Thursday, March 10, 2011

2011 Rambling Decisions

So I’ve decided to go public with the paralyzing fear (excuses) of the next step in my life. At 53, I’ve lived in the Midwest, primarily Chicago, IL all of my life. My kids are grown with lives of their own, so I decided (or am trying to anyway) to travel abroad or to move abroad, or to go or do something (with time and space to write). 

One of the biggest issues is finances. Over the years of raising kids, helping with grandchildren, losing jobs and making poor decisions (that again), my credit is terrible and no savings to speak of. OK, so yes, this is embarrassing to admit at my age, but so it is.

The next issue is that I am single—divorced and widowed. I’ve never really been afraid of doing or going by myself—until now that I must. 

One of the plans to address the financial issue was to get TEFL certified so I could teach English abroad and get paid to travel. In a round-about way, it also addressed the alone issue since most schools overseas have a community of English teachers from America. Still, the traveling and settling and beginning would all be done alone. Not to mention that once I get wherever I’m going, I will be the oldest within that community of teachers—alone again.

Then, there are restrictions, both personal and business, that need considering. Certain countries, such as Japan, won’t take me at my age and others would prefer younger. By preferring, meaning I won’t get the job in those countries either. Additionally, there is the global economic crisis which has caused some countries to pull inward. In Europe, the schools require an EU passport and most want an EU work visa before even offering the position. 

My personal restriction is on climate—I cannot (at this time in my life, it might change as I get even older) deal with heat and humidity. That leaves out most of the South American countries as well as some Asian. Moreover, some of the countries where things ‘might’ be acceptable all around are in turmoil and not safe (or as safe as a typical American would like).

OK, so getting a job teaching abroad is not going well. Switch rails. Retiring to another country is happening a lot lately and there are expat communities in most any country you can think of—Italy, Germany, Serbia, France, and South America. Once again, Europe is tough with visa’s, especially if you don’t have thousands or millions of dollars to contribute to their economy. Panama and Costa Rica are by far the best choices to retire. They will give you a pensionista visa as long as you have a monthly income of $1000. Cost of living in both of these areas is extremely low, and within the expat communities there is talk of rentals at $200 per month in the less touristy, rural towns. 

That became the new focus and I made some contacts in Costa Rica where I could stay while I looked for a home. Think of retiring in paradise. Sunshine and blue waters and a slow, slow pace with fairly decent health care. Alone. I would travel, meet these contacts, set up a home and make contacts to tutor English, and live alone. 

So there you have the traveling scenario. Let’s move on to the state side scenarios. 

I’ve been staying in my daughter’s basement for the last 8 months to save $$ for all these scenarios. Occasionally, I travel into Chicago for an event or two and stay on a friends' sofa, or a roommates' bed. Sometimes, I friend will be going out of town and I stay in their place. Next week, I will be house and dig sitting for two pit bulls. While 53 is not old, I can tell you that this nomad existence has been draining. When I was younger I thought it would be wonderful to retire to a camper and travel the states. I have a friend whose parents are doing it and they love it—the key word being ‘they’. I went ahead and applied for some volunteer positions with the Dept. of the Interior in national parks and have not received any replies (probably because of that credit history mentioned before). Additionally, I’m really not feeling the sleeping in a camper bed—not after sleeping in a different bed almost every night for 8 months. 

The last scenario and the picture I’ve had of retirement for the past 20 years, is to buy a truck, head to western NC or eastern TN, find a small place on a lake or river by the mountains and just relax. Plant a garden, have a cow and a few chickens, do some hunting and fishing, and write. Bring the grandchildren for summers and maybe get a horse or two along the way. This feels like the best fit. This doesn’t excite me but the idea makes me happy and contented. The only thing wrong with this scenario (in my mind) is that it isn’t big and bold enough. There’s no “Look at what I did,” no, “Wow, I envy you,” no “That’s my mom (or my Nana).” 

So there you have it, whatever it is. There is still no decision. I go round and round and hope that sooner or later a decision will slap my in the face.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Nurturing of Doing Nothing

Wu wei: Do Nothing. ~ Lao Tzu

That is what I've been doing lately. One could debate that it is what I've been doing for a very long time-possibly a lifetime. The difficulty is in accepting that this is not only ok, but good.

So here is what I HAVE been doing:
On a lovely library excursion where I was forced to cut it from hours to minutes, I grabbed People of the Longhouse off the "New Fiction" shelf. It was an exciting find. Seems that anthropologists Kathleen and Michael Gear have been writing tons of novels based on the anthropological findings of prehistoric America. This one was mesmerizing, and off I went to find the next one in the series. Of course, it hasn't been released yet, so I went on to another in another series.

I chose People of the Lakes because I'm from one of the areas noted--the midwest and the Great Lakes. These are not short, beach reading books. These are solid, historical fiction of war, romance, travel, and, did I mention, history.

So, while I took notes, and had the best intentions and immense emotions, I did not write about Egypt, or labor rallies in Wisconsin, or the mayoral race in Chicago. I cuddled with pillows and read. I lounged under bubbles and read. I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner in mostly solitude--and read.

On February 27th, I traveled from Kenosha to Chicago for a 3-day trip and got lost in North Park Nature Center with all my luggage.

*North Park Nature Center Chicago, picture from DJM75s Flick acct.
This is what came of that trip:

Feb. 27, 2011

North Park Nature Center, 11:30am—lost in a familiar place. How often does that happen to you? Me? Quite frequently of late. But it’s ok this time. Warm sunbeams and the aroma of burning wood ride on a crisp gentle wind. Deer strolling among geese resting on their return northward journey. No better place to found, unless beside the burning wood. If only I could stash the 20lbs of baggage to enjoy it all unencumbered. 

It’s been too long away from Mother Earth. Too long prisoner in my mind, running in circles and bouncing off the padded cerebral walls. Here, it is all so simple. This is what I need. Again, I’m reminded of my heart’s desire. Again. Can I not get it right?

Somewhere out there is a circle of writers, imagining and communing around the flames. Spirit has set me here, alone at a damp picnic table with just enough dry spots beneath the bare branches inside natures’ song to scratch out his message. So easy to be content with where you are placed when all your brothers and sisters around are content.

I want my own home again. 
Spirit decided it was time and the writers found me. Luggage stashed, the icy crunch beneath our boots, we went on to observe a heart pulsing short black fur, curled inside the hollow of a bark-stripped tree. It allowed us to gather, stand, point and stare as though it were something exotic, rather than a probable snoozing raccoon. How many times has it suffered through 2-leggeds watching it nap?

The journey continued round the path, alongside waving cattails immersed in frozen marsh. With calm acceptance of their naked vulnerability, the Standing People are confident that lushness will surround them soon and buds will perk excitedly. 

All in due time my pretty, all in due time. 

The whirling wheel inside my head has momentarily ceased; there is no nourishment here for its spinning madness.  

*I'll post my own pics soon. 

Now, I'm in the city again for a 4-day trip and am really not doing much more than the same. Wu Wei. And thoroughly enjoying it. I picked up a few more books, of course. Gear's first book: People of the Wolf.

And then I found a few books to help me with my novel research that were written by a fellow Chicagoan, Allison Amend: Stations West. Things That Pass for Love will actually serve as samples of debut books--another thing I've been researching.

I have been doing 'some' writing and you can find it at dk's right to write blog.

So there, that's what I've been doing while I haven't been blog posting. Hopefully, I'll be forgiven. If not, I am fine with Wu wei and hope you are as well.