It’s amazing what humans can learn to live without, if they have to. Every time I think I’ve reached the limit, I get poorer, and have to hit reset! I remind myself, I’m still way more fortunate than most humans in the developing world. It doesn’t always help. Of course I’m referring to material goods here, not emotional losses. That takes a whole other level of resilience.
I used to feel compelled to stock up on nonessentials as if for the apocalypse. I’ve had to incrementally scale back down to necessities, and take stock of myself. In case of armageddon, I’m probably screwed anyway; I’d just be delaying the inevitable. Similarly, I’ve become more frugal and resourceful at using and repurposing what I already have on hand. I’ve almost got it down to an art form. In some cases I do it better than people born poor!
But it makes me wonder how millions in this country manage. We ourselves are not down to having to choose between health, food, utilities, or a roof over our heads–yet. The healthcare part is worrisome, but we’re alright faking it for now. Food takes some creative compromise, but we manage a basic, no frills, balanced diet. We go without some services others take for granted, and cut back on utilities wherever possible. And our low-income rent has somehow escaped rising. Our roof doesn’t leak, anyway. We endure our obnoxious hillbilly neighbors by avoiding them and expecting to be moved before they burn the building down or whatever. I guess we have it pretty good, all things considered.
As for the other kind of resilience, that’s another story. I’ll just say, for those recovering from deep losses and adapting to changing circumstances, that takes a special kind of fiber that money can’t buy, while lack of resources may only exacerbate the sense of desperation and despair. Children who endured abuse, deprivation, and trauma may grow up to be functional adults on the surface, but the hurt and loss is always there, haunting, pervading, and informing their lives.
The kind of resilience required to survive and adapt to harsh realities often involves forcing yourself to take that one more step, for one more day, with no guarantees. It takes a leap without the faith. You can’t blame some people for just giving up. I think it’s the exceptional, extraordinary human who stubbornly hangs on and gives the finger to overwhelming odds. I would have to admire a person like that. I wonder if I can be such a person.
But I’m learning small lessons in adapting (and readapting) to reality, a step at a time. I won’t lie, I’ve had some challenging, even panicked moments, being confronted with the culture shock of the way millions are forced to live and cope in most of America, and not by choice. The future of our country looks bleak right now, but all we can do is stay focused on the immediate steps before us, and filter out as much of the discouraging noise as possible. It’s a modest hope of rebuilding something out of ruins. Or, at the risk of sounding clichéd, “if you’re not dead yet, you’re not done yet.”