Per Lesa's request, I'll type up some more on dropping out and dropping in. Ten years ago, I was a professional employee, complete with suit, health insurance, regular shopping trips, car, salary, and ever-increasing debt. I did NOT enjoy the middle-class life in the least, but felt trapped. I mean, I couldn't just quit my hated job, could I? How on earth, in the free-est country in the world, did I manage to enslave myself?!
I was blessed to have Michael Fogler's book Unjobbing: The Adult Liberation Handbook cross my path. After reading it, I realized that with all the expenses I had from work, and all the time commitments as well, I was making chump change--and this was the "best" job I ever had! Fortunately, our at-the-time foster daughter arrived, and although I had planned on working from home, that did not work out. I quit my job and became a stay at home mom. Between diapers, spitting up, and learning to walk, somehow I found my way to paradise.
We consolidated our debt and focused on paying it off. We bought a small inexpensive house, and made extra principle payments to pay it off quicker. We kept track of where every last cent we spent went, and were appalled. We changed our behavior accordingly, shopping at 2nd hand stores and asking around for anything we needed. We grew some of our own food, and dumpster dived. The car died and was not replaced, except by bikes and a bus map. We stopped paying for entertainment, got rid of the tv, and made good friends instead.
It turns out, friends, aka community, is where it's at for me. I stopped focusing on the money economy, where scarcity rules, and started focusing on the abundance in my life, mainly human relationships. It turns out community can provide anything and everything I need, and it does, without bureaucracy, paperwork, and undignified subordination.
Sure, I still have a part-time job that pays the bills, but my bills are miniscule compared to most. I rarely shop, and if I do, it's usually for 2nd hand items, having replaced most of my "disposable" consumer goods with the real deal (hankies, cloth napkins, etc.). The waste stream in America offers plenty to choose from, as does the friend network (friendcycle). I don't know if I have amazing karma or what, but whatever I need seems to find me. I live in the hands of the gods, as do the lilies of the field, and I am cared for, without a doubt.
So when I blow my nose into what used to be my t-shirt, I don't feel any sort of hardship, just relief that I didn't have to take a bus to the store and trade my life's energy for what used to be a tree, that I'm just going to throw away anyway. When I grow my own food, I don't worry about the labor it takes to plant and harvest, I think about the good medicine entering my body, keeping me healthy. When I hang out with my friends, listening to the deafening roar of crickets punctuated by our laughter, the thought of what movie is opening this weekend doesn't even cross my mind. When I get to spend each day with my child, watching her grow and learn, I feel so blessed. There's no money in the world I would trade for these experiences.
There's dropping out of the money economy, and then there's dropping into the community economy. I've been told by people they admire me, or respect me, for my "sacrifice", but really I do it for selfish reasons. Living in a community, living in the hands of the gods--it just feels right, and it makes me happy. It's a life worth living, full of meaning. I am wealthy beyond compare. I turn my eye to look for beauty instead of despair, and amazingly, beauty is everywhere I look. I have no doubt I live in the garden, in paradise.