Saturday, March 4, 2017

Between cracks

With the passing of Leonard Cohen in late 2016 I saw this quote many times via social media.  A lyric from his song Anthem, 'There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in'.  I like this comment on things not being perfect.  I spent too much of my early life critically comparing myself to others.  I was, like most people, less than perfect by societies standards and hated myself for my flaws.  It was only later that I became comfortable with imperfection and learnt to embrace the cracks in myself.

But lately I've been thinking about life.  It too has cracks.  Imperfections. Problems. Crises. And what I am finding is that rather than shedding light, the cracks are something you can easily fall through. Driving to work a few weeks ago, I was stuck in traffic on a rainy morning. I looked out my side window and saw a homeless man sitting on a park bench.  The dark skies matched his overcoat and beanie. His hair, long and unkept, with a shaggy beard. His dirty face turned towards the traffic and I saw his eyes. Sadness and hopelessness. My own eyes welled with tears.  I was feeling a similar despair.

Life is hard. Sometimes it seems that no matter how hard you try to keep things together it's simply not enough. This is where I am at the moment. For quite some time I've been stressed about money.  It's not something that anyone likes to talk about.  The reality is that Peter had to leave a job that was breaking him.  It was for a charity so didn't pay that much.  But now he's a casual.  The only problem is you can't budget when your hours aren't regular, and especially when there's no work for around 3 months. Most people working part time or casual need multiple jobs to pay for basic things such a accommodation, food and bills.  But what happens when metal health issues get in the way of this?  I guess the burden to keep us going had nowhere to sit but my shoulders. And this, after many many months, has exhausted me.

My safety net is shrinking. So Peter and I (with mounting outstanding bills) have had to contemplate whether to sell our home. It's great to have an asset, but we still need somewhere to live.  I've been looking at real estate websites for both sales and rentals. If we sell, the road ahead will continue to be hard.  Selling in a strong market is great, but trying to buy back into it is...well, depressing.  Rents are as large as mortgage payments.  We need information before we can make a decision.  But there are times when it all seems too overwhelming, depressing and heartbreaking that all we feel is numbness.

People are lovely and have reached out to us, supporting us with kind words and suggestions.  We've seen financial counsellors who were great and have helped Peter get control over some things. But part of the problem is that society isn't set up to catch the people falling through the cracks. It needs you to hit rock bottom and lose everything.

I was speaking to someone this week, who's daughter was contacted by Centrelink recently. You only have to google 'centrelink robo debt' to read about the trauma and heartlessness currently faced by some people on welfare. Trying to sort things out for his daughter, this person rang Centrelink to explain she was in hospital (due to mental health issues).  Their response 'can't she read her mail in hospital?'

On the flip side I've also had to listen to a work colleague discuss his 8 week international holiday plans.  I see cafe's overflowing and the roads filled with expensive cars.  Is the gap just getting wider between people without a financial care in the world and people 'just barely getting by'?  Again, a quick internet search shows that 1 in 10 Australians are seeking assistance with food, while others go without meals every week.  1 in 200 people are homeless in Australia, and society sees them as a problem rather than trying to find solutions for keeping people safe.

There are times when I wonder why more people don't have the same look of hopelessness in their eyes as the homeless man I saw.  I also wonder why it's not mandatory for every single sitting politician to live off welfare for one month of the year. How easy is it to find somewhere affordable to live, a job or even food when you start with nothing?  How stretched are the services trying to keep people afloat? The best way to find out is for politicians to leave their harbour side mansion and try to survive without their sense of entitlement.

But back to us.  I'm not sure where the road ahead is taking us. All I can focus on is one day at a time and a plan of getting information to make a good decision in the coming months. I'm trying to find light in each day through the cracks in my life.  I'm also trying not to fall through them.





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