25 Jan 2018

Rush Hour

What does your rush hour look like? Mine looks like this:

The long and winding road...

At first glance, it tells you that I live in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the maddening crowds, the urban pollution, the sprawling suburbs, and the stress of modern life. It implies a certain quality of life that I am able to enjoy around the rural environment: oodles of space, no crowds, little to no noise, panoramic views, closeness to nature - not to mention low crime figures.

But a rush hour like this comes at a cost.

It means either I live far from the town and city, and still endure long commutes to work - not an enviable option. Or my work is land-based: farming, agricultural - and what should be an a labour of love has turned out to be hardship because this is how the State rewards those who feed the nation: crazy legislation (especially under the EU), heavy taxation, red tape, long unforgiving hours, and low pay - because the food distribution channels have squeezed out your profit margins. That means added pressure on your land for it to yield more (using fertilisers and hybrid GMO-ready seeds) and for your livestock to yield more (demanding more milk from the dairy cows to make up for your losses, expanding your chattel, taking up loans and moving the farm under an industrial model, while pumping your animals full with antibiotics and growth hormones). On your side of the game, there is no winner: your land wears itself out, your livestock wears itself out and you eventually wear yourself out. You'll consider yourself lucky when the State finally catches up with you with a cash lump sum for your farm, rase it down and have a motorway built through it.

With a rush hour like mine, one might assume that I am a stay-at-home mum or I work from home, maybe as a freelancer? Would money be no object? Either because I am financially secure... or I parted ways with the rat race!

Tickle is up for it!

I parted ways with the rat race years ago. A rush hour like mine comes at a cost maybe more to you than it does to me. Firstly I gave up on the lure of the materialistic way of life I used to enjoy. A carefully thought-out and wise decision because those material mirages were taking me nowhere down the road to happiness and fulfillment. In many ways, I feel happier now: no longer a slave to the wage, to the mortgage, to the loans, to the designer apparel.

This doesn't mean I am now living the life of an ascete or I am destitute. It doesn't mean I do not treat myself or my husband, or buy things for the home. It just means I do not follow the whims and craves and fads and trends of the market that influence life all the way to the check-out. This is a lifestyle choice.

It means I do not keep up with the Joneses either. What Joneses? We are the only residents in the hamlet for virtually half the year. What Joneses anyways? We live on a flipping island!

How about feeling deprived? Because no matter how much I sugar-coat it, a rush hour like ours comes at a cost. We live in an old family house where comfort is rustic and certain modcons like gas central heating and a fitted kitchen are lacking. This is the price to pay when you come off the rat race: it depends upon what you can now afford and adjustments inevitably have to be made.

We are cut off from quality services and conveniences that we took for granted back in UK or USA or mainland France. We live in a system that is politicised. And living as virtual hermits is in no way healthy. Humans are naturally gregarious. Birdsong is divine, and silence is golden - but too much of it rusts your spirits away.

A rush hour like ours may be a blessing to stressed-out urbanites seeking refuge from their urban shortcomings but beyond the eye-pleasing scenery, the reclusive life we live sooner or later takes its toll. A change of scenery would be most welcome.

What does your rush hour look like?

Lisbon, Portugal

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