012. My strange new world of water sprites & painted mushrooms

Under different circumstances this might have been the perfect life that everyone dreams of, living in The Three Bears' Cottage, with its garden pond and nature sprites, its painted mushrooms and other garden figures, living in idyllic bliss in the hills. Wasn't this the dream I had always dreamed?

But no. In spite of the magical and peaceful setting on two acres this next six months turned out to be the darkest, most unhappy time of my life.

There was my health. I was suffering from fatigue, depression, grief, burn-out, stress, exhaustion, muscular pain throughout my body, maybe a nervous breakdown, not to mention a dose of mid-life crisis.

There were my emotions. I was angry. Angry with myself for not extracating myself earlier from the Rat Race. I was sad to think my life had crashed landed. Before this happened I was just beginning to make contact with my 2 daughters after seven years. I was full of remorse and self-recrimination. I had made such a mess of everything.

I had failed in my job and my business. I had found myself struggling to survive in a world that became more and more alien to me, in which my soul was not at ease. And I had lost everything.

What had I left to live for?

There were times when I thought I might lose my very life in despair. All I could do was to let go of everything as if nothing mattered. Nothing. I'd hit rock bottom and I had nothing left to lose but to surrender to my fate. Even my identity had disappeared and I no longer knew who I was. It's a strange feeling, to be reduced to nothing.

So for six months I lived the life of a hermit with almost no contact with people, only leaving the house for my 2 kilometre walk (in each direction) to the shops once a week, often in drenching rain or scorching heat.

What a joy it was, though, to return home to find Blackie waiting for me on the porch. In spite of my financial situation I always seemed to find the extra money to buy him fresh kidneys.

Blackie, as you may have guessed, was the resident cat, living most of his life on whatever he could catch in the wild. But suddenly he was living a life of luxury. Which is more than I can say for myself. I lived on a diet basically of corn flakes, milk, bread and jam, tins of baked beans and a huge pot of soup I'd make once a week from the leftover vegetables.

(Photo: The Three Bears' Cottage, Daylesford, Australia)

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.