Thursday, February 5, 2009

Overcoming doomishness

Both Arduous and Chile posted about feeling doomy recently, so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about the topic. Frankly, I think that a little bit of doomishness is justified, in light of history, in light of the resource pressures we face, and the general obliviousness of the American population. Not only is doomishness justified, but can also be useful, if the thought of starvation or homelessness inspires you to save your emergency fund, store up 3 months of food, reduce your expenses, and make your home energy-efficient.

So I admit that I can be a little on the doomside. Although I don't think Mad Max is likely, I have read enough of history to know what happens when resource scarcity and anger collide. A city like Oklahoma City could be a death trap if the trucks stopped coming. I don't have illusions that "they won't let that happen" or that "things like that don't happen in America".

Even without Mad Max, there are plenty of other depressing visions that haunt me. The Long Emergency, the Greatest Depression, even just the Everlasting Infrastructure Crumble (that's my own personal doom vision).

So although some doomishness is just logical, I need to maintain a level of equanimity in order to get things done. Too much doom is what I like to call "counterproductive". I need to stay optimistic enough to make progress on my plans and not get a prescription for Xanax or another mother's little helper. I have to stay happy enough to take care of my son and be cheerful enough to go out into polite society and promote the Transition Towns "we can overcome" model of the future.

How do I do that? I present my favorite ways of overcoming doomishness.

1. Eyes on the prize.

I don't know about you, but I really need to have something to look forward to. On good days I can really believe in the vision of my ideal Transition Town. Gardens instead of front lawns, solar panels here and there throughout the neighborhoods, no traffic jams or smog, people selling produce, crafts and spare parts in the parking lots of the old malls and out of their garages, cornfields and wheatfields taking over schoolyards, bikes and Sun Ovens and clotheslines everywhere.

People working together, instead of in isolation. People eating fresh food, instead of high fructose corn syrup monosodium glutamate transfatty mishmashes. People without deadlines, performance anxiety, yearly reviews. People chatting with their neighbors in the streets and enjoying local wine with their families in the evenings. Even if I never get to see New Zealand, that's a future I can look forward to.

2. Action as antidote.

Sometimes I get the stuffing scared out of me, usually after I've been reading LATOC news page. So what do I do? Buckle down. Now this may be more of a compulsion than anything, but when scared I tend to order wheat berries and go to the liquour store for vodka. My rationale: You can never have too much, because we can always share them with the neighbors.

Taking action helps me feel as if I am keeping the Mad Max visions at bay. I have a 3-5 year plan that includes fruit trees, a hybrid car, much larger veggie garden, chickens, and solar hot water. I may not get to all that, but it's strange how just writing goals down seems to make it happen. And every time I plant a fruit tree, I feel a little better.

3. Media diet.

OK, I know peak oil and climate change are happening. What else do I need to know? Why do I need to habitually read LATOC every day? Well, for one thing it helps me monitor how bad things are getting. And for another I can see how all the predictions are becoming reality. Hey, maybe Peak Oil IS for real! ;)

Sometimes, though, it gets to be too much. I just have to stop. No doom articles. No financial crash monitoring. No thinking about the SHTF and the TEOTWAWKI. Just take a break and read some nice pulpfiction fantasy or veg out watching a movie. Ah, now that I've re-read The Stand, I feel so much better.

4. Talk it out.

I am lucky enough to have an understanding husband, who only occasionally gets PO'd when I pester him to read an article on Sharon's blog or The Automatic Earth. I also have 2 friends who understand Peak Oil and are preparing for TSHTF. Sweet! Someone to talk to and share a reality with. I can tell you, a weight is lifted after I can call my friend Lewru about my strange struggles with wheat berry lids and Diva cups. It's so nice to talk to someone who knows what EROEI is.

5. Get the motor running.

I like to take walks, getting some sunshine and fresh air in the process. Although I may think about peak oil the whole time I am walking, I still get some benefit from my blood pumping and good, deep breathing. Likewise with yoga, getting massage, and working out. I try to do one of these every day. Hey, I'll need to be in shape to outrun the zombies anyway!

6. Help someone else.

Most of us are somewhat nervous about our own fate after the peak, but also the fates of so many others who will be taken unaware by the oil shocks, or who will never understand what is happening as the years roll on and the oil decline grinds down our hopes and dreams.

What a relief it is to be able to help someone else prepare. Maybe you are considering starting a Transition Town project, or a community kitchen, or sharing your gardening expertise. Maybe you are helping a friend prepare for peak oil after you scared the heck out of them by telling them about it in the first place. Maybe you are blogging about your experiences as you homestead or go vegetarian or start learning permaculture. Whatever - it should energize you! At least, it does for me.

I am enjoying the Transition Town project, although I feel I am in way, way over my head. I try to keep my hopes high, but my expectations low. I think to myself "If we can reach one person in every neighborhood....If we can get 4 urban gardens started....If we can inspire one minister or city employee to spread the word, then all our work will be worthwhile." We could be saving lives here!

How about you? Are you having any trouble feeling doomish? How do you keep moving forward with your preparations?


Tara said...

Thanks for this post. I'm normally the eternal optimist (although NOT delusional) and my husband is much more the doomer/worrier. But I must admit, Sharon's post yesterday really depressed me. I agree that too much worry is counterproductive. If I really believed that live was completely hopeless, I'd just shut down and not do anything, ever. I don't think that it will all turn out okay, but I do have to have some hope that we're resilient enough to hang in there. I'm doing as much as I can, as fast as I can, and anything that's beyond my control just isn't worth fretting over, if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

Doomish, why yes. Lots of planning for garden and storage going on here. We "just" ramping up not starting from scratch so no new concepts, just bigger scope.
Hard time of year tho, not much actual work can be done apart from planning. Grey skies, old snow and temps right around freezing don't do much to help spirits either.
Cocooning, I guess and getting ready for bursts of spring.

Parma Powerdown said...

I do feel doomerish. That LATOC news page is a killer. Too bad we can run our cars on negative energy, that breaking news page could run all the cars in the US.

I'm doing everything I can, the best I can and the rest I have to let go.

My anxiety comes from worrying if I have all the info I need, if I've covered all the angles, or if there's some black swan event that I'm not properly anticipating.


Patty said...

As an aging boomer AKA old hippie, it's been good to get my eyes slapped back open again over the last year or so and get my skill set back up and running. The hardest part for me is staying optimistic about my chances as a widow living alone in Phoenix. I'm preparing as quickly as I can while knowing that I'm in an unsustainable environment, alone. It's good to read an upbeat and encouraging post such as yours. Gives me courage to face the future. Fear is a bear and I can't afford to feed it.

MeadowLark said...

Better to be a pessimist than an optimist.

Optimists are disappointed 50% of the time, but pessimist are pleasantly surprised 50% of the time.

Or so I've read. :)

Chile said...

I don't read LATOC or Automatic Earth, but my sweetie does. He reads much more of the economic, peak oil, and climate changes news than I because he doesn't get emotionally fried like I do when I try to read it.

Yes, I am doomerish. But, like you, I prefer action and figuring out how to cope. Posting about ways that I've found to get by in the changing world has really helped my sanity. Reading about how others are changing their daily lives teaches me, motivates me, and reassures me that perhaps we won't get to the Mad Max stage.

Theresa said...

What a great post, with lots of good advice - thanks!

Now that you've spelled this all out so nicely, I think I recognize several of my own coping strategies in there. When I am overwhelmed by the hugeness of the changes that are coming, I try to slow down and think small and practical.

I'm also lucky to have a husband who is on the same page as I am with all of this. I could certainly do more in way of getting myself moving - I love the meditation and the massage, but really should do more of the walking/biking!

Seeing my food stores slowly improve is really encouraging, and twice I was able to draw from it to donate to someone who needed a 'comfort basket' after a family death, and to donate extra to the local food bank. That is a good feeling, and it goes to show that all of this kind of preparation and action is the right thing to do anyway, whether or not the zombies arrive.