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

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On Feb. 3, 2011, New Mexico ran out of gas.

This was the last thing I would have imagined, but it happened like this:

In the morning I went to the bank for an ordinary errand. Within a minute I was walking out with my cell phone pressed to my ear, urgently calling my husband wondering where the nearest shelter was. Things went from upright to upside down in less than 30 seconds. That's all it took. The sky was still blue. There was no notice. No voice from above. It just flipped. And a state of emergency was declared.

When I stepped up to the teller stand, I noticed that the cashiers were all wearing gloves.

"Chilly?" I asked, making what I thought was idle conversation. I had prejudged the situation. There is a drive-by service window behind them and we were in the middle of a cold snap that rivaled some of my coldest moments in Montana. I thought perhaps it was leaking air.

"Didn't you hear?" the young woman said, rubbing her hands together. "New Mexico is without natural gas."

That's when I called my husband. I don't know when you'll actually read this, but I am writing this as he's running around looking for wood and electric heaters so our pipes don't freeze. As soon as I'm done writing, I'll be turning the faucets on for a slow drip through the next few days.

Ironically, even though New Mexico is one of the states with the biggest reserves of this precious commodity, the forces in command somehow managed to "miscalculate" what it needed and Texas had massive power outages that stopped the flow altogether. Don't ask me how Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire all manage to get it right the way they've been blasted this year and a state with only 2 million people, many of whom have wood stoves (particularly in the outlying areas), couldn't anticipate what a massive cold front would require. Not to mention provide it.

Which brings me to the point I have been debating with my husband and the rest of my family for the last two years: the need to take care of ourselves. This is not emotional frenzy or conspiracy fright. This is not just about going "green" or being close to the earth, although both of those are good. This is about the way we see ourselves not just the way we manage resources. It is about the way we have become dependent, entitled and deluded.

This psychological state is not only manifest in our management of crucial resources, but throughout our personal relationships, our politics and our economy. What we expect -- that someone (or some entity) will guarantee our security, our happiness or our well being -- is not only unrealistic. It's unrealizable.

"It happens just like this!" I told him animatedly, trying to drive home the point. "The system goes from on to off in a second." He did not appear moved.

I tried to explain it to other family members. They responded with the same ennui. "Oh, you're over-reacting. They'll fix it." So, I replied, "It's not the
fixin' I'm worried about. It's the ' they .'"

I am the only one in my family who has had this need to be more independent, this desire to homestead since my grandfather had a chicken farm in the early 1920s.

For me a homestead is not a commercial venture. It's a personal one. It means having a few good hens, a couple of sheep or goats, a diversified garden, canning knowledge and supplies, a good well, some electric generating equipment (wind, solar), passive solar windows, and a really good wood stove that is capable of heating a large area. It means emotional and physical self-reliance. Mind you, I'm fully cognizant of the fact that being self-reliant doesn't preclude some other disaster befalling us or that mortality is the inevitable conclusion of the whole ride.

Even knowing that, I still want to be able to provide for myself in some way. Towards this end, I've been lobbying to buy a small farm (a few acres) in the Hudson Valley of New York.

In the process, I've been called a few names: hysterical, glum, grumpy, doomy and gloomy. Also, my husband likes "chicken little."

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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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