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Number 1,110, April 25, 2021

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Clean Your Room
by Sarah A. Hoyt

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Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

This is not a literal injunction, though—looks around her zoo of a house—by all means, clean your house/room if you need to. For us, I’m packing stuff I won’t use for a while, until we settle, so we can move it to storage and finish flooring this house, and getting it ready to go up.

But one thing that 2020 and 2020 Won have done for me is make my principles and my options clear as crystal. And I think it is important to do that. You need to be very clear on what matters to you, what’s important, and where your time and effort should be, or how can you decide where you’ll go?

How can you “tell the truth” if you’re not sure what YOUR truth is. And I don’t mean “your truth” in the airy fairy way the left does “the important thing is to believe in something” type bullshit. I mean it in the sense of “if you don’t know what’s important to you, you might spend your entire life chasing something that is not what you want.”

To give an example, when we were very young, we befriended another couple, partly because they were also Odds, he worked with Dan and we were all going through infertility issues. (Their daughter is about our older son’s age. I don’t know if they ever had another. We lost contact slowly after we moved across the country.)

I’m not going to say anything bad about that couple; on the contrary. The gentleman helped us sell our first house, while we were across the country and our real estate agent threw a hissy fit and quit. And honestly, all he took in payment was the workbench I’d been forced to abandon in the garage.

The couple were kind, generous people. They were trying to help, and honestly if we’d followed their plan we’d probably be wealthy now.

They were part of an investors’ group, and they bought and sold properties. This was the early days of flipping. Because I do a lot of stuff in remodeling and enjoy it, they thought this would be a great way to make money. It would have been (they’re not the last to suggest it to us. When we sold the house in Manitou, our handyman at the time tried to convince us to go into a house-flipping partnership. Our design, his handymanning and some of mine.)

But we attended a few of the meetings, and something became very clear. The first is that using other people’s money and going into a mountain of debt, however temporarily, was a hell of a fit for two people with massive security issues. I probably would have learned to overcome that, though frankly I haven’t yet. But heck, I overcame it in writing, where there was no security. Because writing is what I wanted to do.

The second and more important is that it would eat my life and all our time together would have to be devoted to properties: acquisition, identification, fixing, selling.

…. My problem is that I wanted to write, unproductive as it is. And I wanted to take nice walks with my husband. And I wanted to go to museums, and day-dream about history.

Which you might interpret as wanting to be lazy, but what I did first and last, to even get published, was a mountain of work, it was just different work, and work I wanted to do.

Also my mind at the time—weirdly in the last thirty years I’ve acquired this—didn’t “bend” the way necessary to identify properties that would sell well with a bit of spit and polish, or be able to zero in on what would make a great profit. Judging by the hash we made buying our first house (where the rejected one would have doubled in the six years we owned it) I’m going to guess we’d have learned the other way and hit our heads against the wall a lot.

Which is what we did in our chosen careers. But they were things we wanted to do, or at least didn’t hate with a blazing purple passion.

Ultimately that was my problem. Having listened to courses on how to do the flipping thing, attended a workshop, and talked to people we’d need to go into partnership with at least to begin with, our problem was that other than the initial couple, we didn’t like anyone involved in the endeavor. We didn’t dislike them, as such, we just didn’t like interacting with them, since every conversation was about making money, maximizing profits, etc.

I am not an idiot. I like money, because it can be converted into so many things I like. And I think the lack of money is the root of all evil or at least a great deal of it. But—

But it dismayed me to find I was more dad’s daughter than mom’s and couldn’t be “hard headed and practical” about this. It was a good way to make money. We could learn to do it. I could (and eventually did) train my mind to think that way.

But I couldn’t imagine doing it for ten years much less the rest of my life. And after ten years what else could I do? And I could see us getting into arguments and having problems because of the stress of debt and pressure to get things sold.

So I talked to Dan, and though both our “um…. no” feelings were very, very vague, we just couldn’t see continuing down that road. It would require us to be people we weren’t and do things we at best had absolutely no interest in.

So— we turned down making a great deal of money, because it just wasn’t us.

We’d have ended up in “This is not my beautiful house/this is not my beautiful car” territory.

Years and years later, when the kids were little, and in a more clear choice, Dan was working for a company where he was away from home 5 days a week.

We thought we could take this, because honestly as a computer person he worked such long hours before we only did things on the weekend.

And then our life was upended in ways we didn’t foresee: like sure, he was home two days, but mostly he slept for one. And our evening phone calls because spotty, because how do you convey all the little things that happened in a day? And our younger son started failing first grade (of all things) and crying all the time, because he was always daddy’s boy (because he’s more like me, which makes perfect sense.) And on Sunday it would all be oriented to helping him pack for the week ahead.

So— We were both feeling discontented—but it was such GOOD money—and then we went to the company party. Where we found that most of the employees had multiple divorces, and those that didn’t were frankly heading that way.

On the way home we talked about it, and it turned out despite the money both of us were profoundly unhappy. He was missing his time with the boys and the cats; I wasn’t sleeping…. pretty much at all. Everything was wrong. So we formulated an exit plan.

At this point I guess we’re sounding like “we just don’t care about money.” Actually we do. We’ve sacrificed and saved and done what we could to have savings and prospects, but there are things more important, and in both cases it was family, even if we didn’t have kids yet on the first one.

I mean, I’d love the money, I just wasn’t willing to sacrifice time with my husband who is also my best friend for the money.

In life, I think, we get more or less what we want in the long run. I can’t think of anything more improbable than my making a living as a novelist, when I came to this country with no contacts in the field and hampered by ESL. But one way or another and mostly sideways and backwards, I worked my way to it.

What these last two years have done is try the …. limits of what I want—no, need—in my room. What is important. What makes sense.

I’ve described the experience to a friend as being scoured with a jet of sand, which strips away all the paint and leaves only the essential structure.

Actually the process started somewhere around 2015 when I came to the end of “what will you do to continue being traditionally published? What will you put up with? What parts of you will you give up permanently?” Or earlier, in 2012 when I felt forced to come out of the political closet, even though politics was never something I WANTED to do or be involved in.

But there are things more important than “want.” There are cores of ourselves and our character that we can’t give up, no matter how much we try. (For that matter I never really “Wanted” to write, much less do the business stuff necessary to remain published. But— Well, whenever I tried to give up writing, it would mean becoming someone else, and while that might be possible I wasn’t ready to chop off pieces of me.)

I hadn’t thought through any of that, so this process has been painful as heck. It’s the “Is this important? I’m not sure.”

We’re going down into evil times. I feel it will be short, but I also feel it will be exceptionally evil.

Yesterday on the blog we had two people throw out nonsense about “this isn’t worth/it will never work.”

Perhaps I do them a disservice in thinking they’re paid disinformation agents, but after the last year surely all of us realize disinformation is the strong point of this country’s enemies.

Though one of them made a semi-cogent point—semi-cogent because I don’t feel he/she has thought through all the implications of the point—that if called upon to make a sacrifice that involved destroying his family, he’d refuse the sacrifice, even if the right thing to do, so that his family might live.

It’s semi-cogent, because those of us who have kids—or close younger kin—know that impulse. “I’d sacrifice my life ten times over, only leave my kids alone.”

But what you have to ask is, by refusing to do the right thing, will it be worse for your family in the long run? Will you be helping create a world that will destroy your kids and grandkids?

I can’t make that determination for you. It’s yours to make, because you know your kids, you know your priorities, and you know your point of unendurable “I WILL NOT.”

For the record, as a writer, I’ve been aware (all of us are) of the …. shem in the character’s head. There are words and principles in a character’s head that you can’t break without breaking the character. The writer is aware of this, and the reader usually senses it. (Giving examples would make this 10k words long.)

Real people aren’t that different. There are things that if you had to do would break you. And they’re different for each of us. For me, as I found in 12, it turned out mouthing Marxist platitudes and historical inaccuracies was selling my soul away in pieces. I could do it, but I’d be someone different at the end. Not someone nice.

And you have to be aware of where you are, what you are, what you’ll do.

It’s important because as we head down into exceptionally evil times, you’re sometimes going to have to make a decision in a split second. You have to know what is essential to your “room” and what isn’t. What you can sacrifice, and what will break you.

I can’t tell you what that is.

I have long ago though arrived at the certainty that I can’t give up on the Constitutional Republic. Even if it is occupied, abased and destroyed at this point.

It’s a hell of a time to find I’m my dad’s daughter. I held it against him for decades that he refused to abandon Portugal and therefore made me grow up in exceptionally messy times which were at times dangerous. Turns out I know exactly how he felt, even if my particular devotion, the “homeland” in my heart that I cannot betray is not Portugal. Well, I can’t fault him for that. I too will not give up the land that’s part of me in some inexplicable way. Because that would break my shem, and after it I’d just be an empty clay vessel, incapable of self-animation.

And since I think it’s the best thing for my descendants, well…. If I go down I go down. If I take them with me, I take them with me, but I will do what I can to secure the blessings of liberty for me and my descendants be they of the body or the heart. That choice has long ago been made, and it’s already cost me more than I care to detail in a blog post open to the world. I will personally gum my way through the boot stomping on the human face, if they have kicked all my teeth out. Maybe I’ll only soften the leather for the next person, but even that is worth it.

I have three times in my life been in a position where the wrong move could kill me. (Well, probably more than that, but those are the ones in mind right now.) Twice I froze and that was absolutely the right move, bizarrely. And once I charged, and that too was the right move. Did I do them by accident? I don’t know. But I know I’d run through scenarios for these things in my head several times, and I knew what led to survival. I also knew what I could do and remain me.

In the days we’re going to this is important. I know people who would be destroyed if they had to kill someone, so that alternative is unthinkable, even if the other alternative is death. (And there are many ways of being destroyed. I have a friend who is terrified of enjoying it too much.)

I could never, even to survive, do what Ukranian peasants did, and trade away your kids as meat, or eat the neighbors’ kids. Oh, I could, but what would emerge on the other side wouldn’t be me, or anyone I wanted to be. Ever. The best alternative would be “going insane.” Heck, I’m not sure I could eat a pet, unless I KNEW I only needed another day and that would earn me real survival. To die in a day knowing the last thing I did was to betray the trust of a creature who had reason to expect good from me would not be worth it.

Humans “though shalt not go past this point” aren’t rational. And they are, in a way, inflexible.

I couldn’t live with myself if I voted to convict someone I wasn’t sure deserved it, for instance, even if the alternative meant death for me and my families. I couldn’t look in the mirror ever again.

Your points might be different.

Clean your room. Make the decision now. Run through scenarios in your head. Oh, I grant you when the real thing comes, your reactions will shock you. They always do. People who think they’re cowards become heroes, and tough men and women tuck tail and run.

But it will help, it will set parameters for you. And you should at least be able to establish “this far and no further.”

In the time we’re going to and going to have to go through, decisions will be too fast, and often there will be no good choice. Probably more often than not.

Decide now, ahead of time, the rough parameters of that which you can even conceive of doing.

Then prepare to make the most of it, whatever it is.

And while you’re at it, figure out your ideal life, the things you’ve been doing that you don’t want to do, and which no longer apply, and the things you’d like to do, that maybe you can after the mess.

Most of us will come through this, I think. We’ll come through scarred, and leaner in more ways than one. But life on the other end will have changed. A lot of it will have to be rebuilt. Make now the decision of how you want that life to be: just in case you get the chance.

In the meantime, plan, prepare, be honest with yourself.

And keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark: in reality and metaphorically


Reprinted from According to Hoyt for April 23, 2021

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