Let me tell you a true story about my week; more of a metaphor really…in the end. When my fridge freezer started to fail a couple of days ago, I suspected straightaway that it was to do with the hairline crack that had formed in the liner several months ago. I got straight on to the company with whom we took out the “new for old” product insurance but the engineers they tried to put me in contact with were permanently engaged and never returned my call. I’m a busy person so I convinced myself the “problem” was aesthetic and ignored it for a few months longer.
Now, all of a sudden, the freezer part wasn’t freezing and there was a repeated “clicking” sound going off in my house which, detective work suggested, emanated from the back of the fridge. Of course, our weekly shopping was due for delivery that very night and, by morning (even after transferring the fridge items to the defunct freezer which, at least, felt somewhat “cool”) it became obvious that the whole unit had failed. Temperatures had actually started rising as the compressor was forced to work much harder, making the walls hot and a chemical smell seemed to be filling the void…so we switched it off and kept the doors firmly shut.
The engineers, who I pounced upon as soon as their office opened, were friendly enough and, at first impression, rational enough to have straightforward dealings with so hopefully this would be relatively quick to resolve. It seemed obvious to them that the fridge liner had been compromised (there was now a ladder of cracks on the back wall) and he told me it was certain the machine would be a “write-off” because the liners aren’t considered worth replacing. Given that and they were too busy to come out for 3 or 4 days, I asked if this “write-off” could be done from photographs. Sure, he said, conditional upon my insurers’ say-so, if I could email detailed photos of the cracked liner, an engineer’s report could be written and I would be a step nearer getting a replacement fridge.
So I spoke to the insurers and was put through to someone in the resolutions department. He seemed nice enough as he listened to what I explained but then put me on hold to speak to the same engineer I had just chatted so amicably to, during which time I was still calmly confident that I was well on the way to my problem being sorted.
However, when he came back to me, the whole story was changed and his account of the guy I had just spoken to made him sound like quite a different person. Of course they couldn’t write off my fridge freezer on the basis of a photograph, I was told; the engineer had completely denied telling me this could be done. After all, I could have taken a photo of any old fridge (hello inherent mistrust of fellow-human being) so I would just have to wait for the engineer to come out some time the following week to see it with his own eyes and draw the same, inevitable, conclusion. My ease-filled journey had suddenly compressed to where I was apparently being sent through the narrow bureaucratic tunnel of “procedure” that involved someone driving nearly 40 miles each way just to see something that had already been diagnosed and write his official report and, meanwhile, no chilled food for me. I strongly sensed that the engineer had been warned it was “more than his job was worth” to create logical loopholes that bypassed “the system” that protects the corporate vested interest and so, as ever, it appears we must monkey along with the game the way it has long been set up to feed situations that generate mistrust and then use that mistrust to excuse even more rigorous protocol.
As the day wore on, the fridge warmed up considerably and the contents started to smell really rank. More soft cheese than we could possibly eat in a day was thrown out as it deteriorated and we guzzled fresh smoothies, cooking with what we could to make a far heavier lunch than I am used to in the race to “not waste” what we had purchased. In the evening we turned off the heat in our front room and transformed it into a walk-in larder for as many perishable items as we could, including all the organic veg and salad that had also just arrived. My daughter came home from school and looked like she might cry at the absence of easy-to-reach comfort food and familiar dinner options. While she grazed on what she could salvage, I rustled up a roast squash salad for ours but none of us were very interested in our meal that night (given we had over-stuffed with cheese at lunchtime) like the whole ritual around eating had taken a knock.
By now, I was sitting back and just watching the themes and archetypes play out, for starters, that old-companion “catastrophe” of which this was only a very minor example. Compared to people recently put through hurricanes and more, I knew this was nothing at all and if this over-tested us, what did that say about our resilience. And what part of myself (not all that deep beneath the surface…) always jumped at the first sign of this coming as though it was expected; always felt that I should spend a lifetime limbering up survival skills in case something disastrous should happen. What was this part of me that always felt like it was in rehearsal for “the big one”; the day when the skies turned dark or electricity went off for six months or more? What was that almost tangible memory held in my cells that felt like the kind of flashback to earliest childhood that you can’t quite get into full focus and yet, I know, goes even deeper than that? What was this the thing that made even the brightest and most joyfully abandoned days feel mitigated, tarnished or brought down, at some level, to a place full of “what if’s” that clouded the sky?
Then, of course, I watched the playing-out of this whole “entitlement thing” we have around food and comfort, as though life itself is conditional upon our favourite brands and easy access to what we want without the merest hint of challenge. So what happens when we have to reach out, just a little, for those things; does our whole sense of self crumble, like we can’t take another step without well-guarded routine and familiarity? What was so wrong about living off bananas, nuts and bread for a few days; some people…in many places…would consider that absolute luxury. Nothing was really as bad as all that and I knew it so well…but, most interesting of all, I recognised that I wouldn’t have known this so easily just half a decade ago or even just a couple of years ago when I was much more entrenched in my belief of what it took for me to feel safe and sured-up as a human being surrounded by all my trappings of familiarity. Old me would have reached straight for a take-away menu but we just don’t do that food anymore yet we cope better now, in a more self-sufficient way. As I have become more conscious, I have also become more adaptable, more relaxed, much more curious than alarmed, more inclined to find the funny side in any situation and to pull back from any behaviours that feel compulsive or obsessive because that, like an alarm going off, tells me I rely on them way too much. Yet it was still an interesting social experiment to have playing out in our house and I saw how much emotion can be pinned around access to “food” as the very mind-game of whether we feel safe, abundant and comforted or not. My daughter initiated conversations along the lines of “how do people cope when they don’t know where their next meal is coming from” and I began to wonder if time-out from convenient food supplies might not be an essential experience for all families at least once or twice a year….
As I started to research a possible replacement fridge freezer so that I was poised for action once the engineer had been, I was taken aback at how search categories on websites could be sorted by colour, shape and brand but not by eco-friendliness; surely that was top of everyone’s priority these days? And the more I read about the “big beasts” of the fridge-freezer world – like mine – the more I wondered why we even make them except to cater for exceptional circumstances (much the same as I think about certain cars); when did “bigger” get so strongly equated with “most protected” from the slings and arrows of life? Why do we so love to hoard what is surplus to requirements “in case”? Though we are not exactly the Waltons, the machine I am replacing is a huge “American style” thing that appealed to me when the kids were young but, as I considered an alternative, I realised that was the thinking of that “old” stock-pile-shopping version of me and knew I really wanted to downsize to cater for where we are now at, including as vegetarians who freeze very little since we like to cook from fresh. Yet when I put it, hypothetically, to the insurers that I would prefer to trade in my like-for-like budget for something considerably smaller, he was dumbfounded into a state of “non-compute” and had to check his small-print because he had literally never heard anyone ask to do that before!
So today, as our weekend on a diet of toast and quirky salads gets going, I find I have reconsidered many things about the fears and conditions built around the matter of our access to food (which is far from straightforward any more, even where it looks so convenient…) and around why we are so eager to protect our access to this and all of life’s other “essentials” with insurances that promise to deliver what we most fear losing yet which are tied up in so many conditions when you scrape beneath their somewhat flimsy surfaces. The cracks in the whole concept of insurance started to reveal themselves to me quite some time ago and I have very few policies actually running anymore; yet this throwback had delivered me an invaluable amount of insight in a situation where, without it, I could have already gone out and bought myself a new fridge for next day delivery and without all this headache.
I really don’t mind the “easy” weekend of snacking rather than cooking up a storm; it’s a sort of holiday for me and in a house packed with nuts and whole foods, fresh organic veg, grains and home-made bread, it’s not nearly as hard as if we ate meat and processed meals. Part of me wonders if I even need a freezer anymore and that flags-up a big change in attitude since we used to freeze great joints of meat and so much processed food. My biggest intention of the last year or so has been to keep simplifying our lives until we live modestly in ways that meet our actual needs and joys, amounting to a lifestyle that can be packed up and moved at relatively short notice and which allows us to tread softly upon the earth. I feel this wake-up call around food storage is very timely; like something that wanted to get my attention because it didn’t fit our lifestyle any more, the big plug-in “beast” in our kitchen that sat there like an energy vortex sucking our fresh-new lifestyle down a hole. If I can get to the point where plugin devices are the optional extras of my world, not the life-support machines, I realise I will feel much more in-balance and control of my own destiny.
Sitting back spectating all this, I quickly realised that what I was really exploring was the landscape of the fourth dimension; the belief systems and hierarchies of control that make up the real “furniture” of our so-called solid three dimensional world. The issues here weren’t so much the fridge or the deteriorating food, the corporations I was dealing with, the real people on the end of the phone or even in my household as the strings pulling them all and the beliefs about life holding them together, including fears around such heavy-old-pieces of life-furniture as lack and survival, made themselves suddenly very obvious. Once we see how active our beliefs are in this world…far more “solid”, in a way, than the three-dimensional objects that come to represent them…then we start to see how powerful and necessary it is to place ourselves as heart-guardians of that domain, choosing which belief-systems we actually want to maintain in order to manifest the solid realities we really want to experience “at ground level” as it were. Importantly, we learn not to leave it up to other people, with other priorities and agendas, to determine what those belief-systems look like.
We’ve made so much of what we think we experience conditional upon certain familiar situations being maintained and certain outcomes we think our lives depend upon being set in concrete – allowing others to build solid walls and barbed wire around those so-called priorities under the guise of protecting them for us . When we outsource like that, we lose sight of our own truth; nor do we have to guard the perimeter of our own interests with with all the heavy ordnance they, otherwise, say we do when we take matters into our hands from behind the fortress-walls of our own fears since those old ideas are just a defunct belief-system too. The fundamental need to protect ourselves is perhaps the densest smog-cloud of a belief system of them all; one that begets the very things we are protecting ourselves from in an ever-repeating loop.
We’ve lost the knack of being prepared to face up to the surprises and variables of each moment in ways that allow for total flexibility and heart-directed responses. All of this is fear-based behaviour and it originates from an original trauma that we have already lived through…long long ago…and would do well to stop expecting to reappear over the horizon of our “now” for all the game has been set up to constantly imply that it is very imminent. All that does is increase the likelihood of it “happening”, manifested out of a fourth-dimensional place of fear that we all seem to focus upon at levels of consciousness we hardly give a second thought to at the surface level…until something happens to press our buttons and then our own belief in all the bad stuff makes it happen, we summon it from our own imaginations!
We really need to stop catastrophising at every turn; this is how we are being played through all the mechanisms of our society, right down to the level of insurance companies that constantly tell us we’ve been mistreated by somebody and deserve our big payback while, really, chasing after their own well-guarded interests and yes, I only understand this all the more because of a former career working in personal injury litigation so I’ve seen how the game works. This game of beliefs spins out into every level of our apparent reality, through all the politics and the religions, the TV shows and the news; its the real hardware of our world…much more solid than the objects that have come to represent it (like a whole belief system around food had manifested as my fridge). Its a game and we all play our parts so well in it; but a huge condition of taking part is this long-sustained agreement – like a blood-pact we once swore to – to believe in lack, loss and our own limitation. We are all seeing that system breaking down before our very eyes, its long-preserved contents quickly purifying – again like my fridge – but as I’ve learned this week, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe we didn’t need such a “great big monster” to serve our basic needs. Maybe its time to get closer to what we really want. Perhaps the wonderful new silence where that huge machine used to hum and churn in my house is a timely reminder of how we hardly detect some of the base rhythms that provoke our disquietude until they are suddenly switched off!
There’s an alternate place that can be believed in where every moment is a gift, even unexpected ones like these, and I find I am already there winking at myself over some of the other layers of life made suddenly overt by a twist of circumstance that could have been a complete unremarkable domestic circumstance, nothing special and yet…The most ordinary occurences can serve like one of those disclosure tablets swilled all around your teeth to turn the plaque bright blue, if you let them.
Without constant fear and suspicion, ridiculous old protocols can be allowed to fall away in favour of common-sense and we keep out of knee-jerk reactions in favour of seeing what is really happening here, which often isn’t as bad as it looks and, where it is dire, perhaps its just shouting out for us to take a much broader perspective. Sometimes the hairline cracks that start to form can be the first clue that a new level of expansion is just around the corner. Even as toxic gases release and things get hot, that crack could still mark the dawning of a brand new set of circumstances that serve you far better (and haven’t I seen this over and over again with my health). This is how cracks can be regarded as such a gift…a herald of great things, like an egg opening up…rather than as a trigger because they portent some sort of catastrophe; because when a crack occurs, new light can come shining brightly through to the point that so-called reality adopts much more transparency. What can seem like a dire fissure forming on the face of a long sustained reality can actually be the breaking down of a wall that kept you from seeing your truest, most abundant, least traumatised self and that can represent the start of a much deeper layer of healing that transforms your world, beginning in one dimension where “what we believe in” determines all and beaming a seemingly brand-new reality into that more solid one where we think that we live.