166: The SHTF Thing We’re Not Talking About
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Today we’re taking a look at something I don’t hear enough people talk about when it comes to the “state of the world” or “prepping” or “how we’re all gonna deal with stuff when stuff goes down”. We’re going to talk about being really honest about how other people handle stuff, and we’re going to be really honest about how you handle stuff. And how stress and attitude make all of that a totally different ball game.
There’s a reason this has been on my mind lately. We just returned home from a week at our off-grid cabin in extreme northern Minnesota. Now, our cabin is way back in the deep woods. We almost never run into people, and if we do, it’s a couple people here and there while we’re out on a long ATV ride.
But last week there were so many people in the woods—every corner we turned on the main logging road was another four wheeler, another person, another group of people. We even met a couple guys at the end of our driveway.
Now I want to point out here, we don’t own the woods. We do own private property up there, but the woods are big and we don’t own them—that’s not what this is about. I’m simply pointing out that we saw more people in the woods in one day than we’ve probably seen total in five or six years up there.
Anyhow, a lot of these folks were stopped on their wheelers on the side of the logging road or the trail, looking at their phones, confused, probably trying to figure out where they were (which was a task because it’s totally unreliable internet access up there). My husband and I joked that people were probably sick of the world and had decided that they’d escape to the woods. We said “good for them, yay, they’re out in nature, out hunting with their kids, etc.” We’d wave at them as we passed, and all was well.
And then we came upon one group that was running dogs, probably for grouse, but that’s not something I normally see up there. In any event, this group was clearly pissed that our leisurely ATV ride had interrupted their adventure—on the main logging road. We came to a stop because their dogs were all over the road, and one of the dogs went up to my oldest’s wheeler and tried to make friends with him. But these people were obviously pissed off.
Now I have no idea if it was the 20th time they’d called their dogs off a wheeler that passed by or if they were just pissed because their hunting trip wasn’t going as planned. I have no clue. But then my sons continued on on their wheelers, and one of the guys stood in front of my wheeler (side by side Ranger, husband in passenger seat) so I couldn’t go. He was doing something with his dog right in front of my wheeler, and I couldn’t go until he moved. So I’m patiently waiting for him to get out of my way so I can continue on. When he finally did and I started to drive away, a guy near the drivers side (where I was seated) called us a bunch of blankity blank idiots, and the guy who had been in front of the wheeler said, “someone should teach them a lesson”
Someone. Should. Teach. Them. A. Lesson.
Now, there are a few things that happened as I drove away. a) Don’t react, just keep driving. b) Wow, that’s a lot of rage boiling in my stomach and throat right now. c) I hope we don’t run into them again. d) Every single person in that situation had a gun.
Let’s be real for a second, shall we?
We have this fantasy that when it all goes down and the SHTF that every prepper or backwoods homesteader or anti-vaxxer or whoever is going to get along in some alliance. We imagine that people who live our lifestyle or share our opinion about something are all decent people that we would want to be involved with. We have these fantasies that we’re all just gonna get tired of it all and buy a piece of property and start a commune and live off the land and won’t everything be great?
It made me think about people escaping to the woods thinking they’re all badass, running into people who have been in/lived in the woods for a long time. And those people who have been in the woods a long time may be accepting of new folks (let us teach you the ways!) but they may also be tired of people coming to the woods, especially if they’re dealing with people who suffer from self-inflated badassery. And then we have to deal with attitudes of anger, frustration, whatever, on both sides.
What does that look like when you add a lot of stress or desperation to the equation?
We’re gonna run to the woods! We’re gonna run to the country! is the battle cry. But what does that look like when it’s not just a Facebook meme? What does that feel like when you have a three dimensional human with thoughts and a past and emotions and stuff they are dealing with. Because all the baggage/attitude/stress they’re bringing with might very well complicate the hey, let’s start a commune or hey, let’s run to the woods or hey, let’s all move to the country.
We have a way we think people will react in any given situation, which generally lines up with the fantasy way of how we think we will react in any given situation. Listen, you can store all the food and ammo you want. You can learn to plant a garden. You can learn animal husbandry. But it’s hard to know how you will react or how other people will act (mentally and physically) and what you will have to deal with because of that.
And, I know—our brains always go to the extremes, right? People are either going to be awesome or they’re going to be complete psychos. But, y’all, there are so many degrees and fractures of human behavior between those two extremes.
Can you handle it?
Are you mentally okay to deal with stress, anger, fear, the unknown, disaster, etc? Let’s be honest. None of us know how we will react in those situations until we are in those situations.
Most of our lives take place within our normal, whatever that happens to be. When something in that normal changes or breaks, what do you do? We talk about how we can handle change or stress, especially if it’s framed in something “cool” like the apocalypse where we get to show what a “badass” we are, but come on. Some of us freak out when we have to spend a day in the city. Really? Some of us freak out when a relative we don’t want to talk to incessantly calls us. Some of us freak out when our neighbor starts asking about property lines and whether they’re accurate. Some of us freak out when the grocery store won’t open another checkout lane and we have to wait ten minutes.
What does anger look like? What does pissed off look like? How does that manifest itself in different people? And how do you deal with it? How does anger, frustration, worry, or stress manifest itself in you? What does scared look like? What does disbelief or lack of trust look like?
Why is no one talking about this?
I see groups of people who used to get along starting to fracture over trivial, stupid things. I have people who have followed me for a long time who occasionally sent nice emails/messages, now sending emails and messages that aren’t nice. And I know what this is, it’s stress and anger and frustration and worry and dealing with the unknown.
How do you deal with stress? What if you’re the only person who knows how to do the thing and now everyone is asking you to explain how to do the thing? And now they’re stressed and exhausted and they’re not asking nicely.
I know you’re level headed. I know you don’t fly off the handle. But why do you think that’s the norm?
Who are you, really?
I was recently thinking about those personality tests where you assess certain parts of your lifestyle, attitude, and approach to life. Have you ever considered that you might answer you are one thing, but if someone else took it for you, they might answer something completely different about you? For instance, you think you’re adventurous and a risk taker. But if someone else took it for you, would they mark you down as one of the least risky people they know?
We don’t always make the most accurate assessments of ourselves or our capabilities.
I would generally describe myself as a person who does what needs to be done. If you ask me to help, I’m your girl. I. am. a. helpful. person.
But why then did I hesitate when my family was crouched in the crawl space of our cabin, fixing a broken floor joist, and my husband asked for a post to be cut at 37 ¼ inches? I was closest to the crawl space access, so why was I waiting for someone else to do it—even if I wasn’t super confident I could make a super straight cut with the chainsaw on the one 6×6 post we had left in the lumber pile at the cabin?
Jesus, Amy. Just go out and cut the post with the chainsaw. You’re helpful, remember?
Are you a person who does what needs to be done, or are you someone who only jumps in to help when you’re confident of the outcome? Because those are two different things. And you have to be honest about which you are. Because if you’re imagining a SHTF/apocalypse/Civil War 2/WW3 situation, there’s going to be a hella lot of situations where you won’t be confident of the outcome. Are you going to step in and help anyway?
Let’s be honest about who we are and how we actually deal with things.
We’ve got people who are ready to take on the bad guys when the apocalypse comes, but right now they avoid conflict like the plague. Like, absolutely steer clear of it.
But you’re gonna get in the face of someone who messes with you when the SHTF?
(And I know that times of stress and threat can make people do things they wouldn’t normally do — but that thing right there works both ways. Some people become stronger and braver, and other people aren’t quite the badass they “knew” they would be.)
We’ve got people who are gonna buy a huge piece of property in the country and grow all the food their family needs, but right now can’t even take the time to mow their postage stamp sized yard in suburbia.
Wait, what? I mean, more power to you if you wanna grow all the food, but… just… ok.
We’ve got people who are gonna be able to take out the enemy, but they’ve never shot anything but a stationary target in a zero stress situation.
Lets be honest about who you are and what you do and what you can do.
Just because we agree doesn’t mean we’re besties. Here’s why.
There’s a sound clip used on Tiktok that says, “Do you want to form an alliance with me?” People make videos wanting to form an alliance with others who agree with them (didn’t get the jab, don’t agree with medical mandates, etc, etc,) And I know it’s just a Tiktok video and it’s “fun”. But what if we form an alliance over whatever lifestyle choice, and now we’re in a commune together and… what if you’re a complete jerk? What if you’re completely unstable?
It makes me think about what happens when a new social media starts up with the whole “free speech” thing, generally attracting folks who aren’t exactly mainstream. And it never fails, there are always people that get in there and start talking about being so thankful that they finally have a place to talk where they’re not going to be censored and they can say what they want and that people will understand them… and then they start posting, and you realize dude, people weren’t not responding to you on the other social media because you were being censored or they didn’t agree with you, they weren’t responding to you because you’re a complete jerk.
We talk big when we imagine our differences coming into play in a SHTF situation. When it all goes down, we’re gonna put our differences aside and we’re gonna make all the things happen.
Y’all, some of you can’t even handle the snippy comments your mother in law makes at Christmas dinner or the judgmental questions your brother asks about your life choices. We can’t even handle social media interactions when people make nasty comments or ask for sources or question our motives or fact check us or say (gasp) we are wrong.
But we’re all gonna get along well enough to do life in a SHTF situation? When our stress levels are turned up to 110?
Why is no one talking about this?
So what can we do?
Keep this all in the forefront of your mind. Be aware of it. And if you need to work on your own reactions, do it. Because you will need to figure yourself out in order to deal with other people.
Start paying attention to how you react in situations. Imagine your reaction if you’re stressed or depressed or sad or exhausted. Imagine someone else’s reaction if they are stressed, depressed, sad, exhausted. And how will you react to them? Some people will wind up. Some people shut down. Many people do any number of things between those two examples.
An easy example we’ve probably all experienced is that conversation between significant others where there’s a misunderstanding because of miscommunication and in 15 seconds the couple has gone from normal conversation to misunderstanding to potential argument to silence for three hours. We’ve all been there, right? Now imagine miscommunication or misunderstanding with twice as much stress or exhaustion or desperation. And this is with someone you know! This is someone you have a history with. Now imagine this situation with someone you don’t know from Adam.
Who has your back?
In all of this talk I hear about “tough times coming”, there’s a question I think we should be honest enough to ask and answer. Does your partner have your back? I don’t mean can you hand your partner a gun and they can back you up—although that’s definitely a plus. I’m talking about when you collapse (mentally or physically) from stress or can’t function because of anger or exhaustion, can your partner step in and pick up the slack? Will they? And can you do the same for your partner?
This blog post is not to say we should go around waiting for people to freak out or collapse at life, or that we should be looking for the bad in everyone or assuming that everything is going to fall into complete disarray because people can’t deal with anything.
I’m not talking about extremes. I’m asking us to pay attention to the in-betweens. I’m asking us to be honest.
I’m just saying keep your eyes open.
I’m saying stop talking about the apocalypse or the collapse of society like it’s going to be some Hollywood movie.
I’m saying understand that moving to the country and starting a commune is way less peace, love, and happiness than you imagine it will be.
I’m saying when you are put in a situation that you’ve never actually been in before, you don’t know how you (or anyone else) will react to or deal with that situation.
So go about your life, plan and prep for whatever you’re planning and prepping for, but keep your eyes open. Pay attention to human nature. Understand that people both excel and struggle differently—and that is magnified when they’re dealing with stress.
— Amy Dingmann, 9-28-21
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