This is my contribution to this month’s Spirit of the Poor link-up, hosted by Luke Harms. (Do, pop over and read Luke’s post, and link up your own!) The plan was I was going to do something a bit more analytical. But life happened. Fear not, it is completely relevant.
I know I always tell you that I’m a bit of a mess. This week I have devolved into completely a mess.
First, my car broke down on the way to the airport. I got a tow truck and got the car to the shop, even with my three little ones. With some help from a friend I made my flight.
Then I had a great vacation (really, I did) before I had the most epic and miserable flight home in recorded history. There were throwing-up sick kids and I had to call for a wheelchair in the airport, and it isn’t so easy to fly with three little ones by yourself anyway.
I just wanted to be home. But before there was home there was borrowing a car. And I was navigating my icy driveway in that borrowed car before I realized that I didn’t have my own set of keys because I had given them to the car repair shop a week before, and now that shop was 45 minutes away and closed.
In other words, before I could get home from my vacation, I had to get the yurt door off its hinges. By moonlight. Which might have been romantic EXCEPT my two big kids were throwing-up sick and whimpering, and my littlest was crying like a baby, because that’s what she is, and my husband was still in the Bahamas.
I got the locked door open with a hammer and size G crochet hook. And yes, of course, there was a moment of Wonder Woman awesome, and we have greater strength than we give ourselves credit for, and wow, this pioneer thing is nonstop adventure. Isn’t it?
But also I suggest we might want to discuss the series of decisions that led up to this moment. And I mean not only tragic oversights #34, #35, #36 but also a long run of decisions over time.
I’m talking about how I have intentionally and systematically shredded my own safety net.
Of course there is an epic tale between the part where I lift the door off the hinges and the part where I accidentally leave my house key at the car shop, but that isn’t the story I am telling today.
Today I am telling a true and wild tale of downward mobility. Watch how this stacks up.
We choose economic rebellion.
We choose to build our own house (yurt) on super cheap land and try to live as much as possible from the resources of the land instead of swapping cash for the resources of the land.
We choose to live a life where integrity is priority number one and security and convenience are priorities not at all.
We live out of town. Neighbors are spread out from one another and the roads are minimally maintained.
We are flat broke and without a financial safety net.
When we do decide to make money (and we just did) my husband commutes or travels, in this case to another country. I am single parenting in a long-run sort of way, with no cash for a nanny or even power for a television.
Life = monumentally inconvenient.
Security and convenience are happening to me not at all.
Did you ever read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America?
I’ve been poor most of my life, so before I read it I already knew. Things cost more for the poor. It costs more to do your laundry at a Laundromat than to have your own washing machine. It costs more to live in a rent-by-the-week motel than it does to live in an apartment, for those who can cough up the security deposit.
When you are broke in America, you get backed into corners. You make bad choices. You struggle.
When you are broke in America, you are essentially terrifically screwed.
So here I am, opening the yurt door by its hinges, by moonlight. And yes, I do trace this back to economics. I depended solely on a car with more than 200,000 miles on the engine. I have no electricity. I don’t live in the happening part of town. We don’t have the kind of jobs where Nick can come home at the end of the day and pour me a glass of wine.
I know what it is like to live without a safety net, because I land occasionally where the safety net would be.
Now tell me this builds character. No, really, please. TELL ME THIS BUILDS CHARACTER.
I can’t always justify it, why I keep doing the hard thing. Believe me, I know better than anybody else how ridiculous it is. How it doesn’t make sense by any calculations.
But I don’t want to be the one who is a slave to my affluence.
I don’t want to be the one who says, “No, I can’t go on that trip to another part of the world, because I’m terrified of what I will see, and also I could never go for a week without a shower.”
I don’t want to be the one who says, “I can’t survive without x, y, and z. And that’s the way it is. Even if x, y, and z make me feel guilty, or force me to live in debt, I’m going to have to have them anyway.”
I don’t want to be the one who says, “I know that the majority of the world’s population lives in conditions quite different from mine, but I can’t think about that. Because I can’t survive thinking about it.”
I don’t want to be the one who looks at me and says, “I could never do what you’re doing.”
A whole big chunk of the world is doing what I’m doing.
I don’t want to be the one who says, “Yeah. I know there is injustice. I know there is evil. I know there is oppression… But I am powerless to change it. And so I stop my ears so I don’t hear the call.”
I fumble on along my path, even if isn’t justifiable by any logic. I won’t tell you that this lifestyle comes easy. Or that all the choices I am making are the right ones. But I want to be free from the chains of guilt. And weakness. I want to be able to take whatever life tosses at me, free and strong and courageous, armed with my hammer and my crochet hook.
And faith in a God of justice, compassion and FREEDOM for all.