The Pendulum – Part Three
By High Desert
Missing in the mix of hundreds of bug-out stories is a forthright and candid self appraisal of lessons learned containing practical experience along with deep humility and honest self examination. High Desert expressed a willingness to share his and his wife’s adventure with TwoIceFloes and we eagerly embraced the opportunity to post his story as a three part series. Below is Part Three. – Cognitive Dissonance
We are the only person living within our world. We may share the same moment and space with billions of others, but our reality is uniquely ours and it is carefully constructed to fit our own worldview and belief system. Ultimately we are alone, even when surrounded by family and friends. While others may share the benefits and blow-back from our decisions, we alone bear the full burden of our beliefs.
I could no more understand the belief system, thought processes and daily lives of a movie star, neurosurgeon, or nuclear physicist than I could a drug kingpin, human trafficker or serial killer. No two people share the same exact world, not even identical twins.
I point this out solely to emphasize this article is not a recommendation or endorsement of any particular course of action. Nor is it a warning a similar course of action will produce the same results for you. My only goal when writing this article was to share our experiences, how we were affected and what we did to cope.
If you missed Part One and Part Two of this article, both installments laid out the groundwork for this final chapter. For those who did not read them, I’ll summarize the first two chapters in a single sentence. We woke up, bugged out and almost caved in after we were turned upside down when nearly everything went sideways.
During this six year journey we took a wild ride on the pendulum of life, eventually becoming totally out of balance with the world and each other. Part One described our initial awakening to how the world really works and everything leading up to our move to an isolated off-grid homestead. Part Two contained a summary of some of the larger challenges, successes, disasters, surprises and strange events we faced once we settled into our new home.
In this final chapter I detail how my wife and I progressed from a stress and drama free life of peace and harmony (aka blissful ignorance) to finding ourselves in constant conflict. This dissonance created such a high level of stress and disharmony we were constantly at each other’s throat.
Things eventually degenerated to the point where I found myself wondering who this angry, emotionally unstable, ranting, raving mad woman was and how she got a wedding ring that matched mine. And my wife couldn’t understand how she came to live with a non-communicative, fanatically driven, ill-tempered man who sat directly across from her at the kitchen table.
How in the name of all that is good, just and righteous did we end up so out of balance with life and each other? And what, if anything, could we do to fix the situation? If something major did not change, this was not going to end well.
What started out as a “on the same page” team effort to build a sustainable safe haven for family and friends was about to end in tears and dissolution. Twenty plus years of a loving and mutually supportive marriage was teetering on the precipice. Most of our life savings were gone, depleted in an attempt to cope with our red-pill awakening. After all we had physically and mentally accomplished, our very sanity was rapidly fading away with each day’s passing.
Trying to build-out and maintain an off-grid working homestead is hard work, plain and simple. To make matters immeasurably more difficult, we possessed the naïve belief we could build a community of like minded neighbors and local townsfolk to weather the coming socioeconomic storm.
What we discovered while attempting to do so was most of our scattered neighbors, plus many others who lived in the nearby small town, would be more at home in a creepy Stephen King novel than in Mayberry, U.S.A.
The demanding physical work, part and parcel of self sufficient off-grid living, was slowing wearing us down. Plus the non-stop disasters, miscues and mistakes compounded the physical and mental toll. While I was fine with the physical and social isolation, after a couple of years it became really distressing for my wife. Above all else, she deeply missed spending time with family and old friends.
Admittedly my personality is more like Doc Martin than Dr. Phil. The fact is I would never be mistaken for a people person. When forced into a social gathering, my eyes begin to glaze over after ten minutes of small talk, a social grace I sometimes refer to as ego-generated mind-babble.
Not that I’m free of ego or mind-babble; quite the opposite in fact. It’s just that after being embarrassingly exposed far too many times as the fool I am, I finally realized even the greatest of fools can remain undetected unless they open their mouth or type on a keyboard. The advent of social media provides irrefutable proof of this fact.
The greater fools on display.
My wife became very unhappy; deeply depressed for the first time in the more than two decades we’d been together. It’s not as if she overtly expressed a desire to move. But with her Irish descent, red hair and matching determination and temper, she made it very clear she could no longer live as we were. Therefore she WAS moving.
I offered to set her up on Skype and social media so she could stay in touch with her friends. We found a new home for the chickens, relieving her of that daily burden, and cancelled all new projects. We even started a new gardening related business to help her stay mentally engaged and occupied.
I did everything I could to ease her responsibilities in an attempt to bring some joy back into her life. Nothing worked. In fact, all my efforts just seemed to make the situation worse. She was leaving, I was staying. A line had been drawn in the sand and now the fighting began in earnest.
It was a very rough year. Physically and emotionally exhausted, we were both suffering from a variation of PTSD I’ve termed NSTSD – Non-Stop Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was not a pretty picture and things were getting uglier by the day. Neither of us could see the other’s point of view, therefore the differences could not be reconciled. It took me a long time to realize why I was so angry, rigid and void of empathy or understanding.
Modern psychology acknowledges by a very early age, a child has formed core belief systems in order to cope with and understand their world. Is it a safe or dangerous place? How emotionally and physically supportive is it? Is their universe a loving and nurturing environment in which to grow or an indifferent, even hostile, place where they simply exist?
Unless there are dramatic changes in living conditions along the way, these fundamental beliefs are continually reinforced as we grow and develop. During our late teens and/or early twenties, additional conditioning takes place as we transition from child to adult. The experiences and conditioning encountered during our youth tend to stick with us, even if they slowly fade away into our sub-conscious.
I was born into a dangerous, non-supportive and indifferent world and was living on the streets by the time I hit sixteen. When I turned eighteen I joined the military. Even though it was now several years after Vietnam, the Army had not fully transitioned to a peacetime force. There was still an ‘under fire’ mentality infused in the troops.
Truth be told, our country has always been at war, either overtly, covertly, by proxy, via regime change or setting up and/or provoking the next one. This is not necessarily a condemnation, but rather just standard operating procedure for all empires past and present.
After basic training came jump school, then advanced infantry training and jungle operations training in Panama followed by a return to Ft. Bragg, NC for six more months of specialized training. I then returned once again to the Canal Zone. The training was non-stop and intense.
In the latter stages of my enlistment, two memes were drilled into us over and over again: The Mission Always Comes First and Failure Is Not an Option. Losing focus in the field could easily ruin your day. Therefore, even on training exercises, we never took any reminders of family or friends with us because such things could be distracting. Wallets, wedding rings, photos and personal jewelry never left the base.
All of that was forty years ago and I seldom think about those days anymore. Yet, it was that very state of mind which resurfaced from my sub-conscience, causing a significant lapse in my critical thinking skills and normally logical mind when dealing with this stressful situation.
What I had not realized until my wife and I were about to activate the nuclear option was now clear. After our red pill awakening and joint decision to uproot our lives, I had taken on a new mission and failure was not an option.
The objectives were monumental, the physical work exhausting. If you read Part Two, you can understand how I felt we were basically operating behind enemy lines. So when my wife started to express a desire to move, to go back to the city (at least that’s what my mind was hearing) I saw her as a team member who had laid down arms and was mumbling something about retreat and surrender. As the tension mounted and the arguments intensified, I began to view her as an enemy combatant.
The mission had to come first, even if that meant our twenty plus year mutually supportive, built on trust and friendship relationship would become collateral damage. There was no room for negotiation, compromise or surrender.
Had I totally lost my mind or was I suffering from a severe case of Collapse Fatigue? Since I never want to be exposed as a fool, I’m certainly not going to admit to the former…at last not yet anyway.
After I came to understand what the driving force was behind our conflict, beyond the obvious fact we were both totally off-balance, I began a sincere attempt to listen to what my wife was actually trying to say instead of taking a defensive combat stance every time she said “we need to talk.”
In my ‘failure is not an option’ narrowed state of mind, all I had heard was my wife’s proclamation she wanted to be reinserted back into the Matrix along with a full memory-wipe of the last 5 years. What she was really saying was perhaps, just perhaps, there is a place (physically, emotionally and spiritually) with a little more balance, somewhere between blissful ignorance and the current NSTSD preparation for the end of the world mindset.
Despite that growing understanding, it still took a while for the little voices in my head to subside. Initially the constant “I will not fail”, “I will not surrender”, “I will complete the mission even if I have to do it alone” monologue was replaced with all the reasons we couldn’t move.
Even if we could sell the retreat, it most likely would be at a significant loss, leaving us in a precarious financial situation. And we’ll never find a new place that’s an acceptable compromise. On top of all that I simply do not have the energy or fortitude to move lock, stock and barrel again.
Anyone who has been there knows, the excuses are endless when we’re looking for reasons not to do something.
After a few more months it slowly sunk in. All I was doing was finding excuses to avoid something I still had reservations about. In reality I could no longer avoid the fact life is too short and it no longer made sense to live what few years we had left in misery and disagreement.
Economic and social collapse, World War III, a poisoned ecosystem that can no longer support billions of people; all these and more will probably come to pass at some point in the future. But to live life as if disaster is scheduled for later in the day is no way to live. My wife had been the first to ask a fundamental question. How could continuing to live life on the edge contribute to our quality of life while honoring our marriage?
For us, at least, the answer was it could not. A house divided will fall.
A house divided will fall
I finally yielded to the irrefutable fact our effort to create a safe redoubt and a self-sustainable life was itself ultimately unsustainable. The critical component in any ecosystem, regardless of how simple or complex it may be, are the individuals involved. If we aren’t in sync with each other and the rest of the system, nothing will work as expected or planned.
As Yogi Berra once said, it’s déjà vu all over again. My wife returned to researching new properties each evening and I started working out the logistics of a future move. We had found common ground once again, sharing a few core beliefs that were a solid compromise between our original “light, love and abundance” and the terribly out of balance “the only point of life is to prepare for the end of the world” state of mind.
It was nearly a four hour drive from our off-grid homestead to the city where family and friends lived. One of the search parameters I insisted upon when looking for a new home was a specific county line. I wanted to live no closer to the city than that border. My goal was to live in a location unlikely to be consumed by the ever-expanding Metro area (at least during our remaining lifetimes) but not at such an altitude nothing edible would grow without significant intervention by us.
We both agreed we wanted at least a few acres to live on, more for privacy and safety than for an attempt to grow everything we needed to eat. And the house had to be large enough to accommodate our son on the off chance conditions got bad enough he had no choice but to boomerang home.
After a determined search we eventually found just such a place.
Almost a year ago we moved into our new home. We managed to sell the homestead to some folks who wanted it for exactly the same reason we had, therefore they appreciated all we had (re)built and accomplished during our stay there. We certainly didn’t make a profit on it, but fortunately we broke even enough to buy the new place and replicate (on a much smaller scale) the essential backup systems we desired, along with a smaller greenhouse.
The new location allows us to visit our son and friends and be back home by the afternoon. It’s no longer a full day’s ordeal for me to make a run for hardware or supplies. Plus we actually managed to cram all the accumulated food and medical supplies into the new place. And although my new shop is considerably smaller, it is fully functional and I don’t have to start a fire an hour before starting a new project.
We now know, having learned from firsthand experience, we can’t ‘save’ the world or even ourselves, for no one lives forever. We realized the best we can do is live the rest of our lives with honesty, integrity and compassion. I’m not talking about the kind of honesty and integrity practiced in corporate boardrooms or by politicians, but honest to goodness Golden Rule stuff. No one can take that away from us and it doesn’t cost us a dime to practice our beliefs.
That is our new mission, one we intend to live to the fullest along with lots of self-reflection, contemplation and critical thinking. And most of all, to live in balance with Mother Nature and each other.
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