I’m Sorry Our Life Sucks

A few years ago, I wrote a post called Coming Out Minimalist. In it, I talked about how hard it is sometimes to explain minimalism to friends, family, and co-workers, especially when you’re talking about the intersection of minimalism and money. Back then, I struggled in helping the people in my life to understand how living with less meant having more (money) and more specifically, how it was okay to be a one-income household.

Folks, let me tell you something – if you thought explaining minimalism was hard, try explaining downshifting, early retirement, or just plain quitting that job that was the one source of income for your one-income household. Let’s just say, you might want to brush up on your advanced calculus skills, because you’ll have an easier time getting people to grasp those concepts.

If you’re new to this blog, I quit my job last September, after 8 years of telecommuting as a grant writer for a non-profit in Denver. It was something I wanted to do a long time before I did – not because I was unhappy with the work I was doing, but because I saw greater opportunity in other areas and being tied to an employer was keeping me from pursuing them. Not all of those opportunities produce an income and I think that’s where my friends and family really struggle; but instead of asking me how we’re making things work, they say things like: “I’m praying for you to find a job you enjoy.” or “Maybe you were meant to do x, y, or z. Have you considered any of those jobs?” or my personal favorite: “I’m sorry your life sucks right now but I’m sure it will get better when you go back to work.”

I do understand that their sentiments come from a place of concern. I also understand that in our family/community/world, you are often defined by what you do for a living. I imagine it’s hard for them to define someone who might write a grant one day, count houses the next, and take the rest of the week “off” to paint their mom’s kitchen or babysit their great-niece and nephew – all without worrying about how the rent is going to get paid.

And on that topic, I want to dispel another myth. We are not rich. We didn’t get here through FIRE. We have investments but they are not paying our bills – at least not yet, and we don’t want them to until we are truly retirement age. We didn’t have a stash of cash when I made the almost rash decision to quit my job. We literally make ends meet by having fewer ends.

Our friends over at Decluttering the Stuff, mentioned the phrase “practice living for retirement” in a comment earlier this week and it struck me – that’s about the best explanation I can offer for how we can make do without a steady job. In 2016, we spent the entire year “practice living”. We diligently tracked our saving and spending and made every effort to live on 50% of our income. We never made it all the way to 50% but we came pretty close, and what we learned from this “practice living” was that we could live a really good life on a lot less than what we made from my job. The next year, I cut back to part-time.

For the next three years, we continued living on less, while also reducing the number of financial obligations we had. We paid off two student loans and our car; got rid of miscellaneous things like cable, contact cell phones, and subscription services that we weren’t using; and took a long hard look at how simple things like shopping less, eating better, and being more mindful could help us to better our personal and financial health. It wasn’t an easy path. It’s still not an easy path.

Sometimes the bread we spent all day on doesn’t rise. Sometimes that 30-minute job takes us an hour to complete. Sometimes the phone rings and whatever plans we made for the day are thwarted. But then there are days when the recipe we made comes out lip-smacking delicious, the 30-minute job only takes 10 to complete, and the person on the other end of the phone is calling to invite us to dinner. This is life. Make no mistake, it’s going to happen this way regardless of what you do (or don’t do) for a living.

Yesterday, we spent 15 minutes on a side-hustles that earned us $25, Afterwards,we ran into the thrift store next door, where Angie happened to find the exact pair of garden boots she has been looking for for over a year! Then, we picked up a few groceries (with the $30 gift card we got from our insurance company for doing all of our wellness activities last year) and stopped to check on my mom (who had made us some fudge!). We even enjoyed a delicious dinner of spaghetti, made with tomatoes from our garden last year, and were right in the middle of working hard on the never-ending jigsaw puzzle we started two weeks ago when we heard the news that our life sucks. Needless to say, we were shocked. It’s never easy to hear such devastating news.  But…

After much prayerful consideration, we’ve decided we’re okay with it. In fact, we’re pretty happy to have a life that sucks this much.

Don’t Follow That Chicken

I saw a t-shirt this week that read:

I want to live in a world where chickens can cross the road without anyone questioning their motives.

That sounds nice…except I think sometimes we need to question why, if only to help ourselves. After all, you wouldn’t want to follow a chicken if it’s on the wrong path, now would you?

With Angie still in Texas and my relatives visiting from out of town, this has been a very trying week. I’m not complaining. I refuse to let anyone steal my sunshine, but even so, it has been difficult not to crumble or explode at certain times – especially when you are constantly bombarded with other people’s “expert” opinions.

On money…

On what to eat…

On consumerism….

And my personal favorite, on food waste…how is it even possible to be pro-food waste anyway???

Caught on tape! You never know when someone will be playing with their camera.

Though I can’t fathom locking a child (literally) inside the house 24/7 so they aren’t kidnapped, chopping up a 12-year-old’s food so she doesn’t get cut using the knife, or telling a 14-year-old to get the brush so I can comb his hair before we go out, did I say anything about my uncle’s stellar parenting skills during his visit? Nope, not a word. Did I call his kids little hellions when they walked across my mom’s couch in their tennis shoes and chipped her 30-year-old maple coffee table throwing a cell phone at one another? Nope, I did not (though my mom did have a few choice things to say).

I don’t agree with the way my uncle is raising his children. I think it’s wrong and I truly believe they are missing out on the joys of childhood and learning to do things for themselves. But it’s not my circus and those aren’t my monkeys!

My opinion is just that – mine – and it will serve no purpose in sharing it with someone who did not ask for it. It will, however; serve a huge purpose in my own life. Having opinions (or making judgments) about what’s wrong in the world around us is how we ensure that we live our best life. And really, our lives are all that we can control anyway. It’s important – in my opinion – to question the way in which others do things, to sort out what feels right (or wrong) in our hearts, and choose our own direction based on those observations.

I share our choices (and the reasons behind them) here on this blog. I don’t feel the need to pull out a soapbox when guests are in town and wax philosophical on the state of the world. But maybe I should. It really is hard sometimes not to say something, especially when you’re digging through the garbage to fetch plastic water bottles for recycling because your out-of-town guests refuse to use the bin next to the trash can. Or when you bring fresh corn, tomatoes, and peas to dinner and it gets shoved in the refrigerator in favor of frozen French fries. Or when you watch your aging mother do 2 loads of someone else’s laundry every day because one outfit is not adequate to make it through a day of watching TV.

Or maybe I really should have spoken up when my uncle told his son that I was a Communist because I don’t eat meat. At least I could have corrected him – that would be a vegetarian, Cuz.

Like I said, it was a trying week and I’m glad it’s over.

On the morning that they left, my mom called to say that my cousin said to tell me goodbye and he loved me. Of course, my heart melted. I am human and deep inside I know that they are not bad kids. I know there is hope for them yet and I know this because of something my cousin said one night after I left. He told my mom that he liked having me around. When she asked him why, he said, “Because she’s calm.”

It really is true; you never know who you’re setting an example for.

I could have easily gotten into an argument with my uncle. He likes to agitate people, including his own kids, to the point that he provokes an argument. He and my mom argue all the time. But I chose not to. I find his behavior unacceptable and I choose not to repeat it. Does that mean I wasn’t frustrated? No. Does it mean that I didn’t want to say something? Sure, I did. Being calm isn’t always easy. Not responding to a bully isn’t either. But in the end, it’s what I can live with. Being at peace with myself and my actions if more important than debating someone else’s opinions. (And let’s face it, that’s like beating your head on a brick wall anyway. If our own opinions are unlikely to change, why expect someone else’s to?)

So, what does all this have to do with chickens crossing the road again?? Nothing really. I just liked that t-shirt.