Each day there seems to be news of yet more cuts to our public services, both here on the Island and elsewhere on the mainland. We have learned recently that the Isle of Wight has the largest unemployment in the country and with the loss of so many of our services and jobs – on top of the poverty and hardship that many face here – it is difficult not to feel rather grim about the immediate future.
I have been thinking a good deal about how to retain a sense of abundance and gratitude in such times of obvious lack. I feel extremely grateful that I now live a relatively comfortable existence; this wasn’t always the case and my past experiences have never let me take for granted anything that I now have. Retaining a sense of gratitude – remembering to be thankful for the little things – helps enormously but I have to admit to a cold, creeping fear when I think of the cuts and their potential impact.
I recognise beneath this fear my own terror of being plunged back into that dreaded place: barely scraping by; living in damp, cold, cramped spaces; not feeling safe or secure… I did it for many years and I know how easy it is to get stuck, and of how, once there, you can become an easy target for the prejudice and ill-judged assumptions of others.
There has been much talk about the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving poor’ of late in our media. I find this despicable evaluation of those that should be supported and those that shouldn’t, odious. For anyone that has ever experienced poverty and lived on the average pittance that is received on benefits, they will know how demoralising and tough it can be. The idea that there are countless, feckless scroungers, living in undeserved luxury is the kind of Daily Mail myth that we’d do best to ignore for the piece of hateful hogwash it is.
I have written much about trusting in life on this Blog, mainly because it is something I have been learning to do for myself. When I write about something, I am actually in the process of trying to unravel my own confusion and make sense of my life; writing is an incredibly useful tool to clear the mists that obscure our feelings. And here I am again, tapping away to make sense of the awful psychological discomfort that this government’s policies stir in me. What is stronger – the fear of life or the trust?
In the poorest moments of my past, I know I was in possession of things of extreme value and worth; things that poverty couldn’t touch: love, friendship and the desire to create. So why are my fears so great and my sense of trust so shaky? Mostly, regardless of where we find ourselves, we survive and live without perhaps realising the cost. It is when we experience a contrast –when we escape from chronic poverty or difficulty – that we then are faced with the challenge to embrace our new, easier life, enjoying it without the fear of losing it. I have to admit, this is one I struggle with, trying hard not to feel that the rug will inevitably be pulled out from beneath me.
I am sure many people are feeling similar thoughts at the moment. Only today I heard that a friend has lost his job. We can all make the decision to react as positively as possible to the difficulties that confront us but we are also subject to wider social and political forces that are beyond our control, and it is these that we somehow have to negotiate, balancing what we can change with what we can’t.
I believe in the fundamental goodness of life and of people, so trust is obviously the best horse to bet on. In times of fear and worry, I often turn to my childhood copy of The House at Pooh Corner by A.A Milne and struggling with how to end this Blog post, I thought I would do that thing when you ask a book for guidance and open it randomly, here is the result:
The wind was against them now, and Piglet’s ears streamed behind him like banners as he fought his way along, and it seemed hours before he got them into the shelter of Hundred Acre Wood and they stood up straight again, to listen, a little nervously, to the roaring of the gale amongst the tree-tops.
“Suppose a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?”
“Supposing it didn’t,” said Pooh after careful thought.