The Joy of Going Nowhere

I couldn’t figure out if I was happy or not.  Was I happy “enough”? Maybe this is harder for people who have lived with periodic major depression since anything is better than that.

I was the CEO of a nonprofit school  and I was making a good living. So why did I have so much debt? We kept making plans to pay off the debt and we would make some headway and then we’d just start buying stuff again. My house was beautiful with all new furniture. My car was new every few years.  I had so many clothes I was into 3 closets. We went out to eat virtually every day.

Then one day while scanning Facebook I saw a post from The Minimalists. When the seeker is ready the answer arrives. We were trying to buy happiness. Once you realize that your things are never going to make you happy you can’t help but feel overwhelmed by them. They begin to crowd you. We committed to getting rid of everything that didn’t make us happy or that we simply didn’t use. I got down to one closet and some doodads went away. This was not nearly enough to make me feel better.

Then I saw some things on Pinterest about RV living and tiny house living. Again, the answer comes knocking on your door.  Hello? Are you listening? We realized that we lived in one room of our 5 bedroom house. It was the smallest room in the house. We used the kitchen and bathroom and slept in the bedroom but we were happy in our den. The other rooms were beautifully decorated dust-gathering spaces.

The opportunity to leave my job came up. Done. What will you do next? I have no idea whatsoever. We sold everything and bought a 22 foot motor home. We kept my car because it was on lease and gave it to my daughter to use for a while. We kept our 2 motorcycles and hooked them up to the motor home. They do make us happy. Allyn kept his tools because they are necessary to his future work. We kept our bed because it is the best bed ever and if we did settle down we would want it. These things we stored with family.

If it didn’t fit in the motor home we didn’t need it. We have 4 mugs, two for coffee and two for tea. We have 4 plates, and a bare complement of silverware. We never tried to have as little as possible. This wasn’t a competition. We just figured that if we needed it and it fit we would buy it. It turns out you need even less than you thought. We have bought a few things that fit our lifestyle now. We got rid of more things that we thought we’d need and didn’t.

Then we headed out. We had no route, no pressing things we wanted to do. We wanted to see our National Parks and Monuments but if the weather was bad we skipped them. We wanted to avoid crowded campgrounds and cities. We wanted to visit a few people. Mostly we just wanted to step away from everything. We committed to a year on the road. We could always stop earlier if we didn’t like it and we could always keep going if we did. We needed to find ways to support ourselves if we kept going but had no idea how we would do that.

We moved further and further away from what we knew. At the beginning we enjoyed visiting this place or that but as winter came we found ourselves just slowing down. We avoided campgrounds unless we needed something. We found the desert.

The desert strips away everything. You can see for miles and all you will see is sky and rock and some cactus. It calms the soul. It is quiet (if you dry camp in public lands) There is nothing to do but walk and breathe.

We wandered the dry areas of the southwest all winter. We saw all kinds of desert. Some was high and mountainous and some was flat. Some had huge cactus and some had nothing but scrub. Some had brilliant rock colors and some was just brown earth and blue sky. The less it had the more we relaxed.

A year in and we still had no plans for the future but we had found a quiet place in our hearts. We found workamping (look it up) so we could offset our expenses though it isn’t enough to live on completely. Are we anxious about money? Sometimes, but far less than I imagined. We have no debt and we love living in our tiny space. We can go wherever we like but we’ve chosen to workamp for a while each season. The work is easy.

Turns out I was waiting for my imagination to grow back. Somewhere along the way it had stopped growing and slowly dwindled. I buried it underneath the constant quest for happiness as defined by my stuff and whether my work was important or meaningful.

As the desert and later the mountains stretched out around me I stripped away all that seemed to matter. I did little and thought less. Now I am a 18 months into this new life and my brain has exploded with new ideas. They are not bound by any requirements except whether I am excited about them or not.

Am I happy? Mostly.  Am I happy “enough”?  Absolutely.

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It is Always About Fear

After a year of “finding myself” (I am a 70’s girl after all), I finally acknowledged that I am an entrepreneur. For years I’ve told people that is what I wanted to be but I have always been afraid.

If anything has defined my life, it has been the need to conquer fear. When you are a woman you are socialized for fear. The primary physical fear of men starts as soon as you have to buy your first tampon. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love men. When I was a girl I thought I wanted to be one. Not physically, I just wanted all the perks of being a man which I now realize means that I didn’t want to be afraid. And of course I know now that men have a whole different set of burdens but most aren’t afraid of being raped.

Lets face it, that is the fear we cover up under all our other fears. We learn to be nice girls and to not go out at night or wear revealing clothes. We learn to back down and avoid male dominant places. We learn that our fathers worry about our safety constantly. What could possibly be a more obvious sign that we actually do have something to fear than the primary man in our life being afraid of other men hurting us.

I hate feeling fear. It pisses me off that I am afraid. I’m probably less afraid than many women. I have fought fear over and again. I have challenged my weaknesses over and again. I went to college 600 miles away and never intended to go safely home again. Then I got drunk and did fall victim to one of the “nice” boys at my fancy college. See, my dad was right, men are dangerous and I should have been more afraid.

Martial arts classes changed everything. With my black belt I learned self defense and found that I loved to fight.  I conquered physical fear in a way that I never believed was possible. I will never feel like a victim of men again. I know how to fight.

I have fought cycles of major depression and suicide all my life. I think I never made an actual attempt largely because I was afraid of failing and being pitiful. I hid behind a confident facade while I quaked in fear underneath.  I was actually afraid of myself. Finally it became so frightening that I checked myself into the hospital to keep myself safe. And there I learned to fight again. I fought with medication and learned to consciously change my thinking.

When you have looked death right in the eye, it can become your friend and teacher. You learn to see it as peace rather than as anihilation. It no longer seems like something to fear. Choosing life is an act of courage and suddenly nothing else looks too scary.

At least that is what I thought until I decided to become an entrepreneur. Now I am conquering fear again. Fear of looking foolish is the biggest one. I fear failure not because I will lose money but because I will lose my self confidence which I have fought so hard to earn.

But fighting through fear is what I do. This will be no different.  Failure is an essential element of being an entrepreneur. I know this and yet I will do it anyway and I will win. Even if I lose money and make a fool of myself I will win because I have tried.