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I Don’t Know What To Say…


I feel like I am treading water in an open sea. I feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. I feel like I don’t know what to feel.

And certainly I am at a loss for what to write. Me, who is never at a loss for topics, ideas, and thoughts.

Yesterday I drove my grandfather around to banks and investment houses and an accountant, so that he could make sure all of his finances were in order. So that he could make sure that he understood exactly where his stocks and bonds and cds were, and whether or not the bank would be able to hold his funds if the bank failed, how much of his money he had lost, what the penalties were for withdrawing some of it early in case he needed to… so many things to think about.

The man is a genius when it comes to money. Some of you may remember that among many other things during his life, he was a banker. He understands economics at the micro and macro levels intimately, he invests cautiously and smartly, he surrounds himself with others who are good informants for more details. My grandfather and his wife are living off of the interest from his savings, he has an elaborate system of cds and all sorts of investments at different banks.

Why am I going on about this?

Because I’m scared. And that my grandfather is worried makes me worried, too. He has told me all about the days of living through the Depression. It was a difficult life.

I am trying to change careers and I have debt hanging over my head from student loans, and this is not a good time for me to be living through a world financial crisis.

The world needs to be fighting climate change, and working toward good alternatives for its finite supply of oil, and tackling malnutrition and severe poverty and the suffering of creatures and environments everywhere. But we can’t when we’re all paralyzed with fear.

I want to write about the Green Your Insides Challenge and the Growing Challenge and the Buy Sustainably Challenge, but every time I start to write, the subject seems hollow in the face of widespread fear and financial distress.

What would help you all right now? What can I write to make you feel better? Do you need distractions? Tips for saving money? Or business as usual? Do you need news or are you saturated? What can I write and say that will help you live your lives happier, healthier, and more fulfilled?

What I’m asking, I think, is How are you doing? How are you feeling? Are you overwhelmed? Are you hurting? Are you ok?

And what are you looking for when you come here to read my words, especially during these more difficult times?

How can I give you what you need?

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27 comments to I Don’t Know What To Say…

  • Heather Johnson

    Melinda, connecting with you on the feeling of hollowness of these efforts for “making the world a better place”; there is messiness to existence, with light is shadow… and what I most need at this time feels addressed in what you write: honesty. Each of us simply being who we are, revealing our fears and concerns, revealing our beauty and divinity. Simply, being human; extraordinarily, being human. Thank you for inviting us into such a space.

  • Melinda, you probably have heard this, but it’s always good to repeat I think: in the Chinese language, the character for crisis comes from two different words: danger and opportunity. And I wholeheartedly believe this, with every crisis comes both danger, but also possibility for better. I mean, to give the example of the Great Depression. If we had never gone through that, we might never have developed Social Security, minimum wage laws, money in banks being insured by the Federal government, etc. So, even though the Great Depression was a terrible crisis, some good things came as a result.

    Today, I went to a lecture given by a fairly prominent environmentalist in Canada. And he said that his hope is that the global financial crisis is an opportunity for the world to see just how interlinked we all are. And I think there is a real possibility that some definite good is already coming out of this crisis. I think people are realizing as never before that what happens in the US affects India. That what happens in Iceland … really affects the UK. That we cannot hide behind national borders.

    I am not sure if any of what I am saying is healing your hurt right now. Right now, it is hard to look beyond the looming crisis and see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s hard to see what good can come out of this. But human beings are an amazing species. And when they are presented with a difficult situation, it is amazing how they will leap into action.

    We will seize this opportunity. I promise you. In the short run things may get worse, but in the long run, we will be better off for this crisis. I truly believe that.

  • I guess I have mixed emotions over this whole “crisis”. Fear, yes, I am afraid of what will happen if crop prices drop much at all. I’m scared to death at the thought of somehow, for some reason, not being able to pay our mortgage. But I have to admit, I think I’m a little unable to really believe things will get that bad. I’m 22 years old and every since I can remember people have talked about how bad the economy is. It has been one crisis after another. First we’re all scared of terrorists (I’m not even talking 9/11, how about Oklahoma City?) and then during Clinton’s days it was all, “What’s this world coming to?”. Followed by Bush’s crap for all these years and now, NOW I’m supposed to panic!? My entire working life, from the time I was 16, all I’ve heard in every business meeting from every boss is “If things don’t pick up around here…” and yet statistics and surveys often would show that consumers weren’t cutting back that much and really the stock market was doing fine.

    I know things are really getting bad now. I can tell because my own grandparents are nervous too. My friend had trouble selling her car because the buyer, with perfect credit, could hardly get a loan. My Mom had a line of credit (that she never used) quietly closed due to “economic conditions”. And today, I got a letter in the mail from Farm Credit Services. They just wanted to reassure us that there business is booming and there is no need to worry in the face of all the problems elsewhere. How sweet.

    Anyway, I don’t think what I’m looking for here has changed much. Basically I’ve long researched frugality and voluntary simplicity and I’m here to learn more about how to incorporate eco-friendly in to all of that. I also like to be reassured that not everyone thinks I’m crazy for digging recycling out of the trash at work and making my own granola bars at home.

    If there is one thing I can think of that would be helpful these days it is more advice and ways to build community and approach others outside of the blog world. Since things are so bad, what can we do, make that what SHOULD we all do to help? If all these little things we do save us money and energy and better the environment, how do we spread the wealth? I know you have posted a lot on that subject and I think that is great. Keep up the good work – you’re an inspiration!

    Whew, this comment turned in to a much needed vent session – who knew I was this opinionated! I thinking I’m going to copy it on to my blog with a link back here.

  • Hi Melinda,

    First off … its not your job or responsibility to give us what we need. Its our job to seek out the resources that quieten our hearts and feed our core with strength.

    Over here we are doing Ok. Things are tight and absolutely uncertain but the extreme fear hasn’t really hit us yet in Australia. I am a long term planner/worrier so I am just doing my best to work through my fear in the most positive ways that I can… getting stuff done in minimising our reliance on the systems that only exist due to societal wealth.

    If you are looking for topics to tackle things that might be of use in an economic downturn are issues of pride. The things that we may put off doing way too long because we just don’t feel we can admit we need help. Things like consolidating 2 households into 1, sharing costs of buying in bulk, etc. These things all require that we admit that we can’t do it all alone… that we are stronger when the risk is shared and healthier when we reach out.

    For those that are not feeling much pain yet please remember to give any time or money you can possibly afford… charitable giving generally gets cut early in budget tightening and those in need before are even more in need now.

    Those strong communities we are trying to build will be just as useful forged in an era of need… we can come together and stand by our neighbour doing our best to make sure that everyone stays healthy or we can fracture apart and selfishly hoard the resources we own. One way or another this is going to touch most of us…. and the job of community is to try and ensure that everyone comes through the other side.

    Kind Regards

  • I agree with simply belinda- its not your job or responsibility to give us what we need. You have been doing a fine job with showing folks how to build community, how to grow things and how to buy sustainibly. Givng people the tools is the best thing right now. Not being much of a bible reader, I take to heart the parable of give a man a fish, he eats for a day- teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime. I am handling this crisis buy attending classes to improve my gardening ability, and my sustainability. I might take the Facilitators Class with Seattle Free School and try my hand at teaching a few things I have learned, like building a mason bee house or making a rocket stove. I think that teaching and sharing others is the best way to handle things. And one of the best ways I know how to glean information from others

  • I have to agree with Belinda and Arduous both. Perhaps one of the good things that will come out of this is that each individual will find what makes them strong, what makes life worth living. One of my family members had a very close call this summer and almost died. As anyone who has had that type of experience knows, I think, it puts a lot of things into perspective. For me, the people I love and living in the moment to the fullest that I can.

    Since I’ve always been very much of an “in the moment” person anyway, I tend not to think about the financial mess much unless I’m reading the news or talking to someone about it. I know that all this is not great with my retirement savings, but it’s not something I have control over so I just have to hope that it will straighten out and that something will be left. So not much panic over this.

    What I do have control over is making sure I’m living as sustainable as a lifestyle as possible, that I am prepared for emergencies (it doesn’t really matter what causes the emergency-just that I know it could happen and am as ready as possible), and that I feel good about what I’m doing in my day to day life. I guess that’s how I stay calm in chaos, finding what I can control.

    It’s scary enough changing careers when everything is going well in our world, I really feel for what you must be going through Melinda.

    As for what I come here for, well, it’s because I like the conversations you start and I like that you stay a part of the conversation by the feedback you give. I feel like dialogue really happens on your site. So I’d say-write about what matters to you.

    All the best, Deb

  • I agree with those who see this as an opportunity. I think it will help us realize that pursuing wealth for it’s own sake, just so you can say “I built this life myself” is a good way to be disappointed. I understand that retired people will possibly be most impacted, but they are generally the ones who know how to live frugally anyway, and they will be schooling the rest of us. Think how valuable their wisdom will be for us!
    Right now, I’m sitting with my husband and daughter and her friend, watching an old movie. My son and two of his friends, back for homecoming, are sitting in the back yard burning some of our yardwaste in the firepit, and talking over old times. Yes, our IRA statements came today, and on paper we’re a little poorer. That’s okay; we have years before we need that money, and it will regrow. But all in all, this day was just like any other for us. We still have our simple house, our two old cars, food in the fridge, jobs, and most of all each other and our faith. I’m not making this up- I feel absolutely content.
    Ask yourself, if you hadn’t heard the news this last two weeks, would you know that anything had changed? Unless you have been in bad financial shape for some time, most likely not.

  • You know what? Thank You. I want to tell you that I really, truly believe that through this site, through interacting with you and other readers through comments over the past couple of months, I have become a stronger, more courageous person than I was before. I look forward to reading your blog whenever you have a new post, and I love your Green Your Insides and Growing challenges, even though I’m not in the Growing challenge. I am fairly certain that it is because of reading this blog that I’ve reached out towards actually working in a garden and why the number one thing on my wishlist, above little else because most of my wants are fleeting, is a garden of my own. A faint fantasy that I’ve had for years! Now I want it to be a reality.

    So, after all that, what I want to ask is: What can I do for YOU? It seems like you might need it, and it’s okay to be on the receiving end rather than the giving end sometimes, Melinda. I had a really nice afternoon and evening — I got to lay in the sun for an hour and later went to great events at school, even danced! So I am feeling rather like I’ve fed my soul enough for the weekend, and you don’t need to worry about me. It sounds like you don’t need to worry about many other of your readers right now. So what can we do for YOU to help you through this scary time?

  • Uneasy, yes… not thrilled to see people we know loose thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars from their retirement accounts. Not thrilled to see one of our neighbors facing the loss of his bank job. Not thrilled to see another banking industry friend loose her job and face the loss of her impending retirement. We’ll be okay. We’re worried about those people.

    Again, we’ll be okay. If we loose our jobs because of some depression that hits we’ll find a way of making money one way or the other. There will always be service jobs that will pay the mortgage. We can stop driving completely. We can grow our own food and what we can’t grow we have a six month supply sitting in our pantry. What we don’t have in the pantry, we have a network of farmers we have already made plans with if the worse were ever to come along. We’ll be okay.

    We have our friends. We can all band together and make something work.

    It seems like people get hurt when they panic. If I panic I tend to lock up and not be able to move… until my fight or flight instinct kicks in. As long as people don’t completely panic, it seems like we should be able to “get through” this whole financial lunacy just fine. And, if people do panic, I just hope everyone has their cloak of sustainability on for protection. LOL We’re all going to find out just what we are made of and we’ll be growing our own food and making our own clothes again.

    My grandparents and great-aunts used to talk about what happened when everyone panicked before. They got through just fine on the farm. I would like to think we have some of those same sensibilities intact from what they have passed on both genetically and culturally to us.

    We’ll be fine. We’re fine now, we’ll be fine no matter what happens.

  • We’re well. We’re safe. We’re healthy. We’re whole.

    I think we all have a lot to be thankful for, don’t you?

    Maybe now it is time to start looking at the good things we have.

    Keep well. Don’t stress. Change is the way of things.

  • I feel the same way as you do, I’m scared. My husband’s retirement fund is dropping, but fortunately he’s only 29 years old so it will be a long time before he needs it, hopefully. It’s just scary because that was our safety net, our “just in case we need it, yes we’ll have to pay a penalty but we can get it” money.

    We can pay our bills, so I’m not worried about losing our house or anything like that, but this financial situation changes things. For example, we may put off having children for a while because we simply can’t afford to. That makes me really sad. But the reality is that I don’t want to have children yet if we won’t be able to pay our bills, give them a good life.

    And now I’m concerned about the holidays. We just barely scraped through them last year. I make a lot of gifts, but some we just have to buy. For example, my husband’s family draws names and we buy a $50 gift. That’s SO much money to give to my husband’s cousins. I don’t spend that much on something for him or for my mom. I’m going to bring up that I think we should stop giving gifts all together, since there are no children, we’re all grown and the economy is the way it is. Who knows, that may make me the outlaw in the family, but I really don’t think we can afford it. I don’t exchange with my brothers for that purpose, and also to reduce stress. We all agreed not to exchange gifts, and that has been wonderful to lighten the load at Christmas time. It’s supposed to be a joyful holiday, but I find it to be incredibly stressful between spending money and trying to attend all of the parties we’re invited to. And the kicker is that I’m an atheist, but I celebrate the holiday because my family does and the secular aspects of it used to make me happy. Not so much anymore, though.

  • Hi Melinda, I wrote something similar the other day on my blog, you can see there how we view and cope with things and some ideas that might help sort thoughts.

    Love the blog…chin up


  • “Revel in the possibility of living sustainably.” I scrolled down today, thinking on this post and what I look for when I come here. That line nails me, how I look to the future for what I can’t do in the present. How when I can’t even buy organic b/c my husband’s still out of work and we live dangerously paycheck to paycheck, I instead dream of a day when I’m in a position for us to live better, and I research provisioning/canning and gardening and plan how I can increase my little apartment porch garden. It’s the possiblities that sustain us in these hard times.

  • You will laugh, Melinda. My first thought was (I am not lying) – you are on the money. Ha! It so threw me off I forget my original sentiment. Again, just naming your own personal limbo validates those of us who are also in hovering mode.

    When you spoke about your Grandfather I thought of George Soros, who was on Bill Moyers Journal last night. He spoke very knowledgeably about the financial bad times ahead. But, his words encouraged me because they echoed what we all know. The need to switch from the existing economic world structure. He could have been a spokesperson for the kinds of lives we are trying to lead.

    This helped me.

  • Bobbi

    Good morning, Melinda! Excellent post and comments. Let me tell you that I know what it’s like to change careers. You will eventually come through this time and be stronger for it. But maybe do some deep breathing and exercise, plan in some fun, keep the stress levels down.

    My husband and I both freelance from home which means income goes up and down. So I’m always thinking about Plan B, taking control, what could we do in a given crisis – knowing I have a plan but that the moment is ok actually helps.

    Also Thursday I watched the market tank while making an apple cake to take to a friend’s for dinner. I cut the slices and placed them in layers with care. I smoothed the batter on gently. I timed the cake and checked it for doneness. All the while watching our retirement fund slip further. And we’re putting one kid through college with another one in 11th grade right behind her sister. But when I served the cake that night, everyone loved it. And they said it looked wonderful and someone mentioned how neatly I had placed the apples.

    It’s all about loss of control. So take one action towards the good and positive and make it something that helps someone else. It’s so cheesy and cliched but darn if it isn’t true.

    Oh, and remember you aren’t alone but do reach out to real people and not just us virtual folks. There’s nothing like a hug.

  • katecontinued — thanks for that link! I’m participating in Arduous’s Armchair Activism and am sending it off to the Obama campaign. It was really helpful in educating me about the economic crisis.

  • Stephanie, how great you could use it. I am so pleased.

  • [...] want to continue to hear your thoughts about how you are doing, and what I can offer you here during these troubled times.  But I know some of you have read that post, and already offered your (amazing!) thoughts, so I [...]

  • I like hearing stories about what people are doing to build the world we want to live in next.

    And Melinda, I totally understand your desire to help make things better for other people in times of crisis. Taking some kind of personal action always makes me feel better, too. :)

  • I understand, Melinda. It’s scary living through these times, but we have to just continue to do what we’ve been doing – working towards being self-sufficient and creating a sustainable life and community. The financial crisis might actually push more people to learn about these things, as frugality and “green” often intersect.

    For myself, I’ll just keep posting about what I’m doing, both on the large scale and the small. I think what you’ve been sharing from day one on your blog is helpful to all. Keep up the good work. And do take a deep breath when it all seems too much.

  • Any fiction by Wendell Berry is always a good escape. The non-fiction is good, but may be a little too close to home for right now.

    I was reminded of a story my wife told me a while ago. The library had recently held a program about the book Worst Hard Time and she was talking with a gentleman who had lived through the dust bowl. My wife commented to him that she didn’t know if she’d be able to handle living through something like that. His response was: of course you would have–because you had to.

    Other than that, not much to add to what has been already mentioned.

    It may not be easy, it may not be fun, but we’ll get through these times and hopefully learn how to not let it happen again.

    Some good reading can be found in this week’s NYTimes Magazine:

  • Thomas Jefferson

    At the end of the day, we still have the world. We still can grow our own food, we still can collect our own water and we still can share with the people we love.

    I worry about my finances, but I have taken a much larger view. I live in a house that my wife and I have paid off. We have no debt. (we are among the lucky few). We will muddle through.

    But I refuse to worry myself to death. Stress is a killer and worrying does nothing. Only doing; shows results. So I work in my garden, I blog, I write and I continue to create. I life moves slow when you worry, it speeds up when you don’t. :)

    pease, tolerance and kindness.

  • [...] this is also an opportunity. I was reminded of this by several of you – and I thank you deeply for [...]

  • I want you all to know how incredibly touched I was by your responses here. Several of them brought tears (of pleasure) to my eyes. Truly lovely, and I thank you so much.

    Heather, Strong, powerful words. Thank you, thank you for them. It has been so wonderful to connect with others in our community who believe as strongly as we do, that we can make this world a better place. Thank you for all that you do.

    Arduous, What wonderful things to remember: that a crisis can bring us toward better solutions for the future, and that a crisis can show us how interlinked we all are. Thank you. Really.

    Jena, Hm. I agree, that there are always crises. And that in general we live too much within a culture of fear. This is why I usually focus on solutions here at One Green Generation, because I don’t want to feed fear.

    Having said that, during this economic crisis people are really hurting. And more people will hurt. I lived through the last major economic crisis of the 1970s – I was very young. But I remember it was very difficult for my family, and for many of my friends. And my grandfather has told me of the Great Depression, where things were very grim.

    So I have those in my mind here. But no, panicking is not the answer. Working toward solutions, reinforcing our budgets and safety nets, working within our communities to make them stronger – these are what is important.

    Thank you for asking for more information about solutions! I will oblige!! : )

    Belinda, “its not your job or responsibility to give us what we need.” : ) I do write this blog for you all – that is why I write, and share my experiences. So… I want to give you what you need whether it is my responsibility or not! ; ) Does that make sense?

    I have heard that it hasn’t hit much in Aust yet. Here, some parts have definitely been hit harder than others. And a recent CNN poll found that 60% of Americans believed we would soon find ourselves in the Great Depression. So… the fear has hit here.

    Thank you for the wonderful ideas! And thank you for your very kind words, as always.

    Rob, So you want me to go fishin’ with you, eh? ; ) Thank you. You’re very kind with those words. I LOVE that you’re thinking of teaching at the Seattle Free School! Dude, I’m totally going to take your classes!

    Deb G, Gratitude, living in the moment, finding what makes us strong – mmm. Very good things. I hope, in a similar vein, that we grow more compassion. I think the world largely lacks that right now.

    “I guess that’s how I stay calm in chaos, finding what I can control.” Good point!

    I will write about what matters to me – thank you for your lovely words.

    Joyce, “this day was just like any other for us.” What a lovely day your every days are! And yes, it is a good reminder that things haven’t changed much day to day. We probably feel the immediate effects more than you do, as we are still at the point of living paycheck to paycheck as we pay down our debts (from student loans). But we are ok, too.

    Stephanie, Yes, your comment brought tears to my eyes. You are so kind! : ) Thank you. You know, your post the other day – that’s what you can do for me. It was a truly lovely post. Thank you. Spread the word, educate others, work together to make one another stronger. It is good to see others doing this!!!

    Shibaguyz, “We can all band together and make something work.” Indeed!! Very true. That’s how people have always gotten through tough economic times, eh? We will be ok.

    Daharja, I’m glad you’re ok, and yes, we do have an awful lot to be thankful for. Thank you for that reminder.

    Abbie, These are tough times, and you are not alone in questioning such big decisions right now. Not easy, not fun.

    Christmas… I think a lot of families will be rethinking Christmas this year. I would bet that you’re not alone in worrying about it even among your family members. I think it’s something many of us should bring up. It will be difficult, but I plan on bringing it up with my family as well. I’ll write more about that as my thoughts become clearer!

    Hang in there. You are strong to be thinking about all of these things. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!!

    Molly, Thanks for your kindness! I’ll go check it out.

    I will be back to answer the other comments! I’m sorry, you all – I’m off to a meeting tonight, but I will continue to answer your amazing comments tomorrow morning.

    You’ve all given me a lot to think about!

  • Hi Melinda,

    Sorry about that .. re reading I sounded a bit abrupt.

    I realise that you write because you enjoy being able to help us. I simply recognise that its just really easy to get worn down by self imposed responsibilities as I do this to myself regularly.. and I care about you enough that I don’t want to see you burn yourself out.

    I find I write best when I connect with what is in my heart… Even fear and confusion tend to give way when I search within for action based solutions.

    Please Take Care

  • Melanie J., “It’s the possibilities that sustain us in these hard times.” Very interesting. I’m glad you’re reveling in the possibilities, and (I hope) planning for them. Maybe you can do little bits at a time, as some things (like gardening and canning) can actually make your food costs cheaper. Keep your eye out on Freecycle, Craigslist, and your local thrift stores for free or cheap canning and gardening supplies. You may just find that you can do some of these things now. Take care, it will get better!

    Katecontinued, Thank you for this wonderful link. It helped me a great deal!!

    And yes, that is so funny. I wish I were in the money! LOL.

    Bobbi, I agree – truly excellent comments! And it sounds like you know exactly how our budgets go each month: up and down, good because I work at home, not so good that we never quite know when the money will come in, nor how much money will come in! A great reminder to always have a Plan B. I have many different skills that range widely, so I know that if I had to, I could pick up odd jobs here an there. It is a good feeling to know that.

    And yes, control. I have felt a bit out of control with the new career, you are right. Hmmm, guess it’s time to make apple cake!!

    Emily, Yes, personal actions make me feel better too. I will continue to share my stories!

    Chile, I agree that the financial crisis will push more people toward our sustainable lifestyle – already I’ve seen an increase in the number of people who come here by way of Google, looking for ways to cut back on spending, and keep from becoming overwhelmed.

    Deep breath taken. ; ) Thank you.

    Kirk, My grandfather talks about that as well: we did this or that during the Depression, because that’s all we could do, we had to, there was no alternative. They survived, we will survive. And I don’t think it will get that bad for us.

    Thanks for the great link! I have not had time to read the articles yet, but look forward to it.

    TJ, Reducing stress is an important part of living a long and healthy life, it is so true. We cannot let stress overwhelm us, you’re quite right. I do wish I lived in a house that I’d paid off, with no debt. But, I will revel in that possibility. ; )

  • Belinda, Oh dear, I didn’t mean to come across negatively either!! I understood what you meant, and I thank you for the sentiment. I was just explaining that … well, while it is not a duty, I feel compelled to write and share my knowledge, and do the best I can to bring as many people as possible through to the other side with me. With happiness, simplicity, and revelry.

    But I agree, you said before something along the lines of “physician heal thyself.” I also must remember to de-stress, unwind, and re-invigorate! Thank you.

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