Monday, September 9, 2013

Living With Uncertainty

                 We all live with a certain amount of uncertainty simply in the course of being alive.  Each day is granted to us on an individual basis, and as I know, only too well, being young or appearing healthy is no guarantee for our meeting tomorrow.  Believing that all will be approximately the same for the next ten years or so, is self deceptive. We never know what will change, and sometimes what stays the same is surprising.  However, in order to meet the challenges of each day, we need to feel a modicum of security and certainty simply in order to live our lives and certainly in order to go out to work, and to raise children.  Human beings need to feel that the majority of life's underpinnings will stay the same in order to continue to function.  This was easier, in some ways, I think for our grandparents and our parents, with the exception of World War II.  At home there was a fair amount of stability, but everyone knew that WWII had the potential to change the world, and it would not be for the better.  When the war ended, many people came home to start families, and they began by giving those families the safety and the security that they had not known themselves during the war.

My parents had the same goldenrod refrigerator for 25 years, and it never let them down.

               I was a tiny child in the nineteen-sixties.  I have passing remembrances of JFK being assasinated, and watching his widow and his children, on television, at the funeral.  I remember that Caroline and little John looked like my brother and I at the time, and so I related.  Despite the turmoil that was going on in the country through the sixties, I knew almost nothing of it.  I awoke to the seventies.  There was a gasoline crisis. My father spoke of a recession, but to me, life was very stable.  I went to school.  Most of the people I knew were upper middle class, and those who weren't were still my friends, and they shared the same ideals and standards we had. Not much changed year to year, on television, at Sears, or anywhere else.   I didn't realize it at the time, but my parents worked hard for us to grow within that stability, something neither of them had, in part, due to WWII.  For a time we lived in England, but even that was very stable.  We lived at my grandmothers and my aunt's home while we were there. I went to a good school in Harrow, and even though I could write you a book on the cultural differences between Britain and the US in those days, life was secure and it was certain. Green beans would grow. We would pick them, and we would have them for dinner along with baby new potatoes and a Granny Smith apple pie with apples picked from Nana's tree.
           I went to college early in the Northeastern US, and graduated in 1981.  I had a chance to see what a recession was for myself, in a place that had an expensive standard of living and was a tough place to get a start.  But still, my life was slated to be very much like that of my parents.  When I found difficulties with something, chances are, they knew a good measure about it, and could advise me if I asked. That chain of knowledge has broken now.

Our kids first computer, the Amiga.

          My first two kids were born in the mid nineteen-eighties, and then a third and a fourth in the nineties.  They were predominantly homeschooled and therefore had an education that was different than mine, and in many ways academically superior.  They embraced computers, which were only just becoming available to me when I was in college.   After we had kids, if I needed computer help, I went to a six year old here at home, who frankly could load and troubleshoot anything I ever needed.  We were thankfully one of the first families we knew who had computers and had the internet, which was necessary for my husband's work as an engineer.  The kids took to it like little ducks to water.  Right off, I was no longer the authority on many things that my parents had been.  There were a lot of things that my children simply knew more about and managed better than I could, despite their ages. The sheer amount of time they had to learn was greater than the amount of time I had in childhood to do so.
           In our thirties my husband and I decided to move from the suburbs to the country.  It might be harder on us, we thought, but our children were becoming consumers in the suburban jungle.  Time seemed to be accelerating, and even in  what was reputed to be a "good neighborhood", we saw signs of drug dealing, and the deterioration of the family.  We left our good friends and homeschooling group and moved way out to the country.  No Chinese food, no pizza, and milk and bread were twenty miles away.  For a short time we had a neighborhood store a bit closer, but they decided to close when a neighborhood church asked them to stop selling beer on Sundays, and that was about all they were really selling, along with fantastic potato salad and fried foods.
            In moving, my husband and I were able to "slow our world down" to allow that precious stability a bit longer so that our kids could grow up in the safer bubble that we remembered. In their teens, they transitioned to college, and then to universities.  They did well adjusting to college and to the university afterward. It had not hampered them to be at home and have fewer interactions with their peers. They knew who they were before they were confronted with college level peer group pressure. They became leaders and not followers.
            Upon graduating from the university with honors, the two eldest ones entered our world of uncertainty.  One had a modest amount of student loan debt, and the other had a fairly large student loan burden.  We have another in college now, and one who may attend next year.  I don't envy them.  The background levels of uncertainty are tolerated by my husband and I because we have been dealing with it for many years.  Our kids were a bit shocked to come to the world from college.   They learned that you can graduate from the university with honors and seek a job every day for a year and not find one.  It took more than a year for our daughter to get a good job.  Our son learned that someone can crash into your car, totalling it,  a week before college graduation.  The person who hit him was convicted, but their cut rate, out- of-state insurance has never paid him a dime for his medical expenses, or for his totalled car.  He has no choice but to sue the driver, who has disappeared.  The uninsured driver coverage on his insurance does not apply, as the person had insurance !
            All of us live with the possibility that our inept president will start a war with someone.  We live with the distinct possibility that the economy won't get any better here because the good jobs left for India, Brazil, Mexico and Canada.  I am watching food and utility prices go up so quickly that our plan to retire-in-place might be a pipedream.  The next time I am ill, I could find out that what I need is only being appropriated for people in their thirties, but not for me.  Uncertainty brings background stress.  Background stress can bring illness, but most often it breeds anger first. 
              Our entire nation lives with enough background uncertainty that it slows the momentum of lives. Couples remain engaged for years because it might not be wise to marry during this downturned economy. People avoid retiring.  Others retire as soon as they can thinking that social security is less likely to be taken away from them if they are already collecting it.  Small businesses don't get started, and people choose not to have children, or build the home they need.  Confidence in the future has eroded.


             I hope that there is enough certainty in your own life, that you are able to move forward.


PioneerPreppy said...

Slow socialism and spreading the wealth around. In the end everybody ends up poor except for a very few at the top.

JaneofVirginia said...

I still hope that this can be circumvented following an impeachment. We still would have a choker federal debt afterward though.

Gorges Smythe said...

The only sure thing is the Lord. Like solomon said, "All is vanity."

Harry Flashman said...

That's a really well thought out post. With the amount of insecurity and outright fear in our culture today, your kids have a lot of company. We homeschooled ours until post high school, then sent them to British Columbia for two years for their higher education. Though my wife and I both went the University route in the 1970's, times had changed so much we opted for good tech schools for our children. It was a decision that has worked well on several fronts.

About all people can do today is lay low, keep the family covered, and look out for each other.

JaneofVirginia said...

Yes Gorges, and I do accept that absolutely. But until we are called in that one glorious moment, we remain here navigating the changing tides and helping our family do the same. Hope all is going well with you, and with yours.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks Harry, We are doing our best. I am glad you found a way to educate your kids well, and provide the stability they all need for learning. Good job !

lotta joy said...

My daughter graduated college and worked in a gas station. Then she went back to college and graduated with an RN BSN degree. Now she's 43 and was never one of those types who believed she was owed anything by the government, but has only known hard work and determination. Thank goodness she didn't inherit my lazy tendencies.

JaneofVirginia said...

I am glad your daughter has a fine work ethic, but I don't believe for a moment that the author of Treadwell has a single lazy bone inside her entire body !

lotta joy said...

Well...I did write while sitting down. Lol

Linda said...

I was 16 when JFK was killed. My life from then on was one of uncertainty. When the nurses in Chicago were killed, Bobby Kennedy, the guy shooting in the tower in TX, Sharon Tate was murdered. I was so stressed because I had an infant in 1968 then another in 1970. I felt like the world was flying apart and there was no shelter anywhere. By the time I had the last baby in 1975, life did not seem so fragile. I don't know why.

Even when I was four, I overheard "Cold War" and asked my mother how cold would it get that we would die. Could we go inside and get warm? I had seen WWII movies since I was born in 1946. I feared the bomb and wanted a bomb shelter. Life was fragile from the time I was four. I read the newspaper proficiently before I was seven, all the news, things Mama and Daddy did not read to me before. I learned the word and meaning of rape.

I had the avocado green appliances--washer, dryer, and refrigerator. Each lasted 30 years. It was a shock when I had to replace them.

My children had jobs right out of university in their field. The daughter was able to secure a job six months before she graduated in 1989. For all this, I am so grateful. Some of their friends still struggle to find a job.

I grew up in the country, so I was not stressed by people and the city problems. We had few people around us. However, we did everything in two large cities near us, Jackson, MS and then Memphis, TN. Neither was the anguished, overcrowded cities they are now. Life was peaceful on our ten acres. Going two miles to the city involved no risk at all.

Life is different now in both places.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks for your post, Linda. I think that sometimes we forget that even though we weren't all connected via internet and cellphone, that there was still a media barrage of news in those days, and I think it's when the changes began. It became harder to be centered and to stay positive. Thank you for sharing.
My parents never replaced their appliances. When they divorced in my twenties, the appliances all still worked and were sold when Mom sold the house and the new owners remodeled.

JaneofVirginia said...

We all do, not because we're lazy, but it give us focus !!!
You are so hard on yourself ! LOL

Rick Kratzke said...

Unfortunately there is no guarantees in life even though we all wish there was. In this day and age things are very uncertain no matter how we look at it. The best thing we can do is keep family close, prepare for the worst as much as you are able to and live each day to the fullest.