Though it might not break 100 today, we’re still sweating here at the Secret Lair.
Torso Boy is not doing well. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a dog go from apparently perfectly healthy to death’s door so quickly in my life, though I do admit my experience with dogs is limited. He kept me up what seemed like half the night wheezing; sometimes he really seems to have trouble breathing. Other times he’s – not fine, since he’s almost visibly aging in front of me – but not uncheerful. A lot of it right now is that he’s just hot, but just as I type this he’s having a terrible spell and he keeps coming to me as if wondering why I don’t fix it.
Anyway, I’m showing physical signs of stress that haven’t been around in quite a while. I get things wrong with me when I’m under a lot of stress and when I lived in the city they were old familiar friends. Suddenly, listening to my little guy choke and wheeze and cry and there’s not a damned thing I can do to ease him, they’re all back. Too bloody hot and bright to go out for long even if I wanted to so I’m just sort of keeping him company and quietly stressing out.
Obviously you don’t have to move to the desert to suffer the slow death of a dog. Many of you have been here. But right now I’m feeling pretty alone and helpless.
I’m filling the time till evening going through some old thumb drives and found a bunch of stuff I wrote nearer the beginning of my stay here. Some of it was for the blog, some for other things, some just to myself.
This one I wrote in the Spring of 2011, right after the last really cold winter I suffered through while the Lair was still under construction. Today it read like a letter to Future Me. It reminded me of how much better and easier and how much less entirely improvised everything around here has become in the past nine years, and that I should really just count my blessings. And it’s called Relax, Dammit!
Sometimes lately I want to take off all my clothes, sit cross-legged in the middle of the wash and chant “Calm brown ocean” to myself. I don’t actually do that. But sometimes it seems like the only sensible course.
See, if you’re gonna live off-grid, you’re taking on a lot of responsibility for things smart people leave to other people. Professional people. People who get paid to know what they’re doing. Things like electricity. Running water. Heat in the winter. Building construction. Little things like that. I’m not saying you necessarily need to actually do all those things yourself, but…well, actually I guess I am saying you need to do them yourself. And have you ever actually built a house? I never claimed I knew what I was doing. Right now I’m re-inventing plumbing and it’s probably not an improvement.
And then when things break down, which will happen at four in the morning when the temperature is five below, nobody’s gonna show up to fix it for you. You’re on your own, Otis. Enjoy.
There are a couple of possible approaches to this. You can call a contractor. If the contractors around your place are like the ones around here, they’ll show up in a few days or weeks and explain they don’t have the right parts. Or you can fumble along and do it yourself. You will make mistakes. The mistakes will be costly. They will make you uncomfortable. If you have a family, the mistakes will make them hate you. Enjoying yourself yet?
The reason I’m painting this dim picture is that unless you’re rich – actually even if you are – this is the reality. You’re the idiot who moved here. You should be ready to face reality, because it’s definitely ready to face you. You’ve moved to a place where the wolf can literally be at the door, and he’s going to be very interested in what you’re ready to do about it. The rational thing to do at this point is probably to run screaming back to the grid. When you’re there, you can leave all this stuff for the big boys. It’s got its charms.
It’s also infantilizing as hell. You’re an adult, for God’s sake. So take some responsibility for yourself. Make it work!
Assuming you’ve actually taken that ridiculous advice, there are again a couple of possible approaches. You can spend your life in a state of at best suspended panic, waiting breathlessly for the next thing to break down and leave you freezing in the dark. That’s one approach. It’s pretty common. It’s pretty familiar.
Or you can relax. Embrace the chaos. You’re not gonna die – probably.
See, the one thing you really must pack in your bugout bag is your sense of humor. Because things are going to go wrong. Some of them will seem cataclysmic at the time, not funny at all. If you’re gonna live out here, accept that. Plan for it. Always have a Plan B. When you get caught without a Plan B – you will – take it as the learning experience it should be. Next time you’ll have a good one.
Sometimes I feel like all three stooges. If there’s a pratfall I haven’t taken, it’ll be along. Hey, I’m from Detroit – I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m making this up as I go along, and I always eventually succeed. The things that happen in the meantime can look pretty funny. In hindsight. Sometimes they’re not exactly a yukkfest at the time. But the one thing I try to definitely learn – the most important thing – is to relax. What does not kill me…may not make me stronger but generally turns out to be a learning experience. Which is a sort of strength, I suppose.
It’s still better than that grey carpeted cubicle, and that rented room in somebody else’s house in a city where the only people who notice you’re alive are the ones you’ve annoyed and the ones who say you owe them money.
Life in the boonies can be scary. It has ups and downs. But hey, at least it has ups. Relax. Breathe.