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.

Home is where the heart is.

the view from my “old” deck.the view from my old deck.

Home is one of my highest priorities: home, and having my community around me.

Home is where I like to be. It’s where I come to be renewed, where I feel safe and secure- my haven. I called my first home “Hearts’ Ease”- I wanted it to be a place of heart’s ease, not just for me, but for anyone who needed it. And, I grew heart’s ease around the door.

Being a renter in the city for so much of my life, I found it more and more difficult to deal with the regular moves and the constant insecurity- Would I be able to find a place to live? Would I be able to pay the rent?

I used to joke about being a bag lady when I was old and although I was joking, underneath I truly did fear it. It was a dread that tied in with my lack of my own family, of not feeling that I belonged anywhere- the big two for me: feeling secure and safe in my home and having a place where I belong.

Something Gloria Steinem wrote about growing older and still not owning a home really struck me. She wrote that if she ended up a bag lady she would  politicize and organize them. I have a wonderful image of Gloria leading a demonstration of bag ladies- waving placards, marching, making demands…

This, quite literally transformed how I was seeing the future- from feeling anxious and fearful to knowing that “whatever happened, I’d handle it.” ( and thank you to Susan Jeffers book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway“).

Now, I have a home and no mortgage. I am so blessed. I have a friend who will share it with me and together we will work out how to live co-operatively.

I’d love to have a granny flat or studio, a separate space, where we could offer sanctuary when someone needed it. There’s been times in my life when I’ve needed time out to regroup and recover, but there’s always been rent to pay and no chance to call a halt.

I am worried by the reports of the growing number of older women who, through circumstance, are vulnerable to rising rents, some of whom are already homeless. I feel powerless to do much about it- but have chosen to buy a house with a friend so two of us have a home.

We need to find new and better ways of living- ways that are communal, shared and sustainable; where people are supported and nurtured, rather than isolated, alone and vulnerable.

We can do it!

And here I am, living in the country

As someone once said to me “it doesn’t matter where you start, you’ll always get to where you need.”

So, here goes!

Some years ago ,I fled to my mother’s, who still lived in the village where I grew up, to put some space between the man I loved and myself. We needed some distance to lick our wounds and give ourselves time to see whether we had a future.
I ended up with a job and a mortgage and have stayed without ever really making a choice to stay.  Continual illness and large chunks of time off work  meant I have lived in constant anxiety about not being able to keep up the mortgage payments and becoming homeless.

.. It’s a long story. Eventually I sold my house, left my job and  bought this house with one of my friends- a large house in a small, country town. The main street still has a shop (more a shed), for irrigation things and the rural supplies shop has hay bales and farm bits in the window. Window display is clearly not a selling point. I hear cows mooing at night. There’s a sheep in the backyard a few houses along.

Six months after moving into this house, I’m still living in chaos. Boxes line the hall, books are stacked downstairs and I spend too much time searching for a piece of paper I had five minutes ago.

My friend has never lived in the country and she prefers inner-city; she is truly an urban dweller as was I.  But we are mortgage free! And we have some space where we can grow vegies, live a simpler life, put solar panels on the roof and contribute to our community.

Renting in Sydney, I couldn’t see how I could ever buy. I feared being a bag lady. Buying with a friend has risks. It’s a challenge. But it means I don’t always have to put out the garbage. If one of us is ill, we have someone to drive us to the doctor, make the chicken soup…And, we are sharing resources rather than  gobbling up so many of the earth’s resources.  A couple of times I’ve thought I might have been getting sick- my first thought? It didn’t matter. I don’t have a mortgage. My friend and I are two of the lucky ones. We can only give it a go!