Some thoughts on self-reliance

“I understand that folks growing up in the cities don’t have some of the outdoor opportunities that some of us have, but I am convinced that there are opportunities to develop individuality, independence, self-confidence and other survival skills without having to spend a year in the Rockies on some kind of sabbatical. Survival is more a mind-set than a setting. Attitude is everything.

Being innovative and imaginative is essential whether you’re in downtown Houston or central Nebraska. Skills of observation and patience are not natural talents, but acquired skills; both are essential and both can be acquired through discipline. The ability to reason and employ a rational, decision making process is needed in order to survive and thrive. Again, that is an acquired skill. Determination, grit if you will, is a trait to be cherished, not erased.”

Gimme A Knife, by Gladius Maximus

 
After two months of COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing drama, the relentless spin dramas leave me feeling both sad COVID-19 has devolved into just another partisan flashpoint in our ongoing culture war and at the same time looking for glimmers of hope that there’s enough goodwill and good old common sense left in America to help tamp down on the media and partisan 24/7 spin incitement.  I’m trying to tune out most of the partisan political stuff.

The ironic part about these new COVID-19 social distancing guidelines in my life is my adult children seamlessly pivoted their lectures.  Five years ago I stopped working to stay at home and take care of my husband.  It was no longer safe for him to be home alone for hours.  He was falling frequently and the dementia and memory loss from the normal pressure hydrocephalus had gotten much worse.  Since then, my kids routinely lectured me about, “You need to get out of the house more.”  As soon as the health experts and government officials started putting out these social distancing warnings, my kids began the “Stay at home, Mom!” lectures pointing out, “It’s not only Dad who is at risk, you are too!”  I have, oh, what’s that in vogue term now… ah, yes, “comorbidities.”

I hadn’t been getting out of my house much anyway, so my every day life has continued as normal.  One daughter advised me to use the shop online/pick-up option at my local Wal-mart Neighborhood Market and I have used that a few times.  The only other concerted effort I’ve made is I’ve been assessing my pantry and gradually buying some extra canned goods and non-perishable items.  Since I already keep my pantry overstocked, I’m not out panic-buying mountains of toilet paper, but paying more attention to what food items I have already and what items might be useful to stock up on to round out meals, in case of food shortages.  Yes, as unimaginable as it seems, food shortages in our vast food supply, now seem possible in America.

Here’s the thing about having an overstocked pantry and this especially applies to the people panic-buying and rushing around hoarding one thing or another during this pandemic – overstocking easily leads to more waste.  I learned this from making this mistake many times over the years purchasing those “too good to pass up” sales.  You’ve got to look through your cupboards, fridge and freezer.  You’ve got to learn to rotate your food – pulling the oldest stuff to the front and putting the new items to the back.  That way you use up the older items, rather than having them turn into wasted food and food dollars.  Trust me on this, because I’ve failed to do this so many times and ended up throwing away food items that should have been tossed years (yes, years) ago.

On social media it seems a lot of people, especially celebrity types, while teleworking from home have embraced baking bread and cooking gourmet type meals and plastering photos and videos online.  There’s nothing wrong with baking bread or cooking gourmet type meals, but as with everything, if you’re new to baking bread and cooking, it’s way more practical to start small rather than rushing to buy a lot of new ingredients and cookware, you’re unfamiliar with.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with developing new baking and cooking skills, but acquiring common sense and an ability to slow down and assess the pros and cons are skills that will see you through any crisis in life.  Assessing your finances and making sure you have some money set aside should outweigh buying a lot of cooking utensils and new ingredients, especially if your real goal is to post photos and videos online to impress your followers or subscribers on social media.  Social media has created a very negative “keeping up with the Joneses” culture, where one “popular” person posts something “new” and then dozens (or even thousands) of other people rush to be just like that “popular” person. 

Media and social media generated hype and/or hysteria  have induced panic-buying of everything from toilet paper to yeast.  Yes, all that baking bread by the media peeps has led to a run on yeast, where it’s hard to find yeast in grocery stores.  Never fear though, on YouTube there are numerous videos on how to make your own yeast for baking.

My top three crisis coping tips are:

1. Take care of yourself and your family first.  You will better able to help others if you get your own life in order first. Learn to take time to calmly assess your own life and your own situation.  Assess you and your family’s finances, your food and health needs.  Don’t let the social media personalities, media, politicians, experts or even friends and family prod you into making rushed decisions.  Slow down, take a deep breath and think for yourself.

2. Learning to cultivate calm should be at the top of your crisis preparedness list.  Cultivating calm requires developing patience and hope.  As a worst-case planner type personality, I have to catch myself often and work hard on developing a hopeful attitude.

3. Work to simplify your daily routine rather than adding a lot of confusing and impractical actions.  For instance, I love gardening, but with my household tasks and taking care of my husband, I know I won’t be able to properly care for a garden too.  Then there’s the cost of gardening supplies and from previous home-gardening experience here in GA, knowing that bugs, drought or too much rain can wipe up months of hard work quickly.  Another big factor in my decision-making was remembering all the heavy-lifting gardening tasks my husband always took care of – like roto-tilling the garden and all of the composting chores. I decided buying store-bought canned goods and dried goods, which are safe and will last years is a more practical option.  Setting out on some home gardening/self-reliant dream right now would be setting myself up for more stress, failure and likely a big waste of money.

Learning to be more self-reliant and developing survival skills has way more to do with developing crucial critical-thinking skills and a can-do attitude than with stocking up on particular items or listening to certain “experts.”   My mother was the calmest person in a crisis and she definitely possessed  a fiercely self-reliant attitude.  She also possessed very varied skill sets and knew how to handle everything from nursing to doing electrical wiring.  My father had a perpetually optimistic attitude, could build and fix many things and was an expert gardener.  I grew up in rural PA, where a self-reliant attitude was still the norm.  Around rural America that sort of rugged individualism, where people believe in taking care of themselves and helping their neighbors, still flourishes.

When life is calm is the time to occasionally think about those “what-if” things that might go wrong.  Developing some common sense and proportionality in crisis planning takes practice.  In the midst of a crisis it’s harder to stay calm and it’s certainly harder to slow down and think through those “what ifs.”   Just the mental practice of thinking about those “what ifs’ when the sun is shining and skies are blue can help you develop a crucial emergency coping skill – fighting fear-driven reactions.  Thinking about those “what ifs” should prod you into learning to prepare for problems before they hit and then if you find yourself in the midst of a crisis, you can more easily focus on calmly thinking of  “what actions can I take?” rather than letting fear (or media hysteria) take control.

I had plenty of food and basic supplies to last two weeks, so I wasn’t worried about that initial 15 day “flatten the curve” effort.  When that effort extended past 15 days and items that have never been out of stock in stores, became hard to find, well, it sure seems prudent to spend some time thinking about some “what ifs” that I had never thought about in my lifetime – food shortages in America. 

There’s still plenty of food in America, but the disruptions to our food supply system, caused by the lockdowns, panic-buying, COVID-19 outbreaks in meat processing facilities, and economic turmoil left me thinking about what happens if these types of disruptions continue for months or even a year or two?  I’m not panic-buying, but working on looking through my canned and dried food items, my freezer and my fridge and making lists of items I want to purchase to have a food supply that can last 3-6 months.  Of course, my adult kids tell me frequently there’s enough food here to last a year, I don’t really think that’s true, so I want to strategically expand it some.

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Filed under COVID-19, General Interest, Things That Matter

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