Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Adapting to the New Normal

Finally, life is allowing me to get back to this blog. There has been progress on the house of course. But not in the way we thought it would be at the time I wrote my first (and only) post 2 years ago. We had to adapt our plan when we became aware of the profound changes underway on the planet. Yes, that's right: changes on the planet, no less, had a direct effect on our life these last 2 years.

Granted, looking at it superficially, nothing in our circumstances seems to have changed much since December 2009 when I began to organize this blog. But actually, a major shift of paradigm took place since then and with it obviously, all aspects of our life is under construction so they fit the new reality we perceive while coincidentally, our house is also under renovation.

Like millions of North-Americans, we live in the suburbs. I remember when we decided to buy our first house we had to discuss a lot about where it would be. I was a city girl for more than 15 years, and had left a Parisian flat, wonderfully located at a 15 minutes walk from l'Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées just a year prior my conversation with Eric. He was a classic offspring of the North-American suburbs who grew up in his parent's bungalow-style home built in the 60s and then moved to his first apartment just 5 minutes away from his parents. To him, downtown felt drab, dirty, unsafe, unsanitary, crowded and claustrophobic. I felt he would probably get depressed if he had to live downtown. He felt I would probably get depressed if I lived in a manicured house on a manicured lawn in a dorm-town ("ville dortoir" is the French expression). We felt we had cut that pear in two when we settled for a house in a suburb very close to downtown, 20 minutes drive in the best conditions and up to 1.5 hours in the rush hours or in the dead of winter during the most terrible snowstorm.

That was back in 1996. Now we know we had it all wrong, well, maybe 98% wrong. And we realised that, fortunately for us, way before the vast majority of people around us. But unfortunately, too late to make progressively the major changes that would allow us to adapt to the "New Normal". We're making the bet of Thriving in the Age of Collapse right here, where we are, in what others consider to be doomed, the North-American Suburbia at the age of peak oil.

Journal Actif is supposed to be the narrative of the lifestyle we chose, viewed through the lens of our project of renovating our 156-years old home. But since its creation, our activities kept changing focus constantly as we kept informing ourselves about the Three "E"s and the impending collapse. It took us almost 2 years to re-assess our priorities and redirect our efforts. I could have wrote about it, but I didn't know what we were doing, literally. Whenever I tried to write, I felt I was not sharing something useful nor helpful and more importantly, our feeling of insecurity, sometimes even shock, stopped our renovation projects in their tracks. We sometimes felt like deers standing in the middle of a road, facing the blinding lights of an 18-wheelers heading straight on us. This sounds a bit dramatic? Let's say we were growingly anxious then.

The only way to cast off the anxiety when looking to the future, we thought, was to prepare as much as we could, both physically and psychologically to survive the coming years decade (decades?). Googling either "preparedness" or "survival" was helpfull only up to a point. We're not fit for guns, Kevlar, combat knives, remote cache in the woods, etc. Moving to the country and start living on a self-sufficient homestead is very appealing and when we considered that idea, we realised it would be doable only if we took on debt, which is is not an option in this economic melt-down. Stash of gold and silver? Even if we had the money to buy enough to survive the deep economic collapse we're heading, there's still the question of protecting it not only from common thieves, but also from cash-strapped governments. While we do not reject the idea of stashing wealth in precious metals, it just doesn't make sense in our particular case to use cash for that before we cover other more pressing needs. In short, that doesn't work for us at this time.

Since it would be terribly irresponsible to rely on hope alone when it comes to making decisions about surviving the profound changes we face, we decided to focus on the basics we can afford and can adapt to our particular situation. Nothing revolutionary here, although when we got to it seriously few months ago, we found out that it's no small challenge.

On the side bar, you will find links to resources that helps us tremendously going through this global, national, local and private transition period. Some say the collapse already began. We don't feel it personally, yet, but we clearly can see it happening around us. Everything moves so fast, we feel we need to be able to re-assess our preparations' progress and evaluate priorities more often lately. Access to sound information keeps us on our toes.

I said at the beginning of this post that I left this blog dormant after the first post because we had to adapt our life when we became aware of profound changes underway. I feel it's time to document our journey, now that we know better about what we want to do to adapt to the new normal.