Tag Archives: mental freedom

The Antipreneurial Spirit

(As inspired by this AdBusters article )

So what is an antipreneur? Pretty much the opposite of an entrepreneur, or at least what that word has come to mean nowadays. I would like to nominate “entrepreneur” as Most Obnoxious Overused Word of 2016 (runners up include “selfie”and “disrupt”.) The original definition is someone who starts a business with the intention to grow it as much as possible, and assumes most of the risk. Nowadays, though, there’s many ways around assuming risk when starting a business, if you are in the right place with the right connections. And judging by the recent actions of self-described “entrepreneurs”, such as jacking up the price of a drug sold by their pharmaceutical company 1000%, leaving some who depended on it to lie unable to afford it, to misclassifying employees as “independent contractors” in order to avoid minimum wage laws, overtime laws, giving benefits, and overhead costs….”entrepreneur” has come to mean “smug, narcissistic scum of the earth who only sees things for their monetary value, and will stoop to literally anything to make a buck.”

I knew and worked with a couple people for a while who were possessed by the entrepreneurial spirit; much of the time they talked about the monetary value, potential or actual, of the things around them; about things they had owned, bought, and sold in their lives, and the costs involved in each; and about how to make more money. They also talked about getting in a lot of fights, or having things stolen from them. I may own nothing of value, I said to them, but at least I can sleep easily at night. They were otherwise great people, hard workers, etc. but I could definitely see how being all twisted up around the almighty dollar was bringing them all kinds of trouble.

It seems like the Entreprenurial Spirit possesses a special sight that enables it to see everything in terms of its monetary value. I, on the other hand, don’t really have this second sight, which is why I’ll probably never be what our society calls “successful.” I definitely see things in terms of their usefulness, but it’s a usefulness that’s totally detached from any concept of money (which is, after all, just one big joke that everyone’s in on). For example, a whole morning spent doing nothing more than lying under a tree staring up through the branches at the clouds may not get me any closer to Fame and Fortune(tm) but it’s certainly valuable; it makes me happy and well-rested. The Antipreneurial Spirit sees and thinks in a way that’s chaotic, organic, squishy, wild, crazy, and beautiful. The Entrepreneurial Spirit seeks to quanitfy and control everything. Its secret fear of death, the ultimate loss of control, causes it to latch onto acquiring the biggest pile of things or the most power. Unfortunately, this is just the kind of thinking that is destroying our planet, draining its natural resources, and throwing everything out of balance-the lack of any ability to say “ok, stop here, this is enough”, the belief that infinite growth is not only possible but desirable. But anyone with sense knows that infinite growth is impossible-eventually we run out of planet to consume. And if the ideas of the antipreneurs can’t stand up to the future, it will eat both the past and the present.

 

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The Vogons from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are the most believable villains ever

Wow, a short post!

Pictured below: the ugly face of the faceless bureaucracy.

vogons

Vogons: They don’t care about you or your values, they just want to demolish your planet to build a hyperspace expressway.

In most science fiction or fantasy epics, the central conflict is a nice satisfying definitive struggle between good and evil. And usually, the forces of evil are driven by a passionate hatred of everything the good stands for. The bad guys come in with guns blazing, ready for a fight, and our heroes must struggle to defeat them. And sometimes they even conveniently explain their nefarious plans! But if you’ve ever watched or read Hitchhiker’s Guide, you’ll know the Vogons aren’t like that. They just. Don’t. Care. They love bureaucracy and paperwork, and to them the protagonists are not enemies but merely an inconvenience. They don’t even get a chance to fight; the planet is just destroyed instantly to make way for a hyperspace expressway. You wanted to do something about that? Well, the papers were on file on some other planet for several centuries, you should have gone there, gotten the papers, and gone through the proper procedures to prevent it. You didn’t know? Well, too bad, that’s just the way things are.

 

And that’s how it is with most of the opposition we face in life. We can’t just go in and kick ass until our problems are solved, because we’re up against a vast, faceless, passionless bureaucracy, a monolith of That’s Just How It Is. Your “enemies” don’t hate you, they just simply don’t care. Whether it’s the insurance company jerking you around about coverage or jacking up your rate for some obscure reason, a job prospect that says they want to interview you and then never calls back to schedule an interview, or a car buyer who promises you cash in hand then backs out and hangs up when you call them, life is full of such struggles. It’s frustrating and unsatisfying to deal with them. You can’t MAKE someone care. The only way you can fight apathy is by simply not caring yourself, and moving on to better things, and that’s the struggle I have every day.

What is dignity (and do I have any anymore?)

I recognize that I’ve been a wicked, naughty blogger and haven’t posted anything in quite a while. Lucky for you, not only am I posting once again, but I’m also going to explain in this very post why I haven’t been posting anything.

I’ve been doing way too much navel-gazing lately, way more than is healthy, and I’ve been thinking over one thing in particular: what is dignity, and do I have any of it? Does spending a large amount of time being pretty undignified make me someone with no dignity? I guess that’s a little like the age-old question of whether doing bad things makes you a bad person. I fall somewhat into the school of thought that says doing bad things makes you a bad person. After all, if, for example, you incite a massive genocide thinking it will improve the society you live in, you still are evil, even though you did it with the best intentions. But this definition can be slippery too. There should definitely be a consideration of motives when we try to decide whether something or someone is good or bad. Dignity is kind of similar, and brings up similar questions; lately, I feel like I’ve been losing mine, and I wonder if I had any to begin with.

Dignity, according to the dictionary, has several definitions: 1. “the state or quality of being worthy of honor and respect,” 2. “a composed or serious manner or style”,  and 3. “a sense of pride in oneself, or self-respect.” All three of these definitions are something I want to live my life by (maybe 2 less so…) but lately I seem to be falling down on all counts. And it all centers around my behavior regarding the love of my life, and the fact that he broke my heart.

2 years ago, I met the love of my life inexplicably through an ad I posted on Craigslist. I had just broken up with my first boyfriend ever, and having no experience outside a very serious and somewhat stifling relationship with a man over twice my age, I decided to try and experience more of what the world had to offer in that department. So I posted an ad on Craigslist personals looking for “a casual hookup” (Yup, directly contrary to Definition 2!) As we shall see, what resulted was much more than A Casual Hookup but still much less than an official relationship. Anyway, out of the 400+ spammy, scammy, poorly spelled, and occasionally scary responses I received, one really stood out: one guy claiming that he was also a baker, but was probably too old for me, and just wanted to talk. So we started talking, and found out we had a lot in common. We agreed to meet up at the bakery where he worked. He then offered to show me his house, located on a huge historic property where he was caretaker. He later said he had just planned to show me around the property and send me home with a lecture about not meeting strangers from the internet, but conveniently enough, the house happened to contain a big soft bed, and Sex Happened (as it tends to in such situations) without a lot of forethought on the part of both parties. After, we sat around listening to the fireworks being set off at Tanglewood, a few miles away. So you could say literal fireworks went off when we met. Pyrotechnic displays of patriotism aside, I was basically hooked from Day 1. Whenever I was around him, I got really, really, really stupid. Like a bunny rabbit caught raiding the lettuce patch, I was so transfixed by my obsession with, uh…tasty lettuce, that when the proverbial lettuce farmer came along and discovered me munching, all I could do was sit there shaking, awaiting my fate, too dumb to run while I could. We saw each other on and off for about a year and a half, punctuated by epic arguments (he wanted to be left alone, I felt rejected, etc.) until finally the day came when I was expelled from the lettuce patch for good, my little bunny rabbit spine snapped, my little rabbit heart broken. He said there was no way anything could happen between us again, and then a month later he announced he was back together with the woman he had a relationship with before he met me. “I’m lucky that she gave me a second chance,” he said. “She’s the love of my life-don’t try to compare yourself to her, because what I had with you is NOTHING like what I have with her.” This is where I proceeded to lose my little remaining dignity. Have you ever heard the expression “being floored” by something? I was quite literally floored by my loss. I would spend hours crawling around on the floor sobbing loudly whenever I had the house to myself, crawling into corners and trying to disappear. I went on epic benders, getting stoned half the day and drunk the other half, saying about two words to an actual human being. I cut myself and tried to pass off the angry red lines as gardening injuries. The worst was the emails and texts I would send to him, begging for a second chance, beating myself up over what happened, saying I would do anything, ANYTHING, for him to change my mind, saying I wished I could die and come back as Her, the Girlfriend (Official Version).

And what was the worst part? Certainly not the pain I went through. The worst part was the brief glimpses of objective reality I had, where I could see I was blowing the whole thing way out of proportion and airing my dirty laundry in front of my friends, family and co-workers, some of whom had expressed respect and admiration of me. Worse than getting my heart broken was allowing my dignity to slip away. I was falling down on all three definitions of dignity, but the worst was the third: I could see my ridiculous behavior that even my loved ones couldn’t-the drinking, the cutting, the crying and sniveling-and lost all respect for myself.

Maybe that’s a bigger part of what the trailer is: trying to regain some of my lost dignity by building something new, something I can respect myself for. It’s also a reminder of the most fundamental truth about dignity: if I can’t respect myself, then who can respect me? Thinking of my accomplishments on the trailer project helps me hold on to my dignity in times when I can feel it slipping away. I can respect the Lia who built her own bed and cabinetry, not the one who rolls around on the floor in 3-day unwashed clothes holding a half empty bottle of Jack and weeping and moping over her ex-whateverthehellhewas. I remind myself that dignity is just a transient state of being, that both are the same person, and that I should just try to hang on to my dignity and not give up if I lose it for a little while.

 

Plus, I can’t write while I’m hating myself.

 

Thanks for reading! Sorry this seems super off topic, I promise you’ll get more trailer stuff soon. I’m working on a solar water heater right now, will try to get some pictures but no promises. I’ll at least post build details on that.

A Lone Woman Wandering In The Woods

Where’s all the other mountain mamas?

Seriously. In a survey of through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail, only 23% were female. When I worked on a trail crew in Vermont, there was only two other women besides me on my 9-person crew (one was the awesome crew leader…) and I noticed a similar imbalance on the other crews from the conservation corps. When I tagged along on a class backpacking trip from my former high school as a chaperone, I noticed an even more dramatic gender distribution: I was the only woman on the trip! And earlier this year, I was talking with my aunt about my interest in taking some classes at a primitive skills school, only to be startled when she told me that the instructors have a reputation for trying to put the moves on any young, attractive female students that come their way. Great-that’s really comforting.

So where’s all the other women exploring the great outdoors? I know there’s more of us out there, but we’re few and far between, or so it seems. It’s not as if we can’t do it. Before the walling off of the world and the rise of civilization, as humanity spread to all corners of the earth, women survived in the same harsh conditions and endured the same dangers that men did-and sometimes carrying a baby on their back or in their belly, too. Many mystical traditions see nature as female, and women by extension as having some sort of mysterious connection with nature. As women are so closely associated and involved with the creation and nurturing of life (even for those of you who can’t have children or don’t want to-there’s some ancient deep part of your consciousness that knows) we also have a deeper concept of our mortality and the fragility of life. Nature is very cyclical and death and life are closely intertwined. Because of its ability to create, destroy, then re-create in cycles, nature is associated with female-ness. I could agree with this; I feel pulled along by the mysterious cycles and currents of the natural world.  Yes, Nature is a mother, but she can be one mean mama.

Partly I think it’s because our view of nature has changed. In a way, even perceiving nature as something separate and removed from us is a great change from when it was simply…home, mother, whatever-an entity that could both give and take, create and destroy. Now nature is seen as an adversary, something to be conquered rather than feared, respected, thanked for our daily existence. And conquering is not thought of as something women do. There’s also a pervasive stereotype of the lone wolf isolated badass woodsman type. I seem to see this a lot in the backpacking/nomadic/bushcraft community. Guys just want to play caveman and grow a beard and get some nature-related tattoos and stomp around in the woods feeling all badass. Not that there’s anything wrong with that in itself. But for those of us with neither the capacity for beard-growing or lone wolfiness can feel a little put off and feel like we don’t have what it takes to survive in the great outdoors. Also, on the whole solitude thing: humans are not solitary animals. In fact, in modern studies of hunter-gatherer groups living in remote areas, people tended to value companionship and cooperation, and formed close social bonds with their small group. There’s many reasons for this, not the least of which is that an extra set of eyes and ears helps alert you to dangers you might not otherwise notice, and a second pair of hands helps deal with danger when it arises. And human contact and human voices are essential for the health of the mind and emotions, just as good clean food and water are essential for the health of the body. In fact, it’s good to take your friends and family into the wild with you; you will develop a closer connection sharing space and time and conversation with them uninterrupted by the noise of industrial civilization (which is good for many things, like the invention of antibiotics and hot showers, but not conducive to deep social bonding.)

There’s also a message that women get fed from a very young age, whether unintentionally or intentionally: You are weak, you are especially vulnerable, you should not go out on your own somewhere. The world is out to get you and exploit your weaknesses, you should be very much afraid and ever vigilant because you’re a woman! Eventually your gender can start to feel like a liability or something. But don’t listen; channel the spirit of your ancient ancient ancestresses. Get outside. Have fun. If you’re really concerned, bring a friend, as mentioned before: an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands.

 

Fellow mountain mamas, I’ll see you on the other side of the hill!

I loved, I lost, I insulated some walls

In March, the love of my life went AWOL, and I insulated some walls.

Don’t talk to me, don’t ever come in my workplace again and sit there staring at me while you drink your coffee, I told you I wanted to be left alone, I told you to respect my boundaries, but you continue to ignore them, I want to remain friends with you but understand that nothing can ever happen between us again. Fine. I can live with that, because I know this has happened before, and with worse fighting, and we’ll just end up in bed together inside of 2 months when he gets lonely. I try to put away my concerns and focus on the trailer.

It’s finally starting to come together; the trailer looks more…real with the floor in place, like it could be a place to live, not a dingy mobile equipment shed. My stepdad comes over with his Sawzall to cut a hole in the side and top of the trailer to install a window and skylight. Since I can’t cut through the metal ribs that form the trailer’s frame, I chose a small window specifically designed for use in a trailer. There’s also trailer skylights available-try looking for an “RV skylight”, it’s just a specially shaped plastic bubble that can be installed on the roof of a trailer. I installed the window and skylight, sealing them against the weather with a healthy bead of caulk.

Then I started in on the insulation.

My father suffers from the after-effects of chronic Lyme disease, which he waged war against on various fronts for many years; one of these fronts, eventually, was IV antibiotics. They came packed in giant cardboard boxes, cushioned by gel refrigerant packs and squares of styrofoam. It was the foam squares I was after; we had a huge sack of this spent ordnance from the Lyme wars lying around the attic. With a little inventive measuring and cutting, the foam squares fit between the ribs of the trailer’s frame perfectly. Basically, I was following the pattern of a traditional frame wall, with a frame inside, insulation in the gaps, covered inside by paneling and outside by the trailer’s aluminum skin-an insulated, weathertight “sandwich”. I chose foam board for insulation over fiberglass or spray foam for several reasons, the most important being that it’s super easy to install and takes up very little space (important in my trailer.) I couldn’t have it sticking out past the metal ribs, because then I couldn’t attach my wall panels, so I went for the thickest piece that would work, which was about 1″. I also bought 3/4″ foam  board insulation to use on the roof, as it would bend to accommodate the slight bow in the roof. All in all, it took 1 bag of foam board squares and 3 large sheets of foam board insulation to insulate the ceiling and 3 walls (I left the back door uninsulated, planning to hang an insulating curtain in front of it so I could still use the door.)  Meanwhile, things seemed to be warming up a little between me and my angry lover. I even thought I might get to see him soon.

Motivated by foolish hope and happiness, I began to put my walls up. Most of the original paneling was in good condition, marred only by a few easily fillable dents, cheap trim, and ugly paint. I pried off the cheap plastic trim with a flat-bar and reinstalled the panels in their original locations, even using the original fasteners and pre-drilled holes (this was convenient, because the panels had to be attached to the metal frame, and drilling pilot holes into the metal was a pain. i went through many drill bits.) To fasten anything to the trailer’s frame, I had to use self-tapping screws, a type of screw that cuts threads into metal or plastic when screwed in. They’re identifiable by the small notch cut into the tip.

For the ceiling, which had previously been bare, I used sheets of 1/4″ plywood. I had to cut it into sections to be able to bend it enough. I cut it into thin strips that just spanned the gap between each set of metal ribs. Then, I covered every other section of the roof with the plywood, attaching it on both sides to the roof-ribs with 3/4″ self-tapping screws. To cover the spaces in between, I cut the 1/4″ plywood wide enough to slightly overlap the plywood I’d already attached. Obviously this didn’t look super finished and professional, but I liked the shingled look it gave my roof. Unfortunately, the wall panels didn’t reach all the way up to the ceiling, so I was left with a gap in the paneling where the top edge of the wall met the ceiling; it was at an odd angle, with nothing really to screw into. This would prove to be quite a pain later.

Then I made the worst mistake of my life: thinking he was about to come back to me. I was convinced that beyond all odds I had managed to be patient enough to merit a final chance at redeeming myself, but this was my downfall. Almost a month after he had first gone missing, he told me he was reunited with a previous girlfriend, who he had been seeing before me. He described her as the love of his life, and told me not to feel replaced because “what I have with her is nothing like what I had with you”. He reminded me that he had lived with her before moving to the area, a privilege I had never enjoyed. Every time I closed my eyes I imagined them together. It was torture, despite my daily reminders to myself that other people were far worse-off and had more difficult things to bear than I. So I tried to concentrate on building the trailer, so I could move on, away from a town where everything reminded me of him. But the construction was delayed for weeks while I flailed around helplessly in a soup of ugly feelings. Finally I managed to pull it together enough to salvage some trim from a trash pile behind a notoriously snooty local dance studio, and paint the walls with 2 coats of linen white left over from my mom’s house. Installing the trim was difficult; the trim nails were hard to drive in because the paneling behind the trim was really thin and absorbed the force of the hammer blows by bending or bouncing back. It was easy to bend a nail or smash a thumb; I did both many times. If you’re doing a trailer conversion like me, remember to nail into something solid, or consider using small screws, or use very thin trim and just attach with construction adhesive.

Anyway, I made it, and the hurt is a little less every day-even less now that I’m busier and know that I’m getting out of here soon.

 

And my walls still stand, and protect me from rain and wind just fine.

The Imaginary House-Builder


 

Are you having trouble picturing yourself building a tiny house? But you still desperately, desperately want to? Do have absolutely no construction skills to speak of? I mean, maybe you know which end of a hammer to hold, and which end to smash your thumb with, but that’s about it? Well, less than four months ago, I was in the same boat as you, and now I have a house-trailer sitting in my dad’s yard, ready to move. The trick to not letting the crazy scale and complexity of the project scare you, is to cut it down to size.

I don’t mean to make it even smaller-tiny houses are tiny enough to begin with; I mean breaking it down into small, manageable segments. And then picture yourself doing each thing. Yes, some things will be new to you, and you’ll have to learn. You’re going to have to learn some basic electrical wiring, very basic plumbing (possibly), joinery/cabinetmaking, installing insulation, painting, installing flooring, installing windows, heating and ventilation…and that’s just the start. But if you break it down into small segments, it’s less scary and more doable. That’s the trick here: you’ll never be able to do anything if you think you can’t. When I was working on a trail crew, I discovered that if I tried to lift a heavy log while thinking of how heavy it was and thinking that I was weak, my arms tired in seconds; but if I thought, I’ll give it my best try and see what happens, I found I had extra reserves of strength I had been holding back-plenty to lift the log into position.

Can you imagine yourself building a whole tiny house?

Probably not.

But can you imagine yourself buying a trailer to build it on/in? Yeah, probably (unless you’re completely out of cash.)  Can you imagine yourself reading books about construction? Can you imagine yourself building walls? A roof? Insulating the walls? If these individual steps seem too much for you, break it down ever further into each individual task, from measuring to cutting to attaching pieces together. Remember, this (or any project) will take time, so be patient with yourself. And read, read, read! There are plenty of books on carpentry, basic plumbing and electrical stuff, wood heat, composting toilets, rainwater catchment systems, etc. etc. at your library. Reading up on what you’re going to do is sometimes better than sorting through a whole bunch of search results. It also helps you break down the steps of what you’ll have to do and what order it should be done in. If I can do it, so can you!

Good luck.

The 24-Day Minimalist Challenge

As someone who hates to sound self-righteous, this post sounds a bit self-righteous. Please know it’s not intended to come off like that-I have plenty of problems with unnecessary hoarding of crap, and I do a slightly less structured version of this bout once a year.

Before you begin: Identify the most cluttered parts of your living space; if you have things in a storage unit, garage, or at friends’ or relatives’ houses, include these too. Identify how minimal you want to go, and why. Your minimalist challenge will play out differently depending on how much and why you want to get rid of stuff.

Day 1: Where will stuff go when you need to get rid of it? Clear out a designated area of your house for things waiting to be donated, sold, or tossed. Research locations to donate items-you can start with Goodwill, but there’s lots of places looking for specific donations of specific items-for example, the library might light your old book collection, or some shelter dogs could sleep on your old towels. Also, sometimes you can re-sell your old books and clothes to a consignment store or used book store; just be sure they’re in good condition. Get plenty of empty trash bags and have a couple recycle bins handy.

Day 2-8: Identify the worst-offender cluttered areas. These don’t even have to be messy, just anywhere stuff has been sitting collecting dust. Sort that stuff into what you use every day (like your favorite coffee mug, your laptop, and-hopefully-your toothbrush), what you use maybe once a month (that weight bench in the garage) and things you only use once a year or less (does anyone in the family even like enforced snowshoe outings?) Put the daily stuff back in its place, but keep out the once-a-month/once-a-year things aside-you’ll be doing a little more sorting with these.

Day 9-10: What’s most important to you among the things you only use once a year or once a month? Decide your priorities-you would probably rather ditch a shirt you don’t really like and wear little, but not equipment for a hobby you can only practice seasonally. Also, for things you use this infrequently, see if you can’t do without some of them. Look into the options of renting or borrowing tools or equipment, or getting a gym membership rather than constantly stubbing your toes on workout equipment. You’re aiming to get rid of most of the “monthly” items and all but a few of the “yearly” items.

Day 11-15: Now it’s time to sort the stuff you decided to get rid of. Refer back to the list of donation places you made on day 1. Sort out donations, box them up, and designate a day for donation drop-off. Sort out items to be sold, too. You can sell collectible stuff, electronics, etc. on a site like Ebay or Craigslist, or through the classifieds. Less valuable stuff, like stuffed animals or old furniture, can be sold at a tag sale. Anything that’s just beyond the pale gets recycled or thrown out. Recycle metal, glass, plastic and paper; old ragged clothing can be cut up for cleaning/shop rags, and unfinished wood scraps and wood items can be burned in a nice bonfire!

Day 16: Have a tag sale! (you can skip this step if you live in an area that doesn’t permit it-instead, resell or donate as much as possible.) If you have kids who are reluctant to part with their old stuff, encourage them to sell old unused items by giving them the profits from the sale of their old clothing, toys, etc.

Day 17-23: Identify the paths through which excessive crap finds its way into your house. (Trash counts too!) Weigh out all the trash you make in this week and figure out where it’s all coming from. Is it your to-go coffee habit (I know I have that problem!) or is it excessive junk mail? Are plastic bags choking your trash can? Figure out a strategy to combat trash generation, whether it’s buying a shiny new travel mug to keep in the car or unsubscribing yourself from the junk mailing list. Also, look at your shopping habits-are you tempted by the lure of sales? Ironically enough, window shopping can break your bad habits. Often, it’s enough to just admire the items you like in a shop; you’ll discover that you can enjoy looking at whatever you lust after (whether it’s chocolate-covered Oreos, a new chainsaw, or anime figurines) without NEEDING to buy it. Unless it’s the chocolate-covered Oreos. Don’t fall into the trap of buying stuff on sale because “you might need it later!” Stuff is still going to be on sale in the future. And besides, by the time you really do need the thing, you’ll probably have forgot about the sale. (The only exception here is winter clothes and swimming suits; end of season sales are great for these, and you know you’ll need them eventually.)

Day 24: Pat yourself on the back. You made it! Now you actually have space to walk through your garage/basement/efficiency apartment/wherever! Congratulations! Go out for pizza or whatever floats your boat.