In today's shaky economy, I know many of us (including some of my readers) are having real difficulty making ends meet. There are millions of people trying - and failing - to feed themselves and their families by working two, or three, or even four part-time jobs, without medical insurance, and with seemingly no way out of the 'rat race'.
Here's what one family did about that.
As a middle class American, it’s been difficult for me to understand how we are supposed to make a living when there are so many things working against us. How can we go on day after day with the rising cost of food, fuel, utilities, car insurance, taxes and health care, while dealing with the insecurity of unemployment? In the past, whenever I considered these things, I felt a hopeless sense of impending doom in the pit of my stomach. There is so much talk about how to solve these issues, but nothing ever seems to stop the downward spiral of struggle and stress that millions of folks are experiencing.
Like many working people, my life went along fine during the 1980s. I had a good paying job ($42,000 a year) and though I didn’t enjoy the kind of work I was doing as an industrial draftsman, receiving a steady paycheck every week kept me going without much complaint. But then came the Gulf War in the 1990s and after that point I faced nine layoffs over the span of 10 years. By the time September 11 happened, I hadn’t been able to maintain steady employment in the petrochemical industry for over a decade. I would work about three or four months, then back again to the unemployment line.
It was at this point that I realized that something was wrong. The life strategy I had grown up to believe in was no longer working and there didn’t seem to be any answers. Obviously no one was going to get me out of this, so I decided I needed to take matters into my own hands and figure out a way to redefine my basic approach to living.
Lucky for me, I have an adventurous wife. She was on the same page with me and was willing to make some drastic changes in our lifestyle. As a committed team, we decided to figure out another way to survive despite these uncertain, hard economic times. Since we didn’t have a lot of money and because it was getting harder to find steady employment, we decided to rethink our basic values in order to create a life for ourselves where we could be independent and free of needing a career or a full-time job.
There's more at the link. It's very interesting reading.
The solution adopted by that family isn't for everyone. Many of us couldn't stand to drag our kids away from the schools, suburbs and friends that have shaped and formed their lives, and move them into a totally unfamiliar environment. Some of us would find it economically unsupportable. However, others have made such a move. Some have failed; some have prospered.
I think the real lesson is that we have to be proactive in determining our future. If we just allow things to happen to us, we're going to end up part of the problem whether we like it or not. If we take a cold, hard look at our situation, realize that there's no future in where we're at (remember Einstein's famous definition of insanity), and determine that we're going to take what steps we can to change our future, there's a chance for us. It's going to take a lot of mutual negotiation with spouses and children, and a lot of trial and error. We shouldn't expect to get things right all at once, or all the time. We should expect mistakes, and be ready to forgive those who make them alongside us, and try something else. However, if we're willing to do all those things, and work really hard, we can change our future. I've seen a lot of people do just that.
I can't specify what any individual or family can or should do about their situation. Miss D. and I have discussed the article I cited above, and agreed that we couldn't possibly do what they did due to our partial disability through serious injury (I more than she - although she bakes a mean loaf of bread!). We simply couldn't cope with the physical effort required to do all that they did. On the other hand, we can (and at some point probably will) make the move to a more peaceful environment, and do a lot more for ourselves, and try new things to simplify and redirect our lives together. We're going to be talking about and preparing for that over the next two to three years, and regularly checking our progress towards the goal(s) we've set for ourselves. We're not prepared to wait for an economic juggernaut to flatten us. It may still do so, but we'll be running as hard as we can to get out of its path, not waiting tamely in place to be overrun.
William Henley had the right of it:
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
. . .
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Those words can be true for all of us. Let's live them!