Wednesday, December 10, 2008


You may have heard that we're in a recession?

I have been reminded many times over these panicky recent months of a book passage I heard read out over the summer, about a young university professor who cannot make ends meet on her crummy adjunct salary. She'd repeat to herself again and again, as she ate her one solid meal a day or walked miles because she was unable to afford a car or subway fare:

"This is not the face of poverty. I am not the face of poverty."

As the economy has fallen further and further into the tank, and friends and family have barely avoided the pink slip - or not - I think it's safe to say that we are worrying more and more about what the new year will bring.

Which reminds of a book that I enjoyed years ago, Sammy's Hill, by Kristin Gore, about a Capitol Hill staffer. My favorite thing about Samantha, the heroine, had very little to do with the flow of the story, but made her very real to me - it was what Samantha did when she was worried about something.

If she woke up one morning worrying about what it might be like to have an arm amputated, or to be struck blind, she didn't let it bother her. Instead, she tried to find out what it might be like to live like that, if the worst happened. She bound her arm, or covered her eyes and, once she'd determined that she could get by just fine, she didn't have to worry anymore.

As a person who has, shall we say, a slight penchant for worrying, I love that this character embraces her fears, freely admits to them - and then figures out what she can do about them.

Now that fretting about the economy has become a national pastime, I've decided to name my fear and, in the Samantha spirit, see what I can do about it. So, here goes:

I'm worried that we may find ourselves in a big ol' depression.

What I'm going to do about it is, rehearse - practice using limited funds for food, clothing, and shelter. Probably, this will mean more bean suppers, less cash laid down for frivolous stuff, thinking hard about whether or not we really need that new... whatever.

I have a good feeling about this, oddly enough. The upcoming holidays will be no less bright - just more homemade. We put up so much this fall that food in the short term (next several months) is all set; in my new rehearsal mindset, what we have will simply have to do. The CSA is paid for, so we'll have veggies this summer; Ben and I are hellbent on expanding our own edible garden and getting a few hens this spring.

I hope that we will find that practicing being cash-poor will result in enriching us further, that we can be just as happy or perhaps even happier than we are now.

I hope that we will discover that yes, we have the will and the way to get by on less.

I hope that we'll truly be able to say, "This is not the face of poverty. We are not the face of poverty."


Henry Cate said...

Now might be a good time to gather up some food storage. I am afraid that the government will make the current recession into a depression.

But at least for the next couple years I think it will mean that most of us will not have as many toys and fun stuff. I don't think we'll starve. Our society is much wealthier than 70 years ago.

The Stone Age Techie said...

It's such a fine line. I don't want to be a doomsday survivalist-type, but I really, really want to be prepared. I'm going to do a 'rehearsal update' post in the next few weeks, talking about what we're doing now. Thanks for reading -