Eye-opening. Surreal. Exhausting. Soul crushing. Unbearable. Mind-blowing. Uplifting.
Those are just a few words that describe it. Some are in the form of compassion, while others describe frustration as you attempt to rise out of bed without falling into the wall or slumping back into bed. Others come in the form of emptiness; emotionally and physically as your tummy rumbles at you with confusion of why you’re doing this. One should feel all of this to truly understand the reason behind it and grasp the concept of why one should put themselves through this for five days.
I am on my fifth day of Live Below the Line. My last day. That last hurdle to get past. By this time tomorrow, I will more than likely be eating my dinner, which usually consists of something unhealthy but still fulfilling. I will sit down with my great plate of food in front of me that contains a variety of goodies with plenty of potatoes and I will eat it in the same peculiar order as I always do. The only thing that will have changed in the ritual is my appreciation of it. The appreciation for the food I will have in front of me, that I can afford to have a great meal such as this and that I don’t necessarily have to worry about the next day or the day after that. Many don’t have the luxury to do this or feel this way. They live under constant stress of when their next meal will be and when it finally comes, it’s nothing more than a piece of food that could fit in your hand. I had to budget for my meals, count the cents and I saw how quickly food adds up. Unfortunately, each day I had to add in about .50 cents worth of my Glowing Green Smoothie. That took a huge chunk out of my $1.50 a day limit but I physically needed to have this drink because if I hadn’t, my stomach would have been in knots and it would have been horrible. I usually drink two large cups a day of that smoothie, so cutting back on it was hard but necessary.
It is true what was said by people who had completed this campaign before it actually started. Day three is when it really starts to hit you. I woke up several times the night before and when it was time for me to actually get out of bed, I couldn’t. I felt weak, disoriented, lightheaded, queasy and had a slight headache. My arms felt like they weighed 30 lbs. and I could barely lift them to do my hair and make-up. I stumbled into the kitchen to grab my hard-boiled egg and one piece of toast with a small amount of jelly on it and ate every crumb of it. I usually share some of my egg with my dog Henry, but not this time. As I got settled in at work, coworkers would say to me that I looked tired and would joke about me fainting or falling over. I personally believe I didn’t look that bad because I had enough make-up on to do a photo shoot and look half-way decent. But you couldn’t look past my tiredness, irritability or the fact that I wasn’t wearing my normal high-heels for fear I would stumble from the lack of coordination.
Day four came and it wasn’t any better. Even though I am skinny, I noticed that my tummy looked sunken in and I hadn’t known it was possible for something like that to happen so quickly. Driving to work was more difficult on day four. It’s not a long drive by any means but the sun played horrible tricks on my eyes and the other drivers were driving like maniacs. Probably not but that’s what it felt like. Since day three, I noticed I’ve been more edgy but I’ve been trying to put a smile on my face and not look miserable. Not quite sure if I succeeded with that. I have been a little uncoordinated with the simplest of tasks. While putting food back in the kitchen, I put the cold stuff in the cabinets and put the stuff not needing to stay cold, in the fridge. I took food to work and while packaging it into a container and carrying it to the car, I treaded very carefully. If I were to have dropped that container of rice, I would have had a complete meltdown in the driveway for all my neighbors to see. I also know, while sitting at my table looking down at the meniscal amount of food that lays on my plate, I could easily jump in my car, go down to a deli or an Ah-So and get food. The only thing that stops me is that I know I shouldn’t.
For the past five days, I have been explaining to many around me the concept and idea of what it means to live below the line. I told as many people as I could, whether they wanted to listen or not. Many just gave me blank and bewildered stares like I was some strange zoo animal they were trying to figure out. Some just cocked their heads to one side while attempting to blurt out some compassionate phrase, all the while looking at me as if I were a pitiful child. Then there were the ones that left me questioning the norms of our society. They didn’t have to say or do much to get this reaction out of me. They just looked at me like I was the biggest ass and said “That sucks!”.
So after my big explanation, my attempt to get them to see the reasoning behind living below the line and my half-breathed speech of why I’m doing this and how it can build awareness and compassion for people less fortunate, this is what they leave me with? Some gave me a shoulder shrug or a roll of the eyes along with it. Still didn’t ease the hostility or frustration I felt, probably made it worse. Were they attacking me or the idea? Did they lack compassion for others so much that they were blind to see the reason behind it all? Were they so selfish that they didn’t take just one second to think of how a person living below the line would feel if they heard this? I could feel the heat practically radiating off of me and I wanted so badly to give them my death look (which I do quite well).
But then I had to take a step back. Not that I was going to harm them, but mentally take a step back and think about why they would make such a statement. Then I realized, these people aren’t aware of any of this. Not aware of any of the problems that are happening in the world in regards to food, clean water, access to vaccinations, health care or living conditions. I can’t hold them responsible for something they know nothing about. The lack of compassion comes from the lack of awareness. If one is not aware of the problems within the world, how can we judge them when they show no compassion for it? Not to say that I am aware of all that goes on around the world. I probably only know a quarter of the issues and that’s barely scratching the surface.
So, it may not be selfishness or lack of compassion that embodies them. It’s lack of knowledge. Not lack of understanding for which they know nothing about. What needs to happen is more awareness that reaches out to people. Awareness that they can relate to. The commercials we see on TV do almost nothing. Most get annoyed and turn the channel immediately. Awareness needs to come in a form that is familiar. People spend a good amount of time at work and school. Within the work field, there could be promotions or team-building events that focus around awareness and how their company could make difference. Schools could participate more with awareness campaigns. Not ones that bring the school money like they normally do, but ones that actually make a difference in the amount of knowledge these students are going out in the world with. Why are so many students being sent out in the world lacking the knowledge of how the world really is? It’s not all sweets and roses out there. There’s turmoil, suffering, hunger and corruption within the world and in this lifetime unfortunately, we will not see the end of it.
Living below the line gives a small yet eye-opening glimpse into this world. But it doesn’t suck. A better way to describe it out there is unfortunate, damaged but not done for, heartbreaking, cruel, distressing but most definitely hopeful.