Sometimes the best laid plans don’t play out.  Sometimes they crash in a flaming, sticky, horror inducing heap that’s got you wondering what the hell you can salvage from this.  And maybe you can’t.  Maybe you have to walk away with the smoldering remains of your shirt on your back and scrape up some kind of sustenance with your bare hands out of the dirt.

Luckily, that’s just what we ‘preppers’ or ‘survivalists’ are prepared to do.  We can get plants to eat. We can treat some medical issues with no doctor around. We can salvage, invent, manage.  (At least we think we can.  You don’t really get put to the test as a general rule.) The only part of this that doesn’t get discussed very often is dealing with the emotional fallout when everything goes wrong.

I’m not fooling myself about this eventuality.  It’s frightening. I can’t get my head around the totality of it, and it doesn’t even compare to the times when I’ve felt immense loss due to some smallish disaster in my own life.  The collapse will not only be about survival, but also mourning, depression, terror, and brutality. And yes, we’re putting up with that now, but it’s nothing compared to what could be.

Unless you’ve been a refugee, you probably don’t know what it’s like to lose EVERYTHING. You may feel like it though.  Maybe you’ve lost a partner, a child, a job, that makes you feel like you have lost it all, everything that supported you and provided meaning to your life.  That can be more devastating than the thought of having to back-to-the-land-it because society has collapsed or some disaster cuts off your precious smart phone or there’s no government infrastructure.  The really, really frightening thought is losing people, not things.  We know that, but until it comes to the crunch, we don’t think about it a lot.  Because it’s scary as hell.

It’s one thing to say you can do first aid, even quite informed first aid (let’s assume you’ve been a paramedic or something), and another to do surgery, care for a person with a progressive disease like cancer or alzheimers, or care for an injury like a severed limb or spinal injury.  How about dentures?  Quite likely you’ll lose fillings eventually, and then teeth.  Dealing with your wild diet is going to suck (literally) with no teeth. What about when you simply don’t know what’s wrong and someone slips towards death while you watch helplessly?

Welcome to pre technology. Doesn’t sound very Eden-like right now, does it?

I think I was supposed to have a point here.  This is kind of bleak.

The other side of the coin, in case of total disaster, is that we may very well have less fear and stress in our lives even while we do have to fight for every calorie.  This world of instant communication means we take on every worry we hear about, including when it has NOTHING to do with us. You’re in a constant state of fear, worry, painful empathy, danger danger danger that may very well be a half a world away.  It’s not actually your danger. At least while I’m trying to care for someone who fell down a cliff, it’s MY danger.  Those blissful moments when you’re belly’s full and you’re warm and cuddling your child or partner in your shelter, you may actually get some kind of peace.

We talk a good game about gratitude, but the kind of really intense gratitude that you feel when you’ve got a full meal after starving for a few days, or a hot bath after being dirty for weeks, or enfolded in another’s arms after enduring enforced solitude.  You have to get deprived of the good things to REALLY feel grateful for them when they’re there.  Much like the feeling of being vibrantly alive after almost dying.  It wears off though, unless you’re usually in that state of deprivation. We don’t go to those lengths if we don’t have to, because people like comfort more than they like being grateful for it.

I feel like much as I might imagine it, and have some experience of going without other people around, or showers, or eating decently, I’ve really got no idea. Really having no resources is as scary as much as it’s a freeing thought. I’m always going to be interested in being as independant as possible, knowing how to butcher, grow, build and wildcraft for my needs.  But really, it’s just in case, it’s in a way a luxury, (if you sell such goods) and I’d rather do it in a world where if I’m truly desperate I have some other options. I think it’s important and personally satisfying to be prepared for anything, but I’d prefer that it takes place in a world that has emergency services. Maybe if we all take on a little more personal responsibility for basic needs it’ll make it easier to keep those essentials.  I hope so.