010. Choosing whether to live or die

Okay. I had to learn a new set of rules for living on $A25 ($US18) a week from my meager government welfare payment after allowing for the small rental on the holiday flat in Hepburn Springs. At the supermarket I would apply my first rule of survival - nothing over $2. My second rule became - once around the aisles for what I wanted then around again to put back what I could do without. It was the only way.
Rules 3 to 13 were - no daily newspapers or magazines, no eating out, no takeaway meals, no alcohol, no new clothes, no spending sprees, no impulse buys, nothing on credit, no long- distance phone calls, no trips to anywhere including Melbourne to visit my family, the toughest rule of all. I communicated with my mother and my 2 daughters by mail. I was already saving money by being a non-smoker and a vegetarian.
The grim alternative was to run out of money which I often did.
In which case I could buy nothing until the fortnightly welfare payment appeared in my bank account. It's not a good feeling to have no money. I had no savings, no lump sum payout, no superannuation, no investment portfolio, no life assurance, no hidden Swiss bank accounts and no valuables stashed away. And no rich relatives.
But then, as Erica Jong wrote:
"Only at the bottom can you decide whether to live or die."
I had decided to live. How, I wasn't exactly sure right then.
One thing was for sure. I was not going to think of myself as a 'victim.' Nor did I intend living in squalor or slitting my wrists.
One day followed the next, with nothing to look forward to, with no goals, or ambition, no money to buy anything but basic food, nothing to provide me with an interest in life. In the world I had left behind my name would have been mud. I was a failure, a financial disaster. My thoughts were full of remorse and regret.
I had no idea how I would get myself out of this hole I was in. There was no way back. And, it seemed, no way forward. My situation seemed hopeless. I wondered what would become of me.
Photo: Hepburn Springs

Today Neil Smith is an author and blogger working from home in a quiet fishing village across the bay from Melbourne, Australia. He has authored 3 non-fiction books including 'The Mystery of Granny's Ghost'. Visit his book website at neilwjsmith.com and his 'Work From Home' blog at neilwjsmith.info.