“Three (click on hyperlink and play the song) is a magic number
Ya it is, it’s a magic number
Somewhere in that ancient mystic trinity
You’ll get three
As a magic number
The past, the present, the future,
Faith, and hope, and charity,
The heart, the brain, the body,
Will give you three,
It’s a magic number”
Whenever I think of the number 3, this classic song by De La Soul often pops into my head. But De La Soul are not alone in their musings about the number 3. Many world religions contain triple deities or concepts of trinity, including the Christian Holy Trinity, the Hindu Trimurt, the Three Jewels of Buddhism and many many more.
According to Jewish law, once something is done three times it is considered a permanent thing. This is called a “chazakah“. Jewish people believe that once we have done something three times, we have connected to it and connected it to this world. The number three represents permanence. That’s why we often do things in threes or count to 3, since it adds strength to our acts.
Not only did this year see me take the Live Below The Line challenge again for the third time, but I also managed to persuade two friends to join me (Claire Ainscough and Jane Hammond), tripling the fundraising effort and impact for our chosen charity, Positive Women, so according to jewish law, I guess living below the line has now become a permanent thing for me. It certainly has gained some permanence in my conscience, but I am very glad to say that it is no longer part of my day to day living.
Last year, I wrote a blog at the end of every day, but this year, I was too busy with other things (too busy being busy to write). I did reflect after each day however and thought I’d document some of my reflections in this summative post.
Day 1 was probably the toughest day. I have a coffee addiction and am used to drinking at least 3 double espressos a day (usually 2 before noon) and yet I failed to taper my coffee intake down the week before the challenge, so I did not fare well on Monday without caffeine. I was irritable and shorter tempered than usual. This might sound like hyperbole, but I had what can only be described as the onset of a fever by 1pm. I was burning up and could not concentrate for periods of time. I don’t think my state was helped by attending a 6.30am bikram yoga class in the morning. I think I bit off a bit more than I could chew (no pun intended). The food part was fine. I had porridge, water and 1/2 a banana in the morning for breakfast, followed by baked beans on toast (no butter) for lunch, 1/2 banana and bread for a snack about 4pm and pasta, tomato sauce and onion for dinner. Seriously the food part wasn’t that tough – bit boring but fine, but the lack of caffeine was torture, until I found these beauties:I am not exaggerating when I say that these tea bags got me through my week of living below the line and at 27p for 80, they were a real bargain and really didn’t taste that bad!
Once I was able to feed the caffeine monster inside of me, all I had to do to get by was keep to my food budget and prepare and plan and prepare and plan. Living on £1 a day needs a lot of organisation especially when you live a busy life. I had to plan all of my food for the week. On day 4, when I was going to see The Vaccines at the o2, I had to cook my dinner at lunch, take it in a plastic container with me and eat it at the venue:This was the first gig in a very long time where I have supped tea and not cider, beer or wine throughout and yet it was still very enjoyable, even if I did get more than a few funny looks by fellow revellers!
What really struck me again this year was the absolute lack of choice that living below the poverty line/living on a £1 a day affords you. My biggest challenge this year was a mental one. It was training my mind to realise that I didn’t have freedom, that I couldn’t just pop into a coffee shop, that I couldn’t just buy a fruit juice, that I couldn’t not plan ahead, that I didn’t have choices and that for someone like me who is independent and carefree, this is castrating and so limiting. The last few years that I have lived below the line, I have felt this lack of choice, but it wasn’t until this year, the 3rd year that I guess I really empathised, that it really became real to me, that I really felt the plight of those people in Swaziland beyond just the tangible physical recognition of what it meant to live on so little. I really felt it truly and deeply within my conscience, perhaps like “chazakah“.
This year, I had my phone stolen whilst I was living below the line. Having your phone stolen feels pretty shitty at the best of times, but when you’re taking something on for the benefit of others and this happens, it feels like a really sick joke. But I was ok. I reported the phone stolen, I was able to walk across the road and get a new sim, I had friends offering me a replacement phone. It was a horrible experience, but I was able to come out of it pretty unscathed. Yet, if this had happened to me in Swaziland, I dread to think what the impact would have been potentially. With poverty, comes lack of choice, comes lack of freedom, comes lack of power, comes despair, but campaigns like Live Below The Line help charities like Positive Women, instil hope in the people that they work with, provide them funding to send orphans to school, which gives them some choices and eventually power.
So my third time below the line has come to an end. I am hoping that I have connected many more people to it and connected it to this world. I’ve raised over £500 already, but am still hoping to raise more. If you’d like to sponsor me, you can still do so here. Namaste:-)