You can do it! You can stop working full-time and have enough to eat, somewhere to live, your basic needs met and enjoy being alive. Trust me, I’m doing it, so I know what I’m talking about. (The tiny house movement is just one example of doing it differently.)
I remember the anxiety and fear. Sometimes I think it was terror- of the future, of what might happen, of all the what ifs. I dreaded being old and homeless, joining the community who lived on the street.
I remember the constant anxiety before I bought a house. The constant worry of when I would have to move again. Rentals get sold or the owners want it for something else or… the one certainty in life was that sooner or later I would have to move. There would come the search for somewhere suitable, finding the best possible home that I could afford, then the packing and cleaning; the expense and the disruption and the stress.
I remember finally, at last buying a house. I was fifty-one and I had lived for years without even the hope that this might happen. I was given the keys to my house and that evening I sat on the floor, I simply sat there, and the fears and the tensions and the worries melted away. I had a home. I could plant a garden. It was mine. (Well, yes, there was a mortgage, but…)
After many years of insomnia I started sleeping. I fed birds from the deck through the day and possums at night. I sat by the lake and was content or wandered into the rainforest across the road and breathed in the trees.
And then ( there always seems to be an “and then”). Illness happened. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I couldn’t work for almost twelve months. Then a gradual return: a half day, two half days, one full day… I reached four days. Then brain surgery, then a heart condition… In six years I was never able to return to work a five day week in my full-time permanent job.
The fear and the anxiety returned. What if I couldn’t pay my mortgage? What if I lost my job? What if I was too ill to continue working even part-time? The bag lady spectre came back.
Eventually I sold my house. A work flat was available, furnished and the changes had begun. A friend in a similar situation ( single, unable to buy a home by herself ) was happy to buy a house with me.
And we lived happily ever after. Well, you can fill in the next events. They aren’t what matter here.
What I really want to tell you is how part of this story, the part before I resigned from my job, meant facing the possibility of poverty- looking the fear in the face and asking if I could cope. (This is a wonderful post exploring some of the possibilities.)
What if I couldn’t afford to have a car? What if I couldn’t afford heating? No new clothes? Dentists? Food? Doctors? Never have another massage? Or see a chiropractor? What if I couldn’t afford the restaurant get-togethers? Meeting friends for coffee? Would I have to live with hairy legs, no more waxing? Concerts? Theatre?
Of course I went through the self reprimands of how privileged my life had been, of how I had frittered money, if only I’d been more frugal, if I’d stayed in one job and worked my way up, if …but that’s another story.
Two and a half years later I can tell you that it is possible! I still have my car but if I can’t replace it in the future I live in a small town where I can walk to the things I need or catch a bus.
I know that if I have no money left for food one week there is enough in my pantry to feed us. My neighbours have hens and can give me eggs. The vegetable garden is developing and will supply some food. There’s always rice and lentils and …
If it’s freezing and the heating bill is high, then… more clothes, warm underwear… there are secondhand clothing shops, there’s the world of online buying and selling… I need special clothes for an occasion? someone might lend me something…
The most significant awareness I have and that which I believe with all my being is that we must join together. A group of people on limited incomes can support each other in times of need. We must reach out and not be alone. A pestilence of our modern lifestyle is isolation and loneliness. We can find ways of living together and of sharing and of caring for each other.
It is possible! Not only is it possible, it’s fun and exciting. I have challenges, things to strive for and the endless possibilities that come with stepping out of the box.
Never give up, I say.