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The psychology of the ‘Space Cowboy’ prepper

Here is a post offering hope to those who consider themselves ’spaced out,’ ADHD (attention deficit), scattered, air-headed, a Space Cowboy, forgetful, inconsistent, unreliable and the like. There IS hope for you, and you can prep. First, however, a disclaimer:

The Organized

Anything you read in this post is in no way advocating this mind-set. I personally admire the people I know who routinely do the dishes after they eat (meaning they make regular meals and eat at an assigned time), do laundry on an assigned day so they never run out of underwear, hang up their clothes immediately after taking them off, never wear woolens two days in a row, keep houseplants (even fussy ones) alive, happy and thriving, start seed at the assigned times and watch them grow into hardy starter plants, plow and shovel at the first hint of snow so it doesn’t turn into hard-rock ice that is a challenge to walk on, and the like. They wake up early, retire early, brush their teeth nightly and their bedsheets are always straightened and crumb-less. Let’s call them “The Organized.”

Be like that, if you can.

The REST of Us

That said, I want to talk to the rest of you, and you know who you are. Yes, you… don’t hide your head behind that computer. We (yes, I’m one of you…) are the ones certain that we’ll fail miserably when the Armageddon comes, because we’re too spaced out now to accomplish what “The Organized” people seem to be able to do. We forget things…sometimes wicked important things…like birthdays, dentist’s appointments, or first frost days. We get inspirations that keep us up late at night, and tired the next morning. Our “priorities” (perhaps the ones someone else gave us that we’ve accepted…) get mixed up. We sometimes eat dessert first, and ignore the dishes. We buy replacements for things we “know we have here somewhere…” but can’t find. We get into a ‘groove’ about something and overdo it. We spend a huge amount of time planting and then forget to water or even worse harvest the stuff we planted. I could go on, but you know if I’m talking to you or not.

The Power of Enthusiasm

You, my friend, can prep. You need only one trait you’ve got to hold on to, and not let go of: enthusiasm. When you’ve once again ‘blown it,’ and left the lid off a bucket of grain, so the mice had a ’storage field day,’ you have to say “oh well…” and assume that you now have done your part to feed the wildlife.

When your certainty about the ‘end of the world’ has alienated you from your best friend, or your spouse or kids, you have to show up with a bottle or basket or movie of some really ’stupid’ or ‘wasteful’ or ‘frivolous’ thing and say “I’m sorry for being a jerk, let’s have some fun.”

You have to forgive yourself and ignore all the work you put into cataloging something you accidentally used to start a fire with.

The Cost of Being a Space Cowboy

You have to assume that, unlike “The Organized” person you might prefer to be, things are going to take you longer, going to cost you more, and are going to be more difficult to accomplish, to name a few. Don’t let it depress or sicken you. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just accept that ‘that’s the way it is’ and keep yourself enthusiastic, and don’t stop prepping.

You and I both know you can’t possibly accomplish everything on that list by next year, because you start something, do a bit on it, and then go on to something else. Then, that first project you started…the dog peed on it or the cat scratched it, or it got left out in the rain and rusted, or it didn’t get left out in the rain and dried out. Proper attitude? “Oh well.”

Sequential Projects

When you get bored to tears doing something that you were ‘certain’ was going to be your next full-time job after ‘it all blows up’ and now you can’t stand the sight of it, just try something different. After a while, you will hopefully invest a bit less than the ‘family farm’ on those projects, until you are really sure you can stand to do them long-term. And what’s ‘long term’ anyway? After your fifth candle, when you decide ‘wax is not for me,’ you can now make a candle. Let that be enough, even if your plans to start a ‘candle coop’ couldn’t hold a flame.

Stop yourself from that line of thinking that says “No point in trying THAT again, you’ll just screw it up!” Of COURSE you’ll ’screw it up’ again. So what?! Every single time you ’screw it up again,’ you’re learning something, and that ’something’ is worth a whole lot. Stay enthusiastic. Keep your attitude light-hearted.

Outrunning the Bear?

Despite what those scary dudes on Deadly Doomer Sites tell you, you won’t be the slowest one running from the bear–because you’ve already started to train for the marathon. It’s a long-distance race, my friend. Sprinting won’t help you, if that’s all you can do. Run however you want, even dance or hop if it inspires you to keep going. If you fall down, just get up again, and go on. Compare yourself to yourself, from year-to-year. Keep getting a bit more skill, read a few more books, put another week’s worth of food in your pantry–or another day’s worth–or another can. No matter how small or useless it might seem to you, after all of your grand plans, just keep going. It adds up.

Space Cowboys Love that they’ve Prepped

The truth is, prepping is great for the Space Cowboy, it really is. Despite yourself, you are learning habits–good habits–that will make your life easier, not harder for you. If you start storing food, you’ll realize that it’s okay that ‘you forgot to go shopping like you promised on Friday, because you discovered a used book store going out of business and got so engrossed gathering up all these great books to buy, so lost track of time, and the market was closed by the time you realized it, or you ran out of money.‘ You and your family will still eat, because you have a food storage.

“Oh DARN!” you say, after you are 3/4 of the way through a pot luck meal you are making for a dinner that started 15 minutes ago: “I ran out of EGGS!” Not to worry. You have powdered eggs, you smart prepper. You can use that can you put in storage ‘for an emergency.’

This is ‘an emergency.’

Feeding the Wildlife #2

Go ahead. Open it up and use it. Maybe you’ll figure out what to do with the remaining 297 egg portions, or maybe you won’t. Right now, you need three eggs, and they are there waiting for you. If you discover, two years later, that you still have that #10 can of powdered eggs, all filled with crawl-ees, don’t worry. You are feeding the wild-life. Next time, you’ll buy a smaller can, or you’ll learn how to make something really EGGY with the left-overs. Stop beating yourself up. Because of your prepping, you got to the pot luck while the late arrivals were still eating, and you had something to bring, to boot. This is a victory! Feel good about yourself.

A Bevy of Space Cowboys

Getting around happy Space Cowboys really helps, as well. It helps the struggling cow-hand to keep a positive outlook, and see the benefits of being spaced. If you only hang around ‘The Organized,’ you may need to broaden your social circle a bit. The more people you connect with around community-building, the more you’ll come across people who just look similarly disheveled, hurried, disorganized, and muttering apologetically as they ruffle through their purses saying: “I’m sure I have one of those in here somewhere.” Extend a hand, and make their acquaintance. Take it upon yourself to call them two hours before the event they said they were “dying” to go to, and ask if they are still going. Maybe over time, they may start to return the favor and you’ll say, as they did:

“OMIGOD! I forgot COMPLEETELY about it!!! Thank you SOOO much for calling and reminding me!”

Stupid-Free Zone

Another bit of advice is to try your best to take the word “stupid” out of your vocabulary as in: “I’m really sorry, that was really stupid of me.” “I’m sorry” is perfectly adequate.

Targeted Help

Another is to learn your weaknesses and ask for some targeted help. What if you are a 90%-er? You get the project done all the way to 90%, and then you stop. Ask for help on the last 10%. I know ‘it’s too stupid, I should really be able to do it myself, I know how and blah blah blah.’

Just ASK.

If you are afraid you’ll space out that talk or meeting you want to go to, ask for a ride or offer one. Then tell them to call you to arrange a time to be picked up/pick up. What if you double book? Here’s where a pin-up calendar in a really obvious place comes in. I mean REALLY obvious, someplace, like the bathroom, where you can’t HELP but see it. Datebooks are fine, if you can keep them in one location, or carry them with you, but one index card in your pocket, and a pin-up calendar in your bathroom or on your nightstand, where you can’t help but stare at it is great. If you use a computer, use a sticky program, and put your ‘to do’s’ on it. Change the color of the background periodically, so you don’t start ignoring it.

“I’ll Remember That.”

Never use the words: “I’ll remember that.” “The Organized” can use those words.

You can not.

Pull out that one index card you keep, and write it down, or call your home line and leave yourself a message about what you are putting on your calendar. Leave yourself TWO messages, in fact. Leave one with the message, and leave a second one saying:

“Kathy, I’m serious. Put this on the calendar RIGHT NOW!” Sound really powerful and insistent, or else ‘Kathy’ will just think she can ignore herself, and ‘remember’ to put it on ‘later.’ From one Space Cowboy to another, my friend, there is no “later” when it comes to putting it on the calendar. There is only right now.

One Calendar, but Multiple Other Things

Also, don’t worry about doing things over and over or in three different ways, or in three different places if that helps you–except in a calendar. Keep only ONE CALENDAR, and keep it in a central location, unless the things on it only pertain to one place, like where you work, and you only do those things AT work.

Keep it Simple, Cowboy…

Try to under-think everything, when it comes to making plans. Make most things so simple and easy to accomplish that anyone who can understand a TV commercial can understand the plan, and keep track of it. Do it by hand, whenever possible. Avoid complex computer programs that ’save time’ unless that’s your line of work and you intend on using this program every single day. Print it out, just in case, if it is a new program for you. At least, if the “free” period expires or you forget your password, you still have the information you put in there.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

It takes 21 days to instill a new habit. Repetition is really important to the Space Cowboy. Doing things once a year or on the “third Tuesday of the alternate full moon” is the kiss of death, unless you get the calendar thing down and schedule that in for the next 6 “third Tuesdays of the alternate….” While you aren’t going to rely on your memory for stuff, you really should do your best to try to learn useful new facts by OVERLEARNING them. Don’t be afraid to post the things you are trying to overlearn in a variety of places, or copy them down repeatedly.

How do you LEARN?

Figure out how you learn, whether by visual, auditory, or kinesthetic means, and reinforce your learning this way. For example, if you are an auditory learner, make a tape of the stuff and listen to it as you cook. (You don’t even have to pay full attention to it. Just make sure you can hear it. I tied for first place on a State psychology licensing exam this way, so it really works!) Or repeat the posted note aloud. If you are visual, make flash cards, or watch a movie repeatedly that provides the information or read three different articles on it.

Kinesthetic is tougher, but can be done. Trying to remember how much water to add to kidney beans? Slap your hand on your knee (amount of beans = one hand) and push your knees together (amount of water = two knees). It sounds dumb, I know, but if you are a kinestetic learner, when you try to remember, you’ll want to slap your hand on your knees and it will come back to you. Or literally “go through the motions” or imagine yourself doing that every night before bedtime. Make the imagination as vivid as possible and “feel yourself” doing it.

The Power of Imagination

Imagination is a great way to learn, and can be done in a lot of places where you would otherwise be bored. Imagine what that garden would look like in May, June and July. Hear the sounds of the outdoors, as if you are out there. Feel your hands in the cool soil. Do it while you are waiting for a bus, when you are having trouble sleeping, or while waiting in a check-out line. See yourself as successful in the endeavor you are trying to master.

The Hunter and the Farmer

Finally, recognize that if “The Organized” are the “farmers” of our culture, than the Space Cowboys are the “hunters,” ever ready to respond to the unexpected, heading out to hunt at 11 pm, and staying light on their feet to change at a minute’s notice. Accept your style and learn to work with it.

You might even find that you get so good at “compensating” that you’ll hear this from one of The Organized: “Wow! You are so ORGANIZED!” Smile demurely, and congratulate yourself. You got that one down, so go on to the next thing. (But don’t expect those kinds of complements on all you do!)



“I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, with a New Blog Every Day!”


One last hint for the bloggers in the audience: More than once I’ve tried to look for a piece of information I recorded, but couldn’t find anywhere. Then a light went off! I BLOGGED on that topic!!! I found it in an instant, and was delighted! Because blogging is free, you can start your own ‘all the things I’ll forget if I don’t blog about it here” blog, and print it out, just in case. Make tags for every word you can associate with that topic, so you can easily search the search engine for “All the things I forgot” (blog name) and the words you associate with what you are trying to find. AHAH! There it is, right on the internet!

See how smart and organized you are?

Now I gutta go, because I got too caught up in writing this blog and I’m behind on the next thing I’m supposed to do…

P.S. I’m still going to write about the Family Life cycle class, so still stay tuned!

P.S.S. I really want to hear from other Space Cowboys here. If you are one of The Organized, do them a favor and send them this link (with a note telling them how much you love them!) Cowboys, send it on to other Cowboys, to give them inspiration to keep on keeping on!

Editorial Notes: As one of the "space cowboys", I appreciated Kathy's helpful and humorous take on this topic. -KS

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