Ain’t There Yet
October 11, 2011 § 2 Comments
A long stretch of summer-like weather is nearing its end. It has made the mornings particularly peaceful, and I’ve worn only a tee shirt (and pants. I’ve worn pants, too) during my 6 a.m. rounds. Milk for the pigs, the door opened on the chicken coop, a bit of hay to the cows and sheep, a supplement to the waning pasture. Within weeks, it will be all hay, and I remind them to enjoy the green grass while it lasts. I’m not sure they understand.
It seems like things should be slowing down around the farm, but they are not. We have many projects either partially completed or not even begun, and just to complicate matters I am about to embark on a fairly intense period of work-related travel. This is hard for all of us, but none more so than Penny, who is left to prop up both farm and family. Still, it is necessary, and I chose not to complain about it, because I am lucky to be able to do what I do.
This recognition hasn’t kept me from thinking about my work-life balance, and how to tilt it even more in favor of life. Which is not to say the two must be mutually exclusive, or that I do not enjoy my paying work. It is only to say that I am more and more cognizant of what makes my mind and body feel most-tuned to the unheard note humming through the thread of my existence. And it is life, although I suppose in my case life looks an awful lot like work to an awful lot of people. That’s ok. I don’t need anyone to think I’m rational.
There is really only one way for me to affect this balance: Spend less. Get cheaper. Tighten the belt. We do not have much in the way of savings; what we had, we pretty much obliterated on this summer’s pond project. So it’s not as if we can supplement my income by siphoning off our savings. Therefore, I must rely on the truth that a dollar not spent is a dollar I don’t have to earn. Actually, given self-employment taxes, it’s more like a buck-and-a-quarter I don’t have to earn.
I’m pretty good at thrifty, but Penny is even better than me. When we needed pillowcases, the old ones gone threadbare and patched to the point of no return, she dug through a box of old tee shirts. When we needed a reading light in our bedroom, the old one having been shattered into unglueable shards, she disappeared into the basement and emerged with one of those cheap metal job site clip lamps. Works just fine, and what with the tee shirt pillowcases, gives the room a sort of post-modern, neo-industrial, extreme frugality theme. If that makes any sense.
I derive a certain unique satisfaction from making do, and I believe strongly that it is a worthy value to instill in the boys. I want them to understand that on a global scale, we are among the elite and that in a world of fixed resources, that which we consume impacts others. I also want them to never feel as if their happiness is dependent on buying things. Already, they know not to expect anything new. Toys, bikes, clothing, books: By-and-large, we make them, borrow them, or find cast-offs. This is not to say that we have never – or never will – buy things new, only that we try to first exhaust all possible options for finding used.
The extent of unconscious consumption in our culture is something that strikes me, and it is a regular topic of conversation in our home. I see it everywhere, even in the frugal hollows of northern Vermont. Even in the homes of people who grasp, on an intellectual level, the damage it does. Even, at times, in our home.
I appreciate these views, as they only strengthen my resolve to do with less. I know there’s a bottom end to all this, a place where my satisfaction of making do crosses a threshold of discomfort, either physical or emotional. But I ain’t there yet.