The Unbearable Heaviness of Being…Poor

Czech writer, Milan Kundera, wrote the 1982 novel, “The Unbearable  Lightness of Being”…hence the origin of this blog title.  I honestly don’t remember much about this book, except that I bought it because I liked the title. I give  Wiki credit for this synopsis: {His  novel is set in 1968’s Prague and centers on the idea that existence is full of unbearable lightness, because each of us has only one life to live. “whatever happened once may not have happened at all”; Therefore each life is, ultimately,  insignificant, every decision, ultimately, does not matter. Since decisions do not matter, they are light, they don’t make us suffer. They do not bind, yet simultaneously, the insignificance of our decisions-our lives, our being, is unbelievably  light }

I try to focus on such heady Kundera-like  thoughts when I start to fall into that occasional, uncomfortably dark and stressful worrying pattern,  typical of a Canadian living in poverty.  I qualify my ‘poor person’ status as Canadian because I have no illusions whatsoever that my ‘poverty’  is anywhere close to  ‘real’, like the poverty experienced by so many citizens in this world. I have safe, clean housing with running water. I do not live in a war zone. I am not afflicted with any major diseases. I have access to communication systems. I have a great dog and a nutty cat whom I both love.  Like many Canadians, particularly PWD’s,  I am not employed. That is not to say that I do not WORK. I probably commit more hours of work in the service of the ‘community’ in one year, than most people with ‘real jobs’ would, in a lifetime.  I spend long hours working on all types of unremunerated jobs, some that carry a significant amount of responsibility. My work is valid and many thank me for it. I know this in my heart and in my rational mind… I  just can’t help but feel, that the burger- flipper at Mickey D’s who gets an authentic payslip at the end of the week, is perceived as the ‘real worker’ by Joe Canuck, regardless of how many hours I put in gratis. Such is our societal standard.  I understand this. The complication sets in, during times, (like this week), when I must  seek donations of food to ‘get through the month’.  How unbearably heavy it is to be poor, or so it feels to me these days. The word ‘humbling’ is one I don’t have great affinity for.  Being poor is perceived as an adventure when you are you are a struggling student, or a newly wed, or a young traveler. It is not in any way so exciting or interesting to live in poverty as a middle-aged woman who is already eligible for some  types of ‘senior’ discounts. It gets to be a major drag.. until I hear the echoes of my late mother’s voice saying, “There are others worse off, we are so lucky”. Still , it’s a bitter pill to swallow… And I missed the anti-poverty event in Halifax on Saturday. Shame on me.


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