There are many things in this world that we simply take for granted. When you can hardly afford food, then heating is not on top of the list during winter…Regardless how cold it may get. When I first began to compose my Masters dissertation, I barely made it through Christmas. Working was hardly an option after losing three jobs over not having hot water. At the time, a friend sat me down and gave me a talk about “self-respect”. With food and heating, he was only one of many to look down on me for not having the basic essentials. The cold had hardened me to the degree where I couldn’t have cared less about what we was saying. For him, fuel poverty was me punishing myself. He still does not realise fuel poverty has nothing to do with self-harming. Trust me, there are more effective ways, but it’s not like anyone actually cares about the reality of the poor. As a palliative care professional, I’ve seen many homes that were too expensive for the elderly to even contemplate heating. They couldn’t get out of bed to make a cup of tea, and countless carers just get orders to talk it through with them. Not help them. Not relocate them. Just have a talk about how they plan to change their situation… That disgusts me as much as it did then. Mainly, because they had no support or other options than to prepare for the inevitable. Their position was reduced to that of our ancestors, whom we abandoned when they were unable to withstand the extreme temperatures or could no longer continue with the nomadic lifestyle of the tribe. It was an honour for them to be left behind, sacrificing their lives so that their offsprings had a better chance at survival. Nowadays, it is no longer optional. We expect them to take one for the team, even if that means dying alone. Regardless of how old they are, they do not stand a chance in a time, when young people suffer the same ordeal.
The colder it gets, the more people feel a sense of peace and tranquility. Many don’t know that it is simply their bodies sharing information with the brain in a way that prepares them for whatever may come. Winter after winter, I tried to work from within the system to help, but then tragedy struck me. In many ways, it was poetic justice for my inability to do anything that would save lives. During the coldest of nights, when the temperatures dropped to -15C and I was struggling with extreme hypothermia, the thought that the end was nigh crept up at me. Believe it or not, I didn’t care. The cold does that… When all the heat was gone, as my head began to feel as light as cottonwool, I felt at peace. I wasn’t even 25 years old, but I had made my choice to study, when no one believed that I could, even if it would kill me. At least, I would die the way that I lived…without regrets for learnt lessons.
Before I lost consciousness that night, I prayed and then there was just a huge cut to black. I awoke in hospital, they couldn’t keep me for longer than a couple hours after I’d warmed up a little. So, they sent me on my merry way. After dragging myself back across town, whatever heat I had gained was fading fast. My stomach was empty and the only thing keeping me conscious was searing pain. A part of me knew that if the pain faded, I may lose consciousness and not wake up again.
By the time I actually turned 25, I had almost died three times. Once by knife. The second time, I almost drowned. And the third, through freezing. Near-death experiences at that point seemed more painful than actual death. Each time I was on the brink, someone would bring me back…and I was stuck to do it all over again. After all, I’m still very grateful for the help I received, but I just wanted it to be over. There was no improvement or compassion. The homeless and the poor rarely receive that. The higher echelons of society just view them as wastes of space, no matter how much they have contributed or how much they could still contribute given half a chance.
This winter is supposed to be much worse than the last three winters combined. With every winter, it becomes harder as much as my body acclimatises. The temperatures dropped close to zero before the end of October. Without being too melodramatic, every winter has become a chance for rebirth, for each winter could be my last. That’s the reality of fuel poverty… It is life or death for millions.
Despite all of this, I still work for people that the system has equally abandoned without payment for my services. There are days, even weeks, when simply walking or moving becomes excruciating, but except painkillers there’s nothing anyone can do. I’m no saint, nor am I a martyr, but for what it’s worth, I prefer to feel the pain, instead of taking the risk to spend my last moments dosed up, not knowing where up or down is… In the cold, a conscious death is not easy, but it is surprisingly peaceful. Like when you fall asleep in the snow, there comes a point, when you don’t feel your body anymore…you don’t want to think or move. Aacceptance is all there is. So, if you’re in a similar situation, don’t be afraid. Whatever happens, it is not the end for either of us.
This is probably the last thing that I’ll post for quite a while. I’m not writing this to scare anyone, I simply wish that when you read these paragraphs, it will inspire you to take a moment out of your busy schedule and celebrate your life. Many don’t get that opportunity before the ground shatters underneath their feet, so seize the present moment… All that we have can disappear in the blink of an eye without ever getting it back.
I hope you have a blissful winter. May the Great Spirit watch over you and keep you safe from harm.
All my love…