Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Nothing to Spend, No Place to Spend It: Make a List

If you've read By the Shores of Silver Lake, do you remember Laura's discovery of the pantry full of food in the surveyor's house which her family had just rented? During her later Long Winter, I wonder if she mentally went back to that satisfyingly well-stocked house, or even to their earlier log cabin full of smoked meat and pumpkins, and if she wished she could bring some of that into their blizzard-barricaded, nothing-to-eat-but-bread predicament?

About the only constant right now is change, sometimes by the day, sometimes by the hour. Things become more restricted, less restricted. Businesses and borders shut down, re-open. Opportunities come and go.

Our resources may also be tremendously different. Some people have lots of stuff (food, entertainment, medicine, tools, company, spaces to play) on hand, or can easily access more, and have the money to do so. Others are coming up short, one way or another. Some live where it's already possible to plant vegetable gardens; others are in a different climate. As Amy Dacyczyn wrote, suggestions from personal experience are most useful if someone else can take them and make them work in different circumstances. Or if you can take a strategy you used at another time, and change it to make it work now. Things we've learned in one setting can be our best allies when we're faced with new challenges.

So rather than focusing on the missed opportunities or the missing items, make a list of the things you do have at your disposal. It might be longer than you think. In remembering your own previous hard times, you might even notice that you have things now that you were desperately wishing for then; or easier circumstances in some other respect. Like, maybe, electricity or hot water: maybe you went through an ice storm, cooked on a camp stove or a barbecue, tried to keep your food safe in a cooler, and went to bed early to save batteries or lamp fuel. And when it was over, you felt so happy to hear the furnace come on, and so privileged to flip a switch and turn on a light.

Or during your last crisis, whatever it was, your washer or your car was out of service, but this time you're good.

Or you have improved online opportunities now: maybe during the last crisis you weathered, you were on dial-up, but now you have unlimited service.

Or maybe during the last time you were very short of cash, you had a houseful of small people to feed, herd, diaper, teach; but now you have a smaller group and things don't have to stretch quite as far. (Not that you don't love your people, but we're just talking about practical needs here.) Or your children are older now, and can help out more.

Maybe you have a particular skill now that you didn't  before. Maybe, without thinking that you were doing anything special to prepare for close-downs and disappearances, you became a great bread baker, or home haircutter. Or you finished a diploma  in something which, you suddenly realize, might be in demand now or in the near future.

So all that is to say that, first, if you've survived past troubles, you know there are ways to make it through the Long Winters and the worst of other times. List your assets, and not just the things you happen to own, but anything helpful around you (like dog-walking trails) that you can access without putting yourself or others at risk.

And list skills you have that might either make you some income (if yours has disappeared temporarily or indefinitely); or which might be a way to make the world a better place right now. Maybe you already have a YouTube channel or do podcasts: use those platforms the best that you can. Musicians are creating free online concerts and singing on balconies. People are sidewalk-chalking and posting art in their windows. Authors are doing online readings.

Just, please, don't post pictures of crocheted amigurumi coronavirus. Because that's nasty.

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