It’s possible! Who needs lots of money to be happy?

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…)

Manning Regional Art Gallery's photo.

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.)

Harvest from the garden.

Harvest from the garden.

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.

Shared bounty from a friend.

Shared bounty from a friend.

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.

 

Take the step and throw yourself in.

Take the step and throw yourself in.

It’s been a while, Kate, maybe it’s time for a review.

a very long time ago.

a very long time ago.

Who am I ? Why do I blog?  What am I on about?

It’s time to review,  recharge the batteries, re-connect and go back to the basics. A time to remember what drives me.

I blog because I must. For many years I lived with an urge to write.  Something inside  kept on pushing me to write. Web 2 happened and with it blogging. That vague, constant “I want to write,” became “I could write a blog.” It’s taken a very long time but I’ve finally started, instead of merely thinking about it.

This year I have had several months when I haven’t written and I said to one of my friends, in a moment of misery, “If I don’t write, then I might as well be dead.” Not because I’m accomplished, not because I think I’m good but because I must. Without writing, I lose a sense of purpose

in writing mode.

in writing mode.

Years ago I used to write a column in a small magazine. Come the deadline and I would sit at my computer and ask myself “What’s in my heart today?” That’s how I want to write.

Cheryl Strayed (author of “Wild: A journey from lost to found”, now a movie) says “When you’re speaking in the truest, most intimate voice about your life, you are speaking with the universal voice.”

You  probably know that feeling when you strike a chord in the heart of the person to whom you are speaking. That’s what I want to do.

Most likely these are some of the things I write about:

  • I love and cherish this Earth, our home. I care about what we have done and am committed to living in a way that is least damaging. That means living simply and sustainably. I was a city dweller and now live in a small rural town in Australia. The garden beds are begun so we can grow some of our own food.
  • the garden begins.

    the garden begins.

    I’m a woman, a single woman. For many reasons I have little financial security, but I am one of the fortunate ones. I live in my own home, paying neither rent nor mortgage. To do this, I have chosen to buy a house with one of my friends and become a co-houser. I have been fortunate. The spectre of homelessness as an older woman no longer looms so close. However, I remain passionate about the plight of many older women.

  • I love ideas and reading, listening to and watching stimulating programs. Favourite activitiesof mine include discussing ideas endlessly with friends, thinking and pondering  things I’ve heard, read or seen. Ideas fill me with enthusiasm and I want to share them, to pass them on, to let others know.
  • Illness has affected my life. I understand exhaustion, fatigue, insomnia and extreme illness because I’ve been there. I am alive because I have a stoma and ileostomy. Many times I have longed for another person who understood, really understood what I was experiencing. If someone who is exhausted, can’t sleep or been ill for a very long time, reads something I have written and feels the relief that comes with finally being understood, then I’ll be happy. And I want to show how it is to you who may not have been there, to deepen your understanding and empathy.
  • I need to feel I belong. It’s one of our most basic needs- to belong and be part of a group. One of my aims in this community, as always is to help to bring people together, to do what I can to make sure no one is isolated and alone. Community matters.
  • One of my kookaburras yesterday. A simple pleasure and a delight.

    One of my kookaburras yesterday. A simple pleasure and a delight.

    And sometimes I write about nothing very much, because life is mostly ordinary and nothing very much, but greatly to be treasured.

Imagine walking a mile in someone else’s headline: Monica Lewinsky speaks at TED2015

In praise of a noble woman.

Monica Lewinski. We are all familiar with that name. But we can forget that behind the name stands a human being, a person, a woman.
I have thought of her over the years; I have wondered how she was; aware, in some way, of how much she must have suffered; wondered how anyone could possibly survive such a maelstrom.
I am so glad she has survived- through great pain and at great cost and has become a person of great integrity, honesty and compassion. I am awed by her courage- in choosing to live, in facing the pain and now in choosing to stand tall and proud, to hide no longer.

I have been moved and inspired by her TED talk and by her recent essay. This is the TED blog summarizing the talk she has just given. The post contains links to the talk itself and to the essay in Vanity Fair.
Thank you Monica Lewinsky, firstly for your courage in choosing to live and now for your courage in choosing to speak with vulnerability and integrity. You are a hero of our time.

TED Blog

At TED2015, Monica Lewinsky calls herself "Patient Zero" for online harassment. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED. “Public humiliation as a blood sport has to stop,” says Monica Lewinsky onstage at TED2015. “We need to return to a long-held value of compassion and empathy.” Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED.

Monica Lewinsky is one of very few people over the age of 40 who has no interest in being 22 again.

“At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss,” she says bluntly as she begins her talk on the TED2015 stage, her hands clasped in front of her. “At the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences. “

Lewinsky asks for a show of hands: “Who didn’t make a mistake at 22?”

“Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of my mistake, and I regret that mistake deeply,” she continues. “In 1998, after having been swept up in an improbable romance, I was then swept up into the eye of a political, legal…

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Gone with the windfall.

Writing101. Daily prompt.

You just inherited $1,000,000 from an aunt you didn’t even know existed. What’s the first thing you would buy (or otherwise use the money for)?

I have whiled away many an hour dreaming about what I would do if I won the Lottery or had an unexpected windfall. It’s a splendid way to pass the time during a long trip. I dream of having a community, of being able to offer a home to people who need one. Land with cabins built on it? Or land sub-divided into villas?  There must be gardens and it must be beautiful. The possibilities are almost endless.

A corner offering sanctuary.

A corner offering sanctuary.

There have been times in my life when I have needed sanctuary, somewhere to give me space to regroup and heal, but I’ve had to pay the rent and there was nowhere to go. How wonderful it would be to be able to offer such a place. I have read about a woman, a breast cancer survivor herself, who established a healing centre for women to come and heal, both physically and spiritually.

Before I bought this house I rented a flat in accommodation linked to my work. There were two flats, each with a yard, and a house in this group. The house and the flats faced onto a large, shared area. We established a communal garden here and it quickly became a place to gather. We could share meals, have a cup of tea together, offer each support, celebrate birthdays…it was a place of community and belonging, but we each had our own space and privacy. I envisage something similar.

I’m something of a mother hen. I’d like to be able to gather all my chickens around me.

I don’t have to think for long to come up with a list of friends I’d like to house!

Only yesterday, I was thinking about a work colleague and a friend, both of whom would find their lives easier with a safe home. The work colleague has Parkinson’s. He is reliant on casual employment in a stressful environment, but has to work for as long as he can. He’s self supporting and has no family in this country. A brave and courageous person, I’d love to be able to say to him “Here is your home for as long as you want.”

My friend is a single mother who struggles to give her child the best possible life  on a very limited income. Imagine being able to offer her a home with a garden for all the animals her daughter yearns for.

I do know that when I have dreamt about a windfall in the past, I end up recognizing that I have enough. And maybe there are other ways to support and cherish my friends. (I won’t give up on the dream of a sanctuary, however!)

 

 

 

The Importance of Naming

I wonder how you see yourself when you’re reflecting. Do you see yourself as a woman or a man? Or do you think to yourself, after all I’m only a girl, or only a boy.

Having just celebrated International Women’s Day seems a good time to talk about it.

poster from "Rosie the Riveter"- documentary about women performing traditional men's jobs during the Second World War.

poster from “Rosie the Riveter”- documentary about women performing traditional men’s jobs during the Second World War.

Living in the country I’ve been disappointed and dismayed to hear how common it is to label women as girls. And surprised at the responses I get when I point out to someone that actually, I’m a woman, not a girl. It saddens me when I hear mature women giggle and say that oh no, they’re only girls.

I thought this was a battle that had been won back in the seventies.  Some people respond when I object by saying that surely it’s not important. To which I want to say, well then, why are you protesting and why is it difficult for you to use the term” woman” rather than “girl”. If it doesn’t matter then it won’t matter what term you use and you’ll find it easy enough to do.

Because it’s never only words. Language, the very words we use, shape how we think and who we are. Many traditional cultures have rituals and strong beliefs around the significance of names. Revealing one’s true name can give the other power over you; in others, names are not given until initiation ceremonies. If words don’t matter, then why do we need a Racial Vilification Law? And why could one of our footballers successfully object when a young spectator called him a nigger?

Of course words matter!

Listening to a university conference for young women some years ago I was moved by one of the young participants. She got up and began to introduce herself as  “I’m a girl in”…pause…deep breath…”I’m a young woman in year 11″….A moment of insight and change for that young woman and one requiring courage.

I confess that when I name myself as woman, sometimes I still need to take a breath, because to do so I am acknowledging my maturity, my strength, my power and my responsibility for my own life. If I’m only a girl then I can still expect someone else to look after me.

To my shame I remember a moment with my primary class back when I was in my early twenties. We were playing a ball game and as one of the boys was about to throw to me, I said ” Remember, I’m only a girl.” He was a child, maybe ten, I was an adult. I still cringe when I think about it. What was the message I, as his teacher, was giving? Unfortunately that’s not the only time I’ve taken refuge in the excuse “I’m only a girl!”

However, the most telling illustration for me about the power of names  is a story told by a South African man. As a boy in South Africa one of his mentors was the African man who worked in the garden of his parents’ home. There were household changes and this man took over some of the house chores.

His story goes that one day he commented to his mentor that he hadn’t realised  he was a house boy, as well as a garden boy. The African man drew himself up, gazed at the boy and said “Son, I’m a man, not a boy.”

Do I need to mention colour distinctions here?

So, women, let’s be proud to be women- strong, mature and beautiful!

P.S. I would love to know what you think!