawing at all it can get and stuffing it in, cramming, gorging and guttling it all down as fast as possible, ready for the next course of loveliness.
Because the riches that I’m hungriest for are the ones which (on the whole) money can’t buy.
And those riches, the true wealth in life, are what gets stripped away when financial support cannot be found, and quite likely, far more than the lack of money, are what makes true poverty so debilitating, so isolating, and so, so awful.
I suspect most of you already involve yourselves in the welfare of others, and I won’t ask how, because I’m of the opinion that Giving is a completely private matter. So I also won’t ever tell you what I do. But my challenge to you (and myself) this week, is to go above and beyond your norms somehow. Do something extra for someone in need.
You might not fix the situation or make all the difference, but if for even one moment of one day, those gnawing, devastating anxieties could be alleviated for someone, it’ll be worth it.
And remember – in a way, we all belong to each other, so care of our fellow human is something we can’t afford not to do.