Thursday, September 18, 2008

One cubicle wall from disaster

That's about how I'm feeling right now. Right now, Jacob's company is still booming, and so long as he has his job, we have quite a comfortable cash-flow. We even have savings, which, as noted, is part of the problem, since our bank is among those on shaky footing. I actually have no idea (how sad is that?) what would happen to our money if Wachovia went under in any of the various possible (likely?) ways. But just as there are any number of possible events that could push the US/the world from "badly infected cut" to "systemic illness" status, there just isn't that much between us and a very scary situation.

Say Obama wins the election--an event we would welcome--and starts pulling back troops and decreasing defense spending. Or just say that the economy keeps worsening, which I think we can take for granted. Jacob is a versatile guy, but largely unappreciated, and far from the most senior engineer at work. We calculate that we need over $30K a year just to pay the bills in this, our very modest old house in farm country, with no cable, no cell phones, and old cars. Where is Jacob going to pick up another job with money like that? How far would he have to drive? We live fifteen minutes from the nearest grocery store and 25 from his job as it is. How on earth would I contribute? I might be able to leave the wee one with the neighbor--though it'd kill me to have to--but all I have on offer is an incomplete Associate's degree and a resumé of food and customer service jobs I despised. Not promising.

And yet we keep living like we always have, which is to say frugally but more or less normally (although plenty of people consider it pretty stinkin' abnormal for us to not have cellphones, I guess). Heck, we just spent all that on a kitchen remodel. And I don't regret it, but I do feel tense.

Jacob...I don't quite know how to explain Jacob, or to get through to him. I grew up very poor, so I started from the viewpoint that hard work and perseverance sometimes just get you walked all over (certainly the case for my mother), but Jacob grew up very middle class and I think part of him still believes that poor people are poor through lack of effort, etc., and that basically things will be as they always have been for him. Intellectually, he agrees that the system is fucked, but I don't think that he accepts that it's really, really FUCKED, and that he could be too. He agrees, at least superficially, with the things I read to him from various peak oil blogs and articles, and has started paying attention to the news more closely and so on, and he's a complete partner when it comes to homesteading, etc., but still there's a strong tendency to make a joke of everything and to resist any action that really commits us to the future I forsee as opposed to "normalcy".

For example, he was quite in agreement with me when we reduced his 401K contributions to a very low level, because we had more critical use for the money and considered it an extremely dubious investment anyway. But when I now say that I think it incredibly unlikely that any of that money would be there for us to retire on anyway, or that "retirement" will even have the same meaning by the time we're sixty, and that we might consider just taking the penalties and yanking our money while it's still there, he dismisses the idea. He's there with me most of the way, but he still holds back from full belief.

It's hard to complain...I know a lot of people have much larger disconnects with their spouses than this when it comes to their take on the future. But still...I'm feeling so tense and really wanting to commit to action, and he's hanging back and joking. Maybe I'm just being a whiny punk because wahhh wahhh he's minimizing my worries...but dammit, he IS.

Of course, part of the problem is that I can hardly believe in it at all, and it takes active effort to "live the reality" of what's happening to our world. Mostly I fail. Witness the kitchen: $2K to make the kitchen work better? Sure, totally worthwhile. A few hundred to make sure we have access to the well in case of a power outage? I dunnoh....

Well, anyway, small crabby infant calls.

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