What are you preparing for? Are you getting ready to survive an EMP attack? A financial meltdown? Flu pandemic? Nuclear holocaust? Regardless of what we are preparing for, sometimes it is healthy to ask ourselves how we are living in the meantime. Those of us who feel a need to prepare do it with a passion, but are we preparing in sensible ways that allow us to enjoy life each day, or are we so busy watching and waiting for the chaos of life to justify the time and money we’ve spent on our “preps” that we miss a lot of the important business of living in the moment?
I was born in the late 50’s and grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. The Cuban missile crisis happened while I was in kindergarten. To this day, I remember it vividly. We were sent home early from school wearing name tags. When my sister and I walked up to our house, my father was loading up the car so we were ready to flee at a moment’s notice. Around that same time, I remember touring a fallout shelter, which my parents were considering buying and burying in the backyard. Living where we did, they thought long and hard about that one. Lots of our neighbors did, too. A few years later, I remember standing on the porch of our suburban D.C. home with my father after Martin Luther King had been killed. Riots quickly erupted. We could hear the explosions in downtown D.C., only a few miles away, from the rioting and devastation. The experience was chilling. Then Richard Nixon resigned after Watergate. I was in college at the time and working a summer job at the Pentagon. I listened as people I worked with, who came from all different backgrounds, actively talked amongst themselves and wondered if the government was going to fall and if the guidelines provided by the Constitution were gone forever. I remember sitting in line for gas during the gas crisis of the 70’s and creeping along mile after slow mile (on odd or even days, according to your license plate number) for a turn to fill up the tank. When I married a career Army man, we spent years living overseas, mostly off-base in German and English neighborhoods. During the first Gulf war, while my husband was deployed to the Gulf, military families living off base were given very specific safety instructions. One of the things I had to do every morning was get down on my hands and knees to check under the car before I drove our children to school to see if there was anything suspicious under there. I would always keep the children inside while I turned the key in the ignition, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything and the car didn’t explode. Sound to you like maybe I was overreacting? My husband was the duty officer of the day when the Red Army faction tried to blow up the NATO school in southern Germany with a car bomb in the 80’s. He only survived because of a faulty timing mechanism on the bomb.
So what else is new, you might ask. You say that you already know we live in an unsettled world. My point in rehearsing my little history is to share the fact that, although I grew up in a home where we were always prepared and my husband and I continued to practice always being prepared, I never felt like a prepper. I applaud prepping. I respect independence and self-sufficiency. However, I see too many people today who are so busy prepping that they seem to have forgotten how to live happily in the here and now. I offer up the following guidelines as examples of my own benchmarks. They are my mental safeguards that help me to be prepared but keep me from crossing over into an unhealthy obsession with prepping. And yes, there is such a thing as an unhealthy obsession with prepping. Any virtue carried to an unhealthy extreme becomes a liability.
Rule #1: Prepping supplies cannot spill over into the comfortable living areas of my home. I don’t care how valuable certain items might be for bartering after the SHTF, if they interfere with my ability to provide a comfortable living environment for my family, then they have no place in my home. Making memories in the here and now is important, and I don’t want my child’s predominate memory being that there was never a clear path to walk between rooms and that she was embarrassed to invite a friend over because the clutter was so bad. I believe in stocking up; I really do. I have a tower of TP out in the shed and buckets of wheat in the downstairs closet to prove it. However, my family members feel like they live in a clean, comfortable home, well, at least most of the time.
Rule #2: Every spare minute cannot be devoted to prepping. Prepping takes time and careful thought, but every hour spent prepping is an hour that you will never get back with your family for family memories. We combine the two when it makes sense. Working in our garden together as a family teaches many valuable lessons. However, if the kids are endlessly waiting around to play football with their dad and he is always too busy because it is more important to organize his bug out bag, then the wrong lesson is being taught. I have watched parents justify all of their time spent prepping by saying that they are doing it for their family. In my experience, children would rather have their parents’ time than just about any other resource. Okay, so maybe they won’t have the coolest gadgets or the greatest variety of foods in a crisis situation. But if they have good memories with their parents in the here and now, most will consider that a more-than-fair trade-off. There is also a much greater likelihood that they will function more effectively as a family unit and know how to support each other. They will also probably be happier and more adaptable.
Rule #3: Prepping decisions need to be jointly agreed on by both spouses. Otherwise, resentment simmers and eventually boils over. The biggest argument my husband and I ever had (and this is the truth) was about shipping empty Clorox bottles I had saved for water storage from Massachusetts to England during a military move. He was livid that I would even think of expecting the U.S. taxpayers to spend their hard-earned dollars on such folly. My position was that it had taken me two years to save up that many empty bottles. I made enough sacrifices as a military spouse already. It wasn’t fair that every two years I had to go back and start from zero again. In the end, we compromised. Mostly, I gave in. We shipped a few empty bottles– just enough so I could start a water storage plan as soon as our baggage arrived. The rest were thrown away. Prepping decisions always involve time or money, and both are important resources. Both parties need to be equally invested in those decisions. Even if one party is willing to do all of the gardening chores, both parties need to be in agreement on the amount of lawn to dedicate to the garden as opposed to, say, a hot tub and pool.
Rule #4: Specialization is smart. Be grateful for the skills of others. They save you boatloads of time and effort, which allows you more time to enjoy the genuine pleasures of life. None of us is good at everything. I am really good at sewing, storing and preserving food, and gardening, but I am hopeless at figuring out solar energy configurations and options. In fact, pretty much anything having to do with energy seems to slip right out of my brain, no matter how many times I try to get it to stick up there. Luckily for me, my brother helped me to set up a very efficient and functional off-grid solar system that would power our freezer, fans, wheat grinder, lights, and other small electrical appliances if the power went out. I am now looking for a smallish fridge that will work well given the capacity of the system. My brother is my best source of advice. Likewise, he was thinking there was no point in his trying to garden at his cabin, which sits above 8000 feet in the Rockies. I was able to share with him some tomato seeds I had that were developed in Russia during Soviet times for a short, cool summer growing season. He hasn’t planted them yet, but the growing seasons aren’t that different, and I think there is a good chance that they will work. Being able to share your individual areas of specializations with those you trust can save everyone valuable time, which can then be spent on simply enjoying life.
Rule #5: Keep the Sabbath Day holy. I find that if I focus on worshiping my Savior on the Sabbath, my time during the rest of the week is expanded to compensate. My financial resources also seem to stretch further. It has to do with the economy of heaven, and it really does work. My husband and I never prep on the Sabbath, and we feel that we have been blessed in our preparedness efforts as a result. Try it for yourself. If there is a particular area of being prepared that challenges you, or if you are short of funds for a particular purchase and you can’t see where the money is going to come from, or if your spouse or other family members are not as supportive of your efforts as they could be, try simply keeping the Sabbath day holy; test the Lord. He always comes through. I can say that miracles have happened in my own life by following this simple principle.
No matter how many years we are blessed with, life is short. While there is no denying that we live in a dangerous world that challenges us with a multitude of different scenarios to prepare for, we always need to be mindful of the need to live our lives each day with gratitude and joy and to set the example for other family members in this as well. Peace comes from being prepared, yes, but joy comes from living. Here’s to finding a sensible balance.