Broken screens, the lotto and how exhausting it can be to be broke.


“buy yourself a lottery ticket. The universe owes you one”

That was a friend of mine’s response to my litany of all the small things that went wrong in the past 40 hours or so. FYI, that was this: my plane being hours late so I didn’t get home in time for anything but (some) sleep, being woken up by my neighbour’s alarm far too early, feeling ill yesterday and missing training, that incident in the shop where the other guy took my bin tags and it took us 15 minutes to sort it out, my ereader’s screen breaking (moment of silence for my wonderful bookmachine, please), and then being kept awake by thunderstorms and- you guessed it- my neighbour’s goddamn alarm an hour before I had to get up. Again.

Obviously I don’t think that buying a lotto ticket would do much good in any practical sense. I am well aware that the universe doesn’t owe anyone a thing. And that the chances of winning the lotto are vanishingly tiny.

I’m still tempted.

I’m tempted for the same reason that people light candles for people. Because I’ve had a complicated time lately (eh, in more ways than the last day!) and I need to remind myself that hope is a thing. That things can get better. Not that they’re horrendous right now, but with a lot of things on my mind and less resources than I’d like to deal with them, life can feel pretty damn exhausting. That’s a thing they don’t really tell you about, isn’t it? How a tenner’s worth of bin tags can scare you when you’re short of money and know you’ll stay that way for months. How a broken screen means just another thing to do without, and how goddamn frustrating it is to see all the little things break and know how long it will take to get anything fixed.

I know I’m not too badly off. I’m broke, not poor– I have enough money for rent, bills and food. I’m not scraping by on £10 a week to feed my family. I’m damn good at cooking food that’s both cheap and mouthwateringly delicious. If I’m careful (and oh, I never knew how tiring it would be to be careful every single day) I can afford to either have nice things every so often, or to get away for a few days sometimes. I’m lucky- I have a bike to drive around in, live in a city with parks, beaches, forests and mountains all within an hour’s drive at most. I still have a laptop that still works and I have wonderful friends and a park to go skating in not ten minutes drive from my front door. I have courgette (zucchini, USians. Zucchini.) plants out the back threatening to take over the world like baobabs from The Little Prince, I can barely eat fast enough to keep up with the spring onions growing next to them, and the mint plant I coaxed to life from years-old seeds doubled in size in the week I was away.

But I’m fucking tired of going to work every day and not being able to afford to replace the screen on my ereader. Which isn’t a dig at work, by the way- I rather like the place. I’m tired because a lot of why I missed training yesterday? Was because I really can’t afford to eat out or eat convenience food for a while after my week away and since my plane was so late I had no food in my house and hadn’t been able to cook a few days of food the night before.

Holding things together is tiring. Knowing that you’ll be absolutely fine- as long as nothing goes wrong- is tiring. Not having much time or money? Is exhausting, because living on a tight budget takes work. Living on a tighter budget than you need to- both with time and money- because you know that you need that little extra wiggle-room when things inevitably go wrong? Even more so. And when more than one or two small things go wrong and you see your weeks or months of wiggle-room knocked back in hours or days? That’s exhausting. Yes, there’s times when I just want to hide away in my room, shut the world out, tell them all they can go to hell and cry.

So maybe I’ll get that lotto ticket after all.

It’s the placebo effect, innit? You do things that symbolise getting better for you, and you feel better. You feel better, so you have more spoons to do better things. It’s a symbol, a statement that you really do wish for more. That you know that things can be hard, even when they’re also good. And that you haven’t given up yet.

Edit a couple of hours later: I got the lotto ticket. Wish me luck😉

8 thoughts on “Broken screens, the lotto and how exhausting it can be to be broke.

  1. It’s like the 80s all over again, eh? Sugar sandwiches for dinner (If you had bread, sugar and butter) Mind you bins were free then and people frequented libraries like they were on the verge of going out of fashion in the next 20 years. I remember when this was normal life. We never had convenience foods, when living on a tight budget was what everyone did. No doubt times were simpler then and electricity bills were cheaper. The way to get things was to save for them and foreign holidays were for the rich. It’s funny what we have come to accept as normal.

    • Oh yes.

      I want to be sure to say- I’m not sure if I emphasised this enough in the post- that I know very well that I am by no means destitute, I have tons of good things in my life and I’m incredibly fortunate (not to mention privileged) in a ton of ways.

      And that it’s still exhausting and can get you down sometimes, y’know? Pretty sure that was the case back in the 80s as well, of course.

      • You did emphasise it enough. I was merely drawing a comparison to what we deem normal now and what was normal then. I would be temporarily lost without my laptop should anything befall it. The thoughts of having no immediate connection to the world at large, or at least my friends en masse, gives me the heeby-jeebies at times. Being not-so-financially-comfortable is tiring, I just wonder how much of our expectations are tied up our exhaustion.

        K.

        • *in our exhaustion

        • Ah- just wanted to be sure.

          Agreed, about the laptop. I think it’s not just an individual thing, though. 25 years ago laptops and mobile phones weren’t things people had. We didn’t organise social events on Facebook or text people to see what they were up to. Not having those things now would have the potential to really, truly cut you off from vast swathes of your community. Not because we as individuals are spoilt and can’t deal without our gadgets, but because our society at large has changed the way we organise and communicate with each other.

          Which I guess means that keeping above water in a basic sense- having enough to have food and bills paid and the resources to spend time with people we care for- it itself a lot more expensive than it used to be.

          And of course, with so many people scattered (which isn’t new, but wasn’t such a thing for a while), these little gadgets are the things that let us hang on to our relationships and circles. That’s no small thing.

  2. I totally, totally, totally get it. Cos I’m there too!

  3. There’s nothing wrong with playing the lotto once in awhile, as long as you don’t spend too much. I limit myself to one ticket, and I only play when the cash value is over $100 million. I view it the way people back in the day used to view the old Sears Wishbook catalog. It was a harmless way to fantasize about all the cool stuff you’d like to have. When you buy a lotto ticket, you’re really buying a few moments of fantasy.

  4. Pingback: Friday Links | Nic Dempsey

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