Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Surreal Land of Plenty

Here I am, at my sister's place in Ontario. A surreal land of plenty.

A one way plane ticket was sent so I could attend my nephew's wedding. Sis lives in beautiful Southwestern Ontario in a two bedroom, two bathroom, full basement brick home with her hard working husband. Her now adult children (and grandchildren) all live within a 20 mile radius and everyone gets along well. I love my sis and her family.

Their lifestyle is middle class mainstream. This means they lack for little in the North American Capitalist arena. I find myself gasping at the way the money flows in this household: instead of one four litre plastic jug of ozonated, distilled water there are eighteen: instead of thawing three frozen chickens the night before a barbeque, my brother-in-law goes to the butcher to purchase 'fresh' chickens. Running to town in one of their two vehicles to buy one forgotten item is not a problem. Leftover food is thrown out, as bro-in-law won't eat it.

They have a dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, air conditioner, dehumidifier, two computers, two television sets and every conceivable kitchen gadget imaginable, not to mention the hundreds of tools, camping gear, extra clothing items, bicycles, sports equipment, tent trailer, utility trailer and sundry other STUFF that has been purchased.

Not being around others who live such a lifestyle for any length of time, I am astounded that this seems to be the norm.

When you live well below the poverty line, as do I, such monetary excess seems obscene, unnecessary and sickening. For me, nothing that requires spending my meager income is taken for granted. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is done without preplanning.

When I write, I forget that most people don't really have a clue as to how I make ends meet on a daily basis. It is a constant challenge, which I have mastered over many years of eking out a living.

Sis says that only I, of all my siblings, have an acquired 'Grace' to endure living well below the poverty level. To Sis, I reply: There is nothing graceful about poverty.


CK said...

I hear you.

I am trying to teach my husband the values of minamalist living and values.

This is a man whose parents raised him with the values you speak of your sister's. Always the pressures; his brother is a chief surgeon and his sister is a "shadow coach" (don't ask me what that is: I naively asked her if that meant she coached sports involving shadow puppets. Suffice to say, she wasn't amused).

Then, his ex-wife and mother of his kids is a real spend thrift; she married into money and all she talks about is trying to break out of her pre-nup and how much her new appliances cost and "When are you going to see the fridge"? Very much reminiscent of "When are you going to see the baby"? (Seinfeld).

As a result, my husband had spent years living above and beyond his means (before we met, naturally); lived through 2 bankruptcies (guess the first one didn't get his attention);

Anyhow, he's much better now. I redeemed him (still much work needed; please don't get me wrong): he gets nervous when I decide to take an unpaid day off work... (oohhh! The horror!) that kinda thing; but I'm workin' on it.

I, too, have lived many years below the poverty line. I know where you're coming from. I was, however, fortunate to have had some help from my family over the years. But I am very conscious of those who aren't as lucky as I was (still am) to have a good family.

I was lucky enough a year and half ago to be at right place at right time and that interviewer liked me in order to get the job I have today.

Daphne Moldowin said...

Thanks for your input, CK. Kudos to your husband!!! It is not often that one has the chance to see things from 'both ends' of the spectrum.

Both of my sisters and a niece-in-law have read the post and their comments are quite different.

Niece-in-law says: 'very insightful" and after speaking with her, she realizes that she
(and my nephew) had never thought that way before. It has given her pause for thought.

Elder sister relates well, as she, too struggles with finances all of her single life.

Sis, depicted in the post, says she is well aware of the decadent life-style she lives and applauds my efforts to bring awareness to the overabundance that some of all live with ~ unnecessarily, in my opinion.

Kim said...

It is strange to witness that kind of consumerism up close isn't it? You might invite your niece to visit and experience the other end of the spectrum, she'd learn alot.

My brother lives in middle class luxury too, but I have to admire the thoughtful way they are raising their children. Those kids know how to grow and preserve food. They enter the fall fair every year and Disney is not allowed. Also, Christmas is a restrained tradition at their house.

My son grew up in relative poverty. We lived in a one bedroom house, so his was the living room with a Hide-a-bed. He's a very responsible 21 now and I can't help but notice that lack of money and random stuff has made him into an adult who appreciates good fortune.

In sharp contrast my neighbours kids have been given everything they desire and Christmas at their house is an exercise in consumerism. To the point that the parents stress out and bills go unpaid, all to make "magic". I think they are setting those kids up for failure, if everything is handed to you, how are you going to learn a work ethic? (The oldest, 13, is now doing cough medicine and Ecstacy to get high, and having sex. Strangely, the parents just want to be "cool" in the eyes of their kids.)

Daphne Moldowin said...

Neice-in-law may not notice a lack of anything, should she visit me at home.

I have developed a strategy for living within my meagre means that does not show when anyone visits. Even good friends do not know how small my 'income' really is. I eat well, but must plan a menu that will fit the budget.

Entertaining others at my home may include a cup of tea or coffee but, sadly, not a meal.

My sons were aware we didn't have 'stuff' like other families. Sometimes this bothered them and they were encouraged to discuss their thoughts whenever they needed to. Now that they are grown men, they are grateful for the lessons learned; especially in these times of 'economic unrest'.