Learning to live without

Allan David Smith-Reeve, Thursday March 27th, 2020

While Conservatives are dreaming about how we might get used to smaller governments, Socialists are dreaming of a re-focussed social safety net for all – patching the holes and finishing the job begun post-world war two.

In our small group of Storyteller Catalysts – people living with very limited financial means – we heard a number of acute observations – shared in an online zoom call – about how things are for each of them:

Two of us recalled surviving the “Montreal Ice Storm of ’98” complete with a photo album of survival-skill memories.

The most common sentiment shared was “I feel like the world has slowed down to my normal pace.” No travelling, no retail-therapy, no restaurants, no concerts…

Lynn was asking “How has living without – equipped you for this crisis?”

Here’s some responses:

“If you haven’t had to spend a lot of time with yourself – if you haven’t had to spend time dealing with your own personal demons – without all the distractions that help us avoid them – then you may find yourself experiencing where a life without such distractions can lead. It could mean having to do the tough work of feeling the pain we’d rather avoid.”

“We usually have to deal with the expectations for “achievements” that the middle-class world revolves around. (in Bridges Out Of Poverty analysis – ACHIEVEMENT is the value that drives and defines middle class culture.)  “But now I feel like the pressure is off to socialize. The pressure is off to achieve. The pressure is off to find meaning in work roles.”

“Where many people find a sense of identity in their work, they may now have to find a sense of self – or purpose – without having meaningful work to do. I’ve learned to be okay with boredom. To be okay with just being.”

“We don’t miss what we don’t have. We know how to get by without enough. We know how to be content with what money can’t buy.”

One of our members was experiencing the loss of two of her three jobs – and so was appreciative of the work the Storytellers Catalysts were providing. This group of self-employed consultants – part of the Bridges Peterborough project – are gathering their stories and wisdom towards “Changing the Conversation about Poverty” – helping people in the mainstream understand what folks who are economically marginalized have to offer.

Even though she’d lost two sources of income, she was far from idle. Due to the crisis, her father had lost his home caregiver – she was now having to do all that work.

Two members of the group couldn’t make it because of increased childcare responsibilities – single-handed parenting was consuming time, energy, and demanding emotional, spiritual, physical and mental resources without relief.

Image Courtesy: (YWCA) Nourish Peterborough, 2020

Another member gave us a sobering reminder. Having spent several years in a prison cell without sentencing – not knowing his future’s fate – makes the current Covid uncertainty seem like something he knows how to deal with.

We were asked to imagine three people spending days at a time in lockdown – in a tiny cell with two bunk beds and a mattress on the floor – sometimes with books, sometimes with a deck of cards, without mental health or recovery supports, with in-cell toilets overflowing…

Silence followed this “guided meditation”.

Deep breaths of fresh air. Appreciation for the simple joys we have to experience. The freedoms we know and all the small priceless pleasures we so often take for granted – were elevated in our mind’s eye and soul’s desiring by this sharing.

The same member raised our spirits with joking and teasing and left us with laughter to end our storytelling time together.

These stories – and more to come – are made possible by the generosity of folks who have financial resources to share. Folks who have joined us on this journey of doing our small part to make big changes in the way we do community.

You’re welcome to join us on the journey https://bedfordhouse.ca/financial-support/