Monday, May 30, 2016

What We've Learned So Far

The first phase of our new way of life is about to close. Our tenure at Bennett Spring State park ends this week, and we'll pull up stakes and make our way across the Great Plains to our next project. More on that later, but for now, our teachable moments, in no particular order:
  • Home is a concept, not a place. We sold our house of thirty years and now find ourselves in much smaller quarters. Later this week, we will wake up in a new place, but in familiar surroundings. It's a bit like air travel - get in the tube in one place, sit a while, and get out of the tube somewhere else. Home is where Kath is and Moxie is and I am. This is home, whether it's in Missouri, Colorado, Texas, or someplace else. We are home.
  • You can get by with a lot less stuff. The two hundred pounds of dishes and barware we gave away are not missed at all. The closets full of clothes are redundant. The garage full of underutilized tools is easy to do without. It's a mind change. You can do it.
  • You can get by with a lot less space. We went from 2,000 square feet of house to a bit over 400 square feet, including the space occupied by furniture. We don't feel cramped, but we're still working out the "kitchen dance".
  • You can get by with a lot less luxe. We turned off the cable TV connection months before we left, and while over-the-air broadcast isn't always the greatest programming to be had, it covers the necessities - news, weather, Jeopardy. We'll get by with 4GLTE internet connections when we can, less when we have to. Priorities have to be adjusted. My cloud backups need to be redefined and a new workflow adopted.
All of these things are pretty basic mental adjustments that come with the idea of giving up a house without wheels in favor of a movable feast. The conceptual mountains to climb are more subtle:
  • You have to leave things behind. You may have once cherished that one souvenir, or held tightly to something that once signified a life change, but honestly, these things are anchors. Every pound has a cost when you're on the road. Your capacity to carry things is finite. You have a very real weight limit. More importantly, these things not only weigh you down physically, but they create a mental bridge to the past. That may not necessarily be a bad thing for some people, but in my case, I would far prefer to redefine our lives in a new way. Already, the house we lived in for thirty years has faded into the the gray past. Mind you, I'm not immune to nostalgia, but I have a limited amount of time left to explore the world, and too much baggage just weighs me down. I shredded trash bags full of film, contact sheets, old cards, letters and pitched as much as could. I have a couple of regrets regarding photo equipment, but the decision was the right one at the time. The first dumpster load is painful. It gets steadily easier with each attempt, and eventually becomes cathartic, even enjoyable. I've always had issues with my weight. Losing tonnage this way is fun and easy.
  • We decided to go full-time RV. Others buy new houses, cars, bling, or shoes. The truth is, regardless of how you choose to pull your life into focus, nothing really changes unless you do. You are still the same people that first turned the key. If you had unresolved issues before you rolled out of the driveway, you probably still do. Ruts are portable; they travel with you, habits die hard, and only then if you repeatedly and consciously try to kill them off.
  • Once you've shed the mantle of stuff you don't need, you have to learn think small and light. The manufacturer of your RV knows this. Your bathroom lavatory sink is made of plastic, not porcelain. Your walls are hollow and your house flexes. There are places where your size 13 shoes can't navigate. The ceiling in your bedroom is just high enough to walk through, but not high enough to allow you to put on your shirt in the morning without banging your knuckles on the air vent. This is life in the white whale. I have bumped my head on every prominence and fixture in the house, including the front door. It's four inches shorter than I am. I will learn to duck.
  • Finding the time to work is difficult, but not nearly as difficult as finding the space. Time has been meted out in inconvenient chunks over the last three months, and shifting into writing mode has been problematic. Truth is, the space is only part of the issue. I am easily distracted, and close quarters make it difficult for me to concentrate on image editing, writing, or just catching up on the news. Sometimes just anticipating distractions makes working difficult. We don't have a dedicated work space - our dining table is our computer desk - and I am not effective working on a laptop. Years of multiple--display-array large studio monitors have spoiled me to desktop computing. I am still working on solutions. Hide the remote. Maybe headphones and blinders. Single malt sedatives. Maybe I just have to learn to be more flexible. We'll get there eventually.
We still have far to go and much to learn, but we're off to a wonderful start. Coming up next, news from the road.

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