Thursday, July 24, 2008

Great Expectations

Have you ever had other people's expectations de-rail your Peak Oil preparation efforts or your goal to live more lightly?

Social expectations permeate all we do, even in our own home. It's awkward to explain the 17 buckets of rice, beans, and wheat berries (and the grain mill) to clueless in-laws. Some neighbors have a grudge against veggies or fruit trees in the front yard. It can even be illegal or against code in some areas to have compost bins or vegetable gardens, raise bees or chickens, or hang clotheslines on your own property.

On the job, at school, or in public, it seems even more important to look "normal", not only for the sake of our salaries, but for ease of getting along and fitting in. Letting the yellow mellow just won't cut it in most offices, let alone bringing your cloth t.p. (Wow - that'd be brave). It's hard to bike to work when there's no shower and you need to wear a suit. Unless you live in Boulder, people expect the ladies to have neatly shaved armpits and legs.

A radical change to improve your finances can leave your friends and family scratching their heads. Irritating questions arise, like Why won't you go to happy hour anymore? How come you can't make it to the Mets game? Why don't you want to have the usual Christmas consumaganza this year? Why do you buy all your clothes at the consignment store?

The raising of children can be an especially sensitive area. Everyone's got an opinion. To some, themed birthday parties and fashionable accessories are totally necessary. Asking people to buy your children "gently used" presents can seem gauche. And just try explaining why you are not encouraging your kid to incur $40K in college debt.

The judgement of your closest loved ones - spouse and kids - can be the worst of all. Perhaps your husband won't even watch A Crude Awakening with you or read the Energy Bulletin articles you send him, much less pony up the $1000 for insulation or dig holes for your fruit trees. When two visions of the future diverge so completely, it can be hard to come to an agreement on finances and expenditures.

So what say you? Are these opportunities for education, mere annoyances, or serious obstacles? Has anyone else's opinion or negative comment changed your course? How about HOA or local ordinances - obey to the letter or go guerilla? How do you handle being the crazy one in the family :)?


Lewru said...

Well, I've always been the crazy one in my family. They've called me the "flower child" or nature person since I was 10. I think people at work know me this way, as well, which is a nice refuge. I don't really have to explain myself - they just think I'm kooky (lovably so? :) To me finances are the major caveat, though - trying to explain to my partner and myself (justify, I guess) the expenditure. It's tough.

MeadowLark said...

I've always thought I was fairly normal. No, really. I could never understand why people looked at me funny when I said different things or wanted to do things (owning a fainting goat, for example) and up until I turned 44, I truly thought it was simply that nobody liked me.

Something clicked this year and it entered my dim brain: NOT EVERYBODY THINKS THIS WAY. And they like you, but they think you're weird. Which is ok, I suppose.

It does make it difficult at times to get the husband to buy off on food and water storage. He cringes at the thought of 50gal water barrels in the basement ;)

Tara said...

I think it's all of the above, and just depends on the circumstances and the person. Some people think you're a bit odd, but they're curious - they are teaching opportunities. Some folks, such as coworkers, think you're weird, but they take it for what it is, and may supply some occasional ribbing - they are minor annoyances. Yet others (often family) think you're so weird that they want to change your behavior and give you major grief - they are obstacles. None of the above have ever caused me to change my course. It does, however, cause me to be very selective about what I say to people. I can still do my thing, but (much like religion or politics) I often keep it to myself. Fortunately my spouse is totally on board, and my family, while sometimes uncooperative, isn't downright difficult or confrontational about it. I do get tired of being labeled "weird" though. I try not to let it get to me, but sometimes it does anyway, especially when it comes from family.

Kim said...

I gave up trying to be "normal" long ago! I am in my fifties now and my family finally think they "understand"! Luckily, hubby is just as "outside the box" as me!

MeadowLark said...

Kim, you're very lucky in that. Mine has a very conventional and, shall we say, law abiding job. To include the more, uh, tactical aspects.

Sometimes tough being a nose-ring wearing, braided, peak oil, "our liberties are being eroded by our government" ranter. :)

Verde said...

You know, I could just cry. My parents visited and good and wonderful and generous as they are, it feels like judgement day when they arrive.

"Honey, you should grow a smaller garden next year. This is too much."

"Why are you doing that?"

"Is your dryer broken?"

"Do your neighbors complain about all this?"

"You've always been so i n t e r e s t i n g"

Sorry to say I acted like a child and melt down after a week. They're still calling to see how things are.
"Are you in need of money?"

Verde said...

You have touched an exposed nerve and so let me say that a huge part of having a blog is for me a way to "be Me" and find others who share my interestes. Living as a fairly public figure in hicksville, (neigbor to Redneck Republicanville) having a blogging community means that I get to have a community with people who not only share values but think think the same way and challenge each other in healthy ways.

OK, I'll sit down now.

Hausfrau said...

Verde, I'm glad you're here to share the journey! Don't feel like you have to sit down!

Anonymous said...

My approach has a couple prongs. One, I don't proselytize at work. And two, I try to reach out to people in terms they understand.

Some folks really understand thrift. If I happen to let slip to my MIL that I'm busy because I'm picking up 200lb of wheat and beans, I can put it in terms of thrift. "It's so much cheaper, but the smallest bag is 25 pounds!" For others, they understand "saving gas" or "lowering the electric bill."

Or try "this is the way my grandmother did it and it's so wonderful! You just can't buy that in a store/beat the smell of sheets dried on the line/deny the feeling of accomplishment..."

Specific alternatives help, too. Instead of "please give a gently-used gift," ask them to bring something specific, perhaps related to a craft, like an old t-shirt to decorate with your son's favorite whatevers. Or, instead of saying, "we're doing this to save energy," say, "we're saving up for a solar oven."

Chile said...

Tara verbalized what I was thinking. I don't mind being thought of as weird, although I don't tend to share what I'm doing with others unless I perceive an interest. That said, blogging has let loose my voice and I am far more willing to speak up with folks I know.

I'm also, slowly, learning when to shut up. The folks I know that read my blog, yet don't quite believe as I do, don't need me to continue to put it in their faces. They can take the seeds I've planted there and fertilize them on their own.