There was once a fisherman on the beach of Mexico. He was hanging out by his boat, docked on the beach when an American businessman on vacation came and sat by him. The businessman asked the fisherman what he did, he said he fished. "Is that your boat over there?" asked the businessman. "Yep," responded the fisherman.
"Just one boat?" asked the businessman. "Yes" said the fisherman."Well", said the businessman, "I know of a way for your to increase your earnings so that you can expand and buy a whole fleet of boats!" and he went on and talked to the fisherman about how he could do that. Make a lot more money, catch a lot more fish, buy a lot more boats.
"And then what?" asked the fisherman.
"And then you'll be rich!" exclaimed the businessman.
"What will I do when I'm rich?" queried the fisherman.
"You'll get to buy a place by the beach and spend lots of time with your wife and kids and fish all day," responded the businessman.
"But I do that already," said the fisherman.
This is what I have noticed in America: the rich and poor have a lot in common. Time to call their own, time to spend with those they care about. The system cares for them.
This is something else I have noticed in America: the middle class is shafted in the most royal way imaginable. The middle class is the meat that is being squeezed dry by either end of the sandwich. Works its ass off and ends up with not-a-lot. Not a lot of time, money, sanity, good health, or anything else, really, that I'd like for my own in this life.
I think it's far better to be rich OR poor in this here America. But stay away from "middle class" like you would a flaming ten-foot-pole. I know I am.
The fisherman in the story was self-sufficient. He caught his fish, right? "Self-sufficiency" sparkles to me. Holds all kinds of thrilling promise of living a life exactly as I'd like, no holds barred.
In this day and age, the allure of being able to do for ourselves is more than sparkly, though: I think it's vital. We have disasters right and left and too many are left in the wake without an ability to spark a match, grow a meal, find food. We are screwed by The Man, belted by corporations. We think we "have to" work, make money, invest in this system that doesn't really do a whole lot for us in the end.
Or does it? I don't know. I honestly don't. It just doesn't feel like it does.
But I know that I almost literally lost my mind when I was a working mother. I know I thought I "had" to do it, that we wouldn't be able to survive without my paycheck. That I needed to be "responsible" and fork over my change so that the system I subscribed to would cover my health, my financial future.
Honey. It was the lure of honey, the sticky, sweet, trappings of honey. Land in it, and it's hard to fly away.
But this is the thing: when you strip away everything in your life, what are you left with? This is not rhetorical, by the way. I'd love to start a conversation with you about this. What are you left with?
After all the stripping that went on with me last year (Moxie, the Placenta Incident, the Move, the Divorce and Quitting My Job), I was left with my family. With my body (complete with uterus), mind, soul. Not much else.
Self-sufficiency - growing our food. Raising small animals. These are things that I can do and see and smell and taste. Ways in which I can feed my children, quite literally, and know for a fact that the food is not tainted by industrial run-off. Since we are at the poor end of the American scale now, we can't afford to exclusively buy organic (Whole Foods=Whole Paycheck). So we grow it! Ourselves!
And in the process, teach our children something worth learning. And in the process, have fun. Isn't that the point, after all?
As I type this, there is a mess of homegrown (organic) collards stewing away in the crock pot. Home-made lemon sorbet (with homegrown mint) is cooling in the freezer and homemade Greek yogurt is in the fridge. I like this. This feels good. Feels like I'm almost - not quite, but almost - where that fisherman was, on that beach.
Maybe I just need a beach?