I haven’t written here in a while, and that’s not because I haven’t had anything to say. It’s just that what I do have to say feels so… trite. It is trite. Everything I’ve written lately has been completely, almost intentionally inconsequential. I’ve typed gigabytes worth of words lately, but it has nothing to do with yarn or knitting, so there’s no reason to publish it here. More specifically, it’s about my feelings, so there’s no reason to publish it anywhere.
My thoughts are a complicated stew right now, and it doesn’t help that there is much, much more important shit going on that has no regard for my neuroses. That being said, my personal life doesn’t stop happening because things are going wrong on a larger scale. To be sure, if things get bad enough, my personal life would probably cease to exist as survival became the primary concern. I don’t want that to happen, I’m just acknowledging that it can. I’m trying to be optimistic, which is still a new thing for me, and it’s kind of like breaking in a pair of boots. I’ll probably never completely give up the part of me who immediately thinks of the worst case scenario. It’s just that now instead of wallowing in it, I acknowledge it and then stick it in drawer. (There have been a lot of worst-case-scenarios floating around lately. I don’t know if I could top “rogue neutron star enters our solar system.” Which is comforting, in a way. It lends perspective.)
I’m not rooting for chaos or destruction, believe me. I’m comfortable and I don’t want that to change. But I have had some thoughts on survivalism. Those thoughts predate the current political situation in the US. I’ve been a fan of dystopian and apocalyptic fiction for years, and I’m not quite sure why. I wouldn’t want to survive a cataclysm just to have to scrape and fight for each breath of air and drink of water. I wouldn’t want to exist in some bleak, polluted future. I’m realistic enough to know that I wouldn’t be one of the ones at the top of the dung heap. You know that Steinbeck quote about “temporarily embarrassed millionaires”? That’s never been the case with me. I’ve never had delusions of wealth or fame, and I’m pretty sure if hordes of undead were to come shambling across the countryside, I’d be in the first wave of casualties.
I’m okay with that, though. Because if it gets to that point, shit is bad. And the things that make life enjoyable and worth living for are probably also gone for good. Knitting is right out the window. There’s the joke that knitting is a good post-apocalyptic life skill. I get the humor, but let’s be realistic: you just don’t have time for that when you’re fighting for survival. Besides, a decimated population leaves behind a lot of stuff. If you’re trying to defend your life or flee from danger, it makes no sense to spend hours on a sweater or blanket, given that whatever you need can be acquired with a little modern foraging.
I have a particular set of skills, and I’m sure there are some scenarios in which they would be useful. If the threat in question were neutralized, and the reduced population were settling down into communities and enclaves in unsettled areas, then maybe it would be useful to know how to make socks from the hair off a sheep’s hide. But not as useful as knowing how to cultivate food or deliver babies. Not nearly as useful as being able to hunt, and prepare, preserve, and store meat. If I’m picking people to populate my Little House on the Post-Apocalyptic Hellscape, I’m picking a hunter. Preferably one who is skilled in the use of weapons other than just firearms, rather than just a dude who owns a lot of guns but has only ever shot them at human-shaped silhouettes. The vague threat of “thugs” breaking into your house pales in comparison to the threat of being knocked off the top of the food chain. As far as the knitter? I’m only picking her if she’s an excellent raconteur with good birthing hips.
Being able to manipulate fiber hasn’t been an in-demand skill in a developed country for a while now. What it is, is a privilege. I’ve never shied away from the fact that I have an enormous amount of that. The fiber thing is a pleasant diversion from the stresses of daily life. It’s a privilege to be able to do it at all, let alone to have a huge selection of well-crafted tools and artisan materials. If I’m being honest with myself, the reason I wouldn’t want to be a survivor of an end-of-the-world situation is because of the drastically reduced standard of living. Because the luxuries I have now would be a thing of the past, and my future would entail day after day of stress, struggle, and pain. Leisure time would be nonexistent. And I’m not sure I want to live a life devoid of pleasure. I’m well aware that many millions of people are living such a life at this very moment. My heart hurts for them, but all I can do is hope that if nothing else, those people will thrive in that new landscape. If the Earth OS throws up a BSOD on the First World, maybe the Second and Third will get to enjoy the good life while we reboot.
I think about this occasionally, and not just in the aftermath of a giant political upheaval. I think about it every time I look around my home, at all the things I have. How did I acquire so much stuff in so short a time? I came here a year and a half ago after shrinking the volume of my accumulated belongings down to only what would fit in my car. Now, that volume has expanded to fill the space I occupy. And this isn’t even the first time I’ve done this! Eight years ago, I put everything I owned in my car and moved halfway across the country in the opposite direction, although I didn’t have to divest myself of most of my possessions first. I arrived in NC with a carload and left it with a full moving van. It was only by the circumstance of getting divorced that I was able to pare down to the minimum again. I think at least once a week about the spinning wheel I had to sell off because I didn’t have the space to take it with me. I can’t imagine how much crap I’d have if I hadn’t gotten a divorce.
Interestingly, one of the things I own, which actually did survive the move to California, is a binder full of patterns. They were mostly patterns from my queue, printed out and saved, just so I’d still be able to work through my yarn if the world ended and Ravelry no longer existed (and there was no way of accessing the flash drive where I’d backed up those same patterns). I haven’t opened the binder in a while because the technology in my life has evolved to the point where I’ve stopped using printed patterns entirely. I feel like if the me of 5 years ago saw that, she would be looking at the situation with a sense of growing dread, like watching someone on a rickety bridge slowly move farther and farther away from solid land.
You’d think I would be reverting back to that mindset, of having to be prepared in case it all goes to hell. But I’m not, because again, I just don’t think I’d want to be one of the people trying to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of armageddon. I think I’ve come to grips with my own mortality. Not that that’s set in stone; I’ve waffled and struggled with it for years. But getting my anxiety under control has helped me have a much easier time falling asleep at night. I still sometimes have the thought, just before drifting off, that I could just not wake up. But that thought no longer is accompanied by a heart-pounding existential dread. I could die. Matter of fact, I’m going to. And when that happens, I’ll be dead. I’m sure at least 15 people will be sad about that, but I’ll be too dead to worry about it much.
Another reason I’m not freaking out is because these boots are starting to become comfortable. I’m actually making plans. I have goals. I’m hopefully starting school soon, to begin an actual career. In spite of the undeniable pockets of ugliness out there, I still kind of have some faith in humanity. I know there are people out there who would endeavor to destroy that faith for no other reason than they see the world through a distorted lens of hate and they have nothing better to do than smear that hate around.
Those people need something more constructive to do. I know knitting isn’t for everyone, and it’s probably not going to get you through a nuclear winter… but it’s more productive than saying mean things to strangers you’ll only ever see through a glowing rectangle.