I often think about this blog, it’s new for me but I find it a great place to refocus things that happen around me and make sense of them. But I’m also aware that others read it… And that stops me somehow, like I need to reassure myself that everyone’s happy, from really delving into the darker, shadow sides of living.
And that’s where I’m looking for balance. The incessant striving to find the happy, the bright, the lovely things is leaving me dry. There’s a whole load of stuff I don’t write about or explore because it might bring up something of the darker side that I try so hard to stuff down and assure myself I don’t really have.
At times life is just shit. With so many of the immense joys and mild happiness I experience is an opposing depth of feelings that I often ignore. Or give them an inferior status. Like boredom. Anxiety. Depression. Frustration and Anger. It feels taboo to talk about such things with people other than your closest. We all assume a persona that tells the world and ourselves that all is rosy. Except a persona has the uncanny knack of slipping. Then, alone, we air our darker selves.
So how about me, my anecdote for a blog post? Right now we are riding low, down in the trough of a financial wave. Week on week I watch the money coming in and the money going out and pour hours into finding ways to stretch it further. We rely heavily on tax credits and housing benefits and the austerity squeeze is leaving us gasping for breath. We no longer function in ways that I recognise as a ‘normal’ family. And we are falling into the trap of poor people making poor decisions. Hearing my son tell his friends ‘we can’t do that. We’re poor’ shocks me into the realisation that this is not what I want to be the identity of my family. But when there’s no cash there’s only so many ways you can tell a kid they can’t have; trips out, new toys, new shoes, food. And there’s the trough, looking in the cupboard and lacking even the basic ingredients to rustle up healthy snacks. I comb through blogs and recipes ‘gluten free on a shoestring’, ‘economical homesteaders’ and such like but find nothing that can inspire me with a nourishing meal whipped up from half a cabbage, a bit of squash from the garden, some gluten free flour, rice milk and rice. There the darker emotions set in. The anxiety that we are tripping along the edge of complete financial meltdown, the stress that we cannot provide for our family and the fear that others might find out. That we have failed.
I skim through Facebook looking at posts, articles, updates and photographs. And I am confronted by a dichotomy. The pages I follow fill my feed with articles of despair, suffering and how the structures of civilisation that we have upheld for so long are crushing so many. Here, there and far far away. We pass notes between each other highlighting the ‘other’ darkness. And we share anecdotes, updates and pictures showing how much fun we’re having and how well we’re doing. And it all makes me wonder if, really, we share the bad stuff to make our stuff feel good.
We do not question whether, in fact, we are the entirely oppressed. Born into a life of entitlement filled with the need to consume, consume, consume! That we must continually strive to achieve…. What exactly? We lack communities that support us, strong bonds and networks between families, friends and neighbours that mean no matter what shows up we have a team the size of a large village backing our response. And we reassure ourselves that it’s ok, that we are the lucky ones. We have no war, no famine, no disease, no worries that we are the same people that perpetuate these horrors amongst those we do not see each day.
And like I said sometimes life is just shit. The boredom sets in, the anxiety that perhaps we are not quite reaching our potential as we measure ourselves against a rotten and decayed yardstick. We do not openly talk about the chronic sleep deprivation, the vague unhappiness within relationships, the fear that we cannot ever overcome the shadows that haunt us, the financial worries and stresses that take over our minds and bring illness to our bodies. Because to voice such thoughts feels to give away that we have failed. Keep it quiet and we still have a chance to win.
But back to finding balance. There is much that I am now learning. As I have through every other trough. The deeper the trough the deeper the learning and how much fuller the joy, the knowledge and good feeling as I raise up and out. Now, the less my family is able to engage in ‘civilised activities’ (you know, going out for meals, a quick pint, anything that costs anything) the further back I am able to stand and reflect. I am given the opportunity to stop and really question what is right and good here? And how do I relate to it all? There is so much that confronts me, that angers me and fires me with a rage that such things can happen and I become acutely aware that our trough is a mere dip compared to what others are being put through each day. That we are blessed and abundant in so many ways. That what we no longer participate in is merely superficial rituals of wealth, whereas, in that which truly matters; love friendship fun, we are truly wealthy. I am learning the true meaning of abundance, how to pull further and further from a flawed and damaging economy and build ever stronger links with others who create alternative economies. How to shift my perceptions and see how well we are provided for in all that we need, how to create much from very little. And yes, I can whip up whole ranges of interesting and tasty meals from the oddest of ingredients!
So what is the point of it? Well, perhaps, if we opened up and shone light into the shadowy areas, if we could face up to them, recognise and name them, if we voiced them and shared them as the ebbs and flows of living, we could better ride the inevitable crests and troughs while maintaining a balance that keeps us all afloat. Maybe if we shared the downs as well as the ups we would recognise patterns and see how we can make little changes that improve life for everyone. Perhaps, we could own up to the depths of destruction that are carried out in our name and realise that we have the sovereignty to say ‘no’. Just maybe, we’ll realise that fundamentally things aren’t that alright and that we have the capacity to grow ourselves the communities that can bring changes.
And what about the current trough? It’s a wave, sometime soon we’ll be on the crest.
‘There are times when life seems like a struggle, where the only reward you get for hanging on is the chance to struggle some more. It’s a heavy toll. But it’s a fine ride and sometimes you get to see the sea.’ – MMS