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"What Am I Supposed to Do?" The Case for Self-Sufficiency Made Personal

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I like to think of myself more like the little pig with the brick house. I like brick houses. I don't feel hysterical or gloomy. I don't think the sky is falling. I do feel the need to prepare and be smart. And I'm a homebody who's always loved animals and gardening anyway. For me, it would be the ideal lifestyle.

What's happening here right now is the result of being totally unprepared and relying on "them" -- either the government, the utilities or good luck -- to take care of things: The gas is off, the temperature is dropping every hour in the house, the water is dripping in the kitchen and bath, and I had to double check my homeowner's policy to make sure we were covered in the event of a burst pipe. I have a $20 electric heater coughing right next to me. This is not smart at all.

So, as I see it, it's time to start buying the bricks, no matter what people think or what names they call me.

Besides, there's more to it, as I said. It's not just about the garden, though it is a part of it. It's not just about the hens or the water, though they count, too. It's about a state of mind I want to cultivate in myself.

There was a man on the news tonight. He lived in one of the southern towns of New Mexico in an old trailer home. He had no fireplace, no wood stove, and only 30 amp service. He was cold and scared. You could see it in his face. I don't blame him. I would've been scared in his place, too.

He spoke to the camera, pleading. To whom, I'm not sure. But he said, "What am I supposed to do? There's no heat. There's nothin'! What am I supposed to do?"
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Why are we asking other people, especially corporate or governmental entities what we're supposed to do? What are we thinking? What was I thinking? Why didn't I spend the money to put in the wood stove when I had the time?

Because I, like that cold, sorry man on television, thought everything would just be fine if I let the big boys do their jobs. This is not an excuse to blame the poor for their poverty or to give up trying to provide for others; but even when we do make provisions for the poor, the system itself doesn't work the way we'd like to think it does. It never has. Not even in highly evolved, socialist countries. When there is a crisis and the government can no longer provide, it will still come back to us as individuals, to what we have in our hands, our root cellars, and our minds. In point of fact, I have more than a few friends and acquaintances whose incomes technically qualify them as below poverty level, but are far more capable of dealing with gas-outs, blackouts, or food runs than I've been. They have small gardens, generators, hand-made windmills. They know how to fix almost anything. They know how to build. Their poverty has not prevented their ingenuity or readiness. If anything it's made them more savvy then most of my more comfortable middle-class colleagues.
The upshot: My (and my family's) well-being is my job. It's not up to the government to till my garden or bring the food to my door. It's not up to Monsanto to plant my garden.  It's up to me. Whether that is to my liking or not. Whether that is convenient or not. Whether that is politically correct or not. That is simply the way it is.

This is not about pointless, media-induced fear. This is about plain, ol' fashioned common sense. The kind of common sense that makes you run indoors when there's a flash thunderstorm and a torrential downpour. The kind of common sense that makes you look both ways before you cross a busy intersection. The kind of common sense that keeps you warm when other people are cold and pleading "What am I supposed to do?" This is not fear. This is smart.

But I had to learn a lesson. Disasters are a part of life. They happen without warning. The Lesson? Fear is useless. Preparation is not.

And there was no better way to learn it than by living in New Mexico where it's supposed to be warm and sunny almost all the time and finding yourself in sub-zero temperatures without heat. Who's problem is that? It ain't the government's, I can tell you that. I spent nearly a week here in the cold and they were well nested in the west wing.

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Judith Acosta is a licensed psychotherapist, author, and speaker. She is also a classical homeopath based in New Mexico. She is the author of The Next Osama (2010), co-author of The Worst is Over (2002), the newly released Verbal First Aid (more...)

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