My first-post-back the other day was actually not my first first-post-back. Below is the post I broke the silence open with, to myself. I had to sit on it for awhile, not sure I was ready to share. Because as usual, it came out quite a bit more personal than I meant for it to be. In fact, I started writing this to let everybody know about the online gardening course I am offering, but my apparent need to bare my soul quickly took over. In the end it seemed way to close to the bone to be an advertisement for an online course. So I offer it to you now, Calamity Jane’s patent soul baring word-work, for old time’s sake.
These are strange times. So very strange, that I am still trying to understand just how strange they really are, or will be. I myself do not do at all well with uncertainty. When question marks crop up in my own life, I clamor to answer them with a period. As I have gotten older I have realized just how very anxious uncertainty makes me, and how intensely I crave predictability.
Let’s just say, this year promises to be challenging for me.
However, in the midst of all the anxiousness, between the moments of cold, sick dread, I am struggling to come to terms with a very different and certainly less popular set of emotions. Excitement, expectancy, even joy.
I’ve been practicing for this! All of my life, in a sense, has been building towards this moment, my time has come to shine.
Before you judge me, let me back up. I need to fill you in on the last several years.
Writing this blog was a rewarding experience, on many levels. I loved connecting to all of you, and feeling the support of community. I loved the writing process, trying to tease out my deepest thoughts, and then the gratification of finding solidarity with you all. But I’m not sure that I ever truly convinced myself of this ‘revolutionary housewife’ line. In fact, this blog represents me trying really hard to believe it, and succeeding for a few years. But during the 8 years that followed my exodus, I slowly and steadily lost that conviction.
Much of the fall came as my kids aged-out of the stay at home category. With my kids in school, it was hard not to feel like I was supposed to fill that time with a job, especially since our family was operating on a thin line between the red and the black. But as soon as I started looking to see what the hell kind of job I was qualified to do, I got deeply depressed. I have so much worldly experience, and know how to do so many useful things, but none of it fits on a resume. On paper, I am practically worthless.
Things really hit a low for me when we moved from our tiny town in Alaska to Eugene, Oregon. Back home in Alaska at least all of my non-professional pursuits made sense. I had built up a solid reputation in our little community. I had one of the best gardens in town, I led wild plant walks and taught classes on cooking with wild edibles, I could butcher a whole moose myself. Even if having a wafer-thin resume was a practical difficulty and a bit of an ego blow, it didn’t matter on a deeper level. In Alaska the skills of self-sufficiency are more respected than a comprehensive resume.
But in Eugene, nobody knew me from Adam. I was just another marginally employable person with no degree and precious little job experience. Looking for work here was humiliating. Furthermore, the skills I had spent my life accumulating were more or less irrelevant here, even to my own home economy. There is a whole different set of wild plants, which I am still learning; Hunting seems theoretically possible but with no social context, hard to get into; Gardening was the only thing I knew how to do that fit here, but I was doing it on a brand new piece of land, in a brand new climate, with a brand new set of crops.
I felt like a chalkboard that had been wiped clean. All the skills, knowledge and connections I had built in Alaska leveled to nothing. I was 40 years old and starting over.
Over the last three and a half years since our move, I have been slowly, painstakingly rebuilding. Learning the plants around me, learning how to garden in my new world, finding small, humble ways to fit into the job market. But I have not recovered from that knocked down feeling. I was visiting a writer friend recently who suggested we do a creative project together. “I don’t know…” I said, resignedly. “I don’t really feel like I have anything to share anymore.”
All this to explain the mental state I have been in. I am perfectly happy day to day, living my life with my wonderful family, learning my new place. But somewhere deep inside I have been shadowed by a sad feeling that the light I used to think I had was just an illusion.
Enter the end of the world.
I don’t really believe that this is going to be some cataclysmic, distopian crashing down of civilization. But it is looking like it might be the end of the American dream, the end of an era of thoughtless plenty and the end of the inflated living standards which we were reared on. Although I try to remain hopeful, it’s hard for me to see how this will not lead us into the next Great Depression, and it’s also hard for me to see America emerging whole from another one of those.
Certainly, already, many people are suddenly out of work, suddenly attempting to adjust to a very different life than the one they have known. Home all the time, trying to make ends meet with a lot less, learning to buy in bulk and cook from scratch, digging up a patch of lawn to start a garden, all the while taking care of kids full-time. Suddenly, everybody is trying to build a resilient home economy, and become revolutionary housewives.
And now you see. Now you understand my embarrasing excitement. Now I can go back and say those terrible words again, and hope that they make more sense. Maybe you will even join me.
We’ve been practicing for this. Our time has come to shine.