My Scrooge McDuck Moment

Recently I got a paying gig with Ian’s tractor that netted me two hundred bucks after I replaced the diesel I burned. I always say I’m going to save up for siding, which is the last big thing the Lair needs, but whenever I get a cash gig I always end up converting it to commodities as fast as ever I can.

It’s funny how your viewpoint can change, given time and unforeseen occurrence. Isn’t it weird? Once I had a house in Socal, a shiny car, a swimming pool, a job in a big building. I wasn’t rich by any means but I was solidly middle class. People in my tiny sub-category of the automotive industry knew my name and respected it. I thought I was pretty well set.

Then it all fell apart. After a few years of scrabbling for work I couldn’t beg or buy a job. Mutual funds tanked and I lost my retirement savings. At one point I wept over a moldy half-loaf of bread because that was all there was to eat, I had saved it too long, and now the mold got it so there was nothing. After there was no wife to feed me I always ate in restaurants or from packages; I literally didn’t know how to cook rice. I didn’t seem to know anything that was of any value to me at all.

Now, years later, wealth is not green stuff in my wallet. From day to day money is of no use because there’s no place to spend it. But a surplus of food and fuel and the things I need to get through each day: That’s wealth.

And I’m gradually becoming “that guy;” that guy I looked up to when I was young. I can do stuff, people come to me for help and answers about things that actually mean something. I can fix a truck, build a cabin, run a backhoe, care for livestock, shoot at something that isn’t a paper target with a fair expectation of hitting it.

Today I took that two hundred bucks and converted it to food and fuel. I’m broke again, but when the money was in my pocket I didn’t have anything that I valued. This afternoon I looked at my bulging pantry and just sort of basked in my wealth. I’ve got baking supplies and propane enough to last till winter, and now I’ll start saving up what I need to get through winter. The cabin insulation is improved and I’ve got everything I need for earthbag skirting, so even without the siding the cabin will be better set than in the past two winters, which I got through just fine.
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Material wealth isn’t measured in money, money is just a way to keep score. I’ve still got issues and always will. I need to do something about the cataracts that are slowly taking my vision. I’ve had a few health issues this year, nothing serious but enough to remind me I’m not young. Someday I won’t be able to support myself, and on the level I’m playing the retirement plan is called death.

But you know what? Right now I’m cool with that. I can honestly say that there has never been a time in my life when I have felt more at peace with the world and myself. I have no debt. Office politics, once so important, has become an irrelevant and sadly absurd concept on those rare moments when I think about it at all. No HOA gets any vote on the color I paint my door. I know every neighbor for miles around, and some of them I love, and I can get along with the ones I don’t. My yard contains dogs who love me, chickens who don’t, and a pistol target I welded myself.

For the first time in my entire long life, I’m a happy man. And if I were to die before the end of the year, well, it’s been a damned good year.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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19 Responses to My Scrooge McDuck Moment

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad I found your blog, Joel. I’ve gone from having a sorta-happy marriage with a great kid and a good income to just a great young adult offspring. You give me hope I’ll get my life figured out before I’m dead. That was well-written. Thanks. BTW, I was blind for a short while. I didn’t care for it much but it wasn’t as bad as I feared.

  2. Jay says:

    Fine, truly fine. Best to you! =0)

  3. czechsix says:

    Good for you Joel. Some folks never get to that understanding before they croak.

  4. Jamie says:

    Joel, I became 100% disabled about five years ago and it is amazing how much I have changed in what I value. It took me some time but this year I seem to find that PEACE of mind.
    I can’t believe people will take those piece of green paper with dead guys on them and give me food and all those other things I need to live and make myself more self reliant.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Being diagnosed with terminal cancer has certainly clarified my mind. I don’t know how long I have left but it really doesn’t matter. I discontinued treatment because it was a terrible experience. So far I have no symptoms from my cancer, only from the treatment, so I have chosen quality over quantity. Like you I am a jack of all trades and have had a great life helping my tribe by doing what I’m good at. They are responding by lending support in many ways large and small. My life is good and I’ll keep at it while I can.

  6. abnormalist says:

    Bravo Joel.

    I raise a glass (sadly of coffee from a cubicle) to being the man you want to be.

    Its a good thing to live for a living

  7. Matt, another says:

    You have probably come as. Close to reaching Nirvana as any man will.

  8. billf says:

    Well written,and point well taken.You used to be a cog in a big wheel,and now you are the whole wheel,all your own.The practical knowledge that you have acquired allows you to take care of yourself,and the money only represents what you can do with it,you trade it for the things you need to live.
    It helps me to remember,the worst thing that can happen is you die-and that’s not all that bad.So,nothing’s going to go wrong today I can’t handle.

  9. See Sea says:

    You are one of the last of the true Americans. You pursued your Happiness and at last you found it. Getting really hard to do these days and quickly becoming impossible. It will take many millions of people hitting rock bottom before they become aware of what is really important. Maybe then they will become as wealthy as you are. Freedom is the greatest wealth a man can earn.

  10. Beth says:

    Well done, Joel. You’re an ace in all the ways that matter. I admire your independence, competent self-reliance, and oddball humor. Keep on being well, successful, and happy!

  11. Claire says:

    Anonymous 2:58 — I hope if I’m ever in your position I’ll have even 1/10 your courage and your style. Not to mention such good friends.

    Joel — This is a great, inspiring piece. Thanks.

  12. Matt ( yet still another ) says:

    Jamie beat me too it, but I’ll say it anyway.

    That paper money only has value in a person’s mind. You’ve taken that worthless paper and traded it for something of REAL VALUE.

    And Craig is correct. You are a true American. If nothing else, you’ve long since separated yourself from the sheeple who are about to be herded over a cliff.

    Yes we’re all going to die. But as long as I don’t die a Sheeple, it’ll at least be something.

  13. LJH says:

    Can I have Ghost & LB if you die?

  14. MamaLiberty says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Joel. You are truly a fortunate man. And you made most of that “fortunate” part yourself. I’m glad I know you. :)

  15. Tam says:

    You’re a wealthy man, indeed, Joel. :)

  16. kdzu says:

    Just when I begin to think I’ve started figuring it out on my own, here you come with where I’m trying to be. Albeit in the slightly, hell, this year……the much wetter, Southeast

  17. Christine says:

    Right there with you Joel. There are no amount of toys, fancy houses, flashy cars or the “respect” of your neighbors that can compare with a life well and honestly lived. I’m nearly eight years into living the life I had always dreamed of, and I am happier than I could have ever imagined. It was worth it.

    “I went into the woods to live deliberately. To front the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what they had to teach. And not, when I came to die, discover I had never lived.” – Henry David Thoreau

  18. Dick says:

    You are an inspiration. Please stay alive for a while to keep giving hope to the rest of us (and a good example too).

  19. Buck. says:

    Joel,
    Congratulations. I still need to send you an email.

    To anonymous,

    I tripped over death’s tail a few months back.
    You never know what may happen. I didn’t. In any case, enjoy what you have left. I wish you fair winds and following seas.

To the stake with the heretic!