There are times when our new ways make me feel liberated and peaceful, and times when I feel strangely broken and vulnerable. My tongue returns to the holes my molars have left behind, and I'm reminded that if I had managed to keep all of my insurance, my failed root canals would not have had such dire consequences. I see people living on the street, missing teeth and too-tanned from time spent walking long distances by the side of the road. Pulling my children in a wagon to a distant destination and feeling the relentless sun on my back makes me wonder how far I am from this. When I am feeling low, it seems closer.
This month has sapped some of my joy with its stresses. We have gotten letters taped to our door notifying us that foreclosure is imminent, as our landlord has not paid his mortgage in the year we have been here. Moving to this rambling, cheap house was our anchor through this storm, and thinking of moving again forces me to reckon with myself and assess what elements of our struggle are recession-related, and which are really my Own Damn Fault. If I had been forward-thinking, I could have and would have saved a great majority of my income when I was so very gainfully employed. I didn't need the nicest, safest SUV complete with leather seats and XM radio.
God knows I probably didn't need an iPhone. I'm typing this on my iPhone now, even while we struggle to pay the electric bill. It's a link to a lost lifestyle (about which I feel conflicted and more than a little embarrassed), but more importantly, it's my everything now. With no cable and no Internet connectivity at home, it has become my link to a virtual community, to entertainment… and to work, like writing this blog.
I find the idea of living without my iPhone almost incomprehensible. It reminds me not to feel too pious about the sacrifices we have made. I can look at environmental catastrophes and feel holy that we are living car-free, going without air conditioning, shopping at thrift stores or not at all, and growing organic produce.
But if I am honest, I have to acknowledge that the most dramatic changes we have made were those that were forced upon us. There are current circumstances that make poverty easier to weather: a global recession that means less pariah status and more resources for surviving, and environmental concerns that make living simply worthy of high regard.
Not long ago, the thought of going without cable, a car, Internet, a cool and comfortable home on a hot summer day were unthinkable. One by one, we got rid of these. Not only did we survive each one of these in turn, we actually found glorious benefits hidden in each decision. Our struggles have created stronger, quicker, deeper, and more rewarding bonds with our friends and neighbors. The relationships we create now feel like survival. Our friends are intimately involved with us, and we rely on each other more than we used to.
It begs the question: could I give up my iPhone and find similar benefits? For some reason, I feel like this might have to be my lone holdout. Virtual communities like Facebook makes so much of this tolerable. I rely on my good phone to save me when I am lost on my bicycle with my kids. I count on emails, texts, and social networking to pull me through the emotional isolation of joblessness, poverty, and a frightening illness. Writing this blog is also a link to my successful, working identity.
In two days, I have relatively-minor exploratory surgery for what may turn out to be a horrifying prognosis. I have the support of my community, both the 3D and the ethereal version. I will be driven to the specialist while my children are lovingly cared for. I will update my status. Friends will bring beer and pizza. I will write this blog, gain comfort in my garden, find solace in the air conditioned library, and play Facebook Scrabble with a friend from high school while I convalesce. I am loathe to give up any type of community, my most abundant and important luxury.