Cost of living

CPX Fellow Emma Wilkins shares some of her reflections on the phrase we're hearing all the time at the moment: "cost of living".

I know what’s meant by “cost of living”. I know it’s about money, the economy; inflation, interest rates. But don’t you think those words, so often chanted in the news, could be taken from, or used to make, a poem?

Cost of living. I think less about the rising price of rent, of petrol, milk and bread, than of parents sick with worry, up all night, waiting for their teen to return home; a grown man, helping a father who no longer knows his name, to bed; a schoolgirl, who sees her friend “forgot” his lunch, again, and pretends to not want hers. It reminds me of the always worthwhile, often costly task—of loving.

Cost of living. Like burden of care, like right to die, it’s said so casually but it can make me want to weep. It reminds me of how bleak this life can be and often is.

It reminds me of a survey in which one in two respondents thought that disability should qualify an adult to ask for help to die. Forty-three per cent deemed mental illness valid grounds, some thought homelessness, or poverty, were too.

It’s one thing to cry, “My life is not worth living!” when you’re facing profound hardship, when you’re in relentless pain, but I wonder what it’s like when others, rather than protest, agree.

We’ve all suffered in this place; some less, some more—and doubtless will. Thinking of “the cost” there sometimes is to carry on, stirs me to lament. But then my spirits rise with what comes next. The task: beautiful and noble, full of wonder, laced with hope—“of living”.