Depression Comes Before Acceptance
Better you die than I. – Katerina Petrova, The Vampire Diaries
Full disclosure: I’m writing this wearing a Nightmare Before Christmas t shirt and grey leggings (breaking my leggings are not pants rule). I have not yet brushed my hair or teeth. However after I write this, I will try to not look like I’ve escaped from an asylum and will be continuing to clean out my house and pickling and cordialing all the things in preparation for my birthday jamboree in a few weeks. If I’m snowed out for my birthday, there will be sonic screaming.
We’re a few days into the new year now so there’s been enough time to start breaking your New Year’s resolutions, sequin dresses/tops/moccasins/ flannel tops are yesterday’s news and you’re fat from dealing with the stress of your family over the holidays. So let’s just get right into what a shit show the world is right now.
[W]hat America got by year five was fewer jobs than before. Even though the employment age population has increased by nearly 12 million since January, 2008, there are now 3 million fewer Americans working, with employment declining from 146.3 million in January, 2008 to 143.3 million in December, 2012. If America enjoyed the same labor force participation rate as 2008, the unemployment rate in December, 2012 would have been 11.4% comparted to 4.9% in December, 2007 . . .
Since the Great Depression recessions in America have lasted an average of 10 months, with the longest previously at 16 months. The latest recession began in December, 2007. Yet here we are 62 months after the recession began, and there is hardly any recovery at all. – Forbes, “The Worst Five Years Since the Great Depression”
But everything’s fine, right? We have Starbucks! We have computers and smart phones! We’re also really unlikely to ever make as much money as our parents made. In fact, we are unlikely to ever make more than we make at 35. And I don’t know about you, but I find that fact scary as hell. We can dress it up all we like, about how a retirement cushion is bullshit, Boomers work until they drop dead so we can too and that if we just spend smartly and save, we’ll be okay. But there’s still the issue of not having Social Security, the American healthcare system is such a mess that medical bills are the leading cause for bankruptcy and as a generation full of baristas, temps, substitute teachers, 30 hour “part time” employees and retail associates, how are we going to still manage to be employed in our later years?
America’s baby bust is easing—but there are few signs U.S. women are having more children.
The nation’s fertility rate flattened out in 2012, after four years of hefty declines, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest findings, which pushed the rate—the number of births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44—to the lowest level on record, largely confirm preliminary figures released in September.
The rate dropped slightly to 63 births per 1,000 women from 63.2 births. The number of children U.S. women are expected to have over their lifetime also slipped last year to 1.88 from 1.89 in 2011. That is below the nation’s so-called “replacement rate” of 2. (To put things in perspective, the world’s “total fertility rate,” as this estimation of births over a lifetime is called, is about 2.5 children; Niger’s rate, the world’s highest, is 7.6 children, while Spain’s, one of the lowest, is 1.3 children.)
Separately, the CDC recently released early findings on 2013 that also failed to show a post-recession uptick in births: According to these initial figures, the U.S. fertility rate dropped to 62.7 births per 1,000 women during the 12-month period ending June 2013, down from 63 between June 2011 and June 2012.
“Economists might say the recession is over, but there is no evidence of a recovery in births through June 2013,” said Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire.
Low fertility means less growth in a country’s population, barring a pickup in immigration. Fewer people can mean fewer workers to propel the economy and a smaller tax base to draw from to pay the benefits due retired Americans.
On Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau said America’s population grew just 0.72% between July 2012 and July 2013, the slowest rate of growth since around the Great Depression and well below the nation’s post-World War II average of 1.2%. – The Wall Street Journal, “Four Years Into Economic Recovery, America’s Fertility Rate Remains Depressed”
No matter how many times we’re told that things are getting better, the reality of the world around us begs to differ. Many long time fellow crafters were not at shows this year and when the show was more of a “general public” show, people weren’t buying like they used to. None of my regular clients came to the shows. I still had a good year because I branched out to niche markets where there’s either more money or more care about what handmade means. At every show, almost every vendor wore the same strained smile.
We’re not having many (or any) babies. We’re not starting brick and mortar retail establishments. We’re not making what our parents made by and often, we’re making significantly less. Housing developments, commercial office buildings and retail centers sit half finished. In many ways, we have much more in common with our grandparents than we do with our parents. While sewing, canning, brewing, gardening and other somewhat lost arts are somewhat of a dilettante pursuit for us, it’s also a way to make things stretch further. No, we’re not starving (yet) but we sure as hell aren’t thriving either.
Hey! Look Over There!
You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house/ You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife/ Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down/Into the blue again, after the money’s gone/ Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground/ Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was. . . – “Once in a Lifetime”, Talking Heads
Everyone likes to blame reality television and the media for the fact that no one wants to pay attention to these extremely alarming facts. The truth is, there’s always been distraction. And economic times were often dismal. Even when you were farming the same shitty piece of dirt for the same shitty lord with the same shitty spouse and the same shitty pieces of moldy bread, pickles and cheese to eat all winter, there was still something to take your mind off your worries. Maybe Becci was knocked up with ye olde lord’s baby and was trying to pass it off as her husband’s, maybe there were some actors or singers that rolled into town, maybe there was a muddy festival of some kind but there was always something.
But OMFGBBQ THE KARDASIANS ARE RUINING AMERICAN SOCIETY. HOW CAN WE GIVE THEM ANY MIND? THEY ARE TALENTLESS AND AWFUL. WHY ARE THEY IN THE NEWS?
Well, first of all, they are glamorous. Just “sitting around in their satin pajamas drinking champagne on television”? Suuuuuuuuuuuure. Why not. But they look like completely different people without makeup and styled clothing. But even without stylists, they would still likely look like they do because some people just have a knack for that kind of thing. So, you probably never would have seen Kim without her make up/hair/pretty clothes on if she was just “Kim-from-your-kid’s-Gymboree-class” because no one would care enough to obsessively stalk her to catch her on the one day in ten years she left the house once without her protective coating on to go to Quick Chek. So, accept there will always be people like that in the world (because there will be) and decide where you want to be personally with all of that. I wrote, like, a whole book about getting yo’ shit together with all that magically and mundanely.
During the Great Depression, the Vanderbilts were the equivalent of the Kardashians with their scandals and filthy huge amounts of money but eventually we got Jackie O and Anderson Cooper out of the deal so who knows who we’ll get in a couple hundred years out of the Kardashians.
Times are hard, babe. If you want to seek comfort in the occasional tabloid, macchiato or smoky eye, I’d be the last to judge. But don’t mistake the glamour of what the boy run media wants you to see for the actual glamour of what’s really happening right now. One is vaudeville, the other is reality.
Your ability to tell the difference between the two is critical to your survival.
On Horses and Fires
Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
– Maya Angelou
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? was a novel released during the Great Depression. It tells the story of a fading beauty who has fallen on hard times. She meets another struggling actor and talks him into entering a dance marathon with her. There is a prize of $1,000 (approximately $17,000 today) being awarded to whichever couple can last the longest. There are derbies every night to eliminate a couple, there’s sponsorships, there’s scandal, there’s a lot of civil unrest.
Sound familiar? In this version however, after an accidental murder in the dance hall, they shut down the contest for the remaining twenty contestants after 879 hours, giving each couple $50 (approximately $850 today). With no prospects, the heroine asks the hero to shoot her. He does. He goes to jail. The end.
Needless to say, this was not a book that was widely acclaimed for a very long time. Oh sure, the French existential circles liked it at the time, but that was about it. But now? Well, as soon as The Hunger Games became popular, there was a movie deal which makes it incredibly easy to distance ourselves from the real message: it’s impossible to return from a war of any kind as fully functional as you were before it and we are not that far from the disparate proportions of wealth in first world countries. But with that Jennifer Lawrence who is just so gosh darn cute in her real life, the Cover Girl cosmetic line and knitting patterns for Katniss’ cowl, who has time to think about revolution, right?
Keep. Your. Eye. On. The. Real. Enemy. Collins explicitly says it in her book, it’s said in the movie. A’wishin’ and a’hopin’ didn’t change The Great Depression for all people who were living through it. Everyone is entitled to an active fantasy life, sometimes that’s the only way we survive terrible economic times. But your fantasy life is not doing.
Our grandparents still laughed during The Depression. They still told each other how pretty they looked. They still idled away an hour or two here and there reading movie magazines. But escape is not enough. They had to build their lives living in a very difficult economically depressed time period where sometimes they went to bed hungry. Sometimes, friends and loved ones didn’t survive. But every day they had to find a reason to keep going.
The media glamour made of rich people and movie stars was (and still is today) a distraction so most people wouldn’t look at the real picture but would keep contributing whatever widget they were contributing to society and always want more than what they had. Some people never thought past that point. Some people still never think past that point. Other people stopped playing the game, and set their minds to achieving what was their own personal vision of greatness. Sometimes they succeeded, sometimes they didn’t. Nothing is a promise. Not hard work, not connections, not love. But people still found something to dream about, something to hope for and something to wish for, even during The Great Depression. We can too. Sometimes, glamour is subtle. It’s a perfect night with friends, a perfect cup of coffee, a thoughtful gift from a loved one. Gods willing, we’ll always have that.
Your Inner Fire
You just remember who the enemy is,” Haymitch says. “That’s all.” – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
Glamour is rooted in you in one of two ways: The glamour you built on a lie and wishing the world was different from what it actually is and wishing you were different from the way you actually are and the glamour built from from your own personal truth, accepting the world around you as it is right now and knowing everything dark and bright that lives inside you. Which one will be critical to your own evolution?
Yeah, the hard one is always the answer to getting some place. But let’s be real, most people don’t want to do the work. Doing the work is what makes you a powerful Witch, doing the magic is what makes you a powerful Occultist. But what does that mean?
It means that when you can take a good, hard, real look at yourself and the world you personally live in, you can figure out what you really want and what you’re really capable of achieving for yourself. Once you figure out what you want, you can figure out how to do the mundane and magical work to get there. Sometimes, doing the work isn’t enough to get there. Sometimes even doing the magic on top of the work isn’t enough. Even after you stop getting in your own way. Even after you get brave and pursue the things you most desire. Even if you have help.
The extra push is when you can build your personal glamour around yourself like a croquembouche‘s spun sugar cage. The magic and the work is the croquembouche itself. You need the whole trifecta to push yourself forward in the world we live in right now. What makes you exciting and attractive? What is the spell that you cast on the rest of the world that says, look at me, damn it? Once you have found that personal truth for yourself, build everything in your life around expressing that truth – your career, your home, your family life, your social life, your love life, your art, your magic, your appearance, everything.
Look. At. Me.