We have just returned from another five days aboard our 32 foot Trimaran, Oasis. Allan and I spent a beautiful day relaxing on our mooring in Padanaram Harbor and then on to Cuttyhunk for four days of more beautiful weather, the annual 4th of July golf cart parade and a church service that always makes me cry with its stark simplicity and old time beauty.
Allan and I talk a lot about our vision for the future on these trips. These talks used to be mostly just dreams. While we were living with and caring for my Mom, who was quickly falling down the frightening rabbit hole of dementia, all of those dreams seemed impossibly unattainable. We felt trapped under the crushing and terrifying responsibility of caring for my Mother, as her needs became more and more consuming, and we became more and more frightened, resentful and trapped.
A lot has changed in a year. My Mom is in safe, quality, residential care. She has adjusted fairly well, after a very rocky first six months. It has been an adjustment for us too. For the last few months, we have been slowly limping towards emotional recovery from our long and extremely emotional ordeal. We will sometimes be out to dinner, or at a movie, and I will get that old 8pm panic, that we have to get home so that I can help my mother with her nighttime meds and bedtime. Then I will catch my breath and realize that we don’t have to do that anymore. One night, we stayed on the boat until dark, came ashore, ate dinner out and stopped for ice cream on the way home. Our truck got a flat tire, when we were almost home at 11:30. I did not even care. As I was calling AAA, all I could think about was how thankful I was that my Mom was not waiting at home with a caregiver that we needed to relieve.
When my Mom first went into the nursing home, my husband and I were faced with a lot of big decisions, the primary one being what to do about my family home. My parents bought this townhouse in 1987, while I was away at college. Since my father’s death in 1990, my Mother has been consumed with the idea of staying in it, even though it was way more expensive than what she could afford. For that reason, my brother or I have always lived here with her, sharing expenses and helping her with the cost of the mortgage. The home, on paper, is owned three ways, split between my brother, my Mother and me, but, for the last 13 years, it has been all me and my husband.
Allan and I have never aspired to own our own house. We agreed that home was wherever we were together. We were each other’s home. It was one of the things that we agreed on, very early in our relationship. We knew that both of us had Moms living alone in their own houses. We also knew that we each would be the sibling to help when help was needed. Adding our own house to those responsibilities seemed crazy to us. So we just decided that our role would be to help our Mothers when the time came and live in rental properties in the mean time.
Well, 13 years ago, the time came. We moved back to Massachusetts from the Virgin Islands, to help my Mom, who was in the house alone and not managing well. Allan gave up his dream job,working on a Catamaran for the Ritz Carlton on St. Thomas, and our ordeal began.
When I first began thinking about what we should do with the house, now that my Mother is not insanely fighting to stay here anymore, I had some pretty crazy visions. Allan and I could each get second jobs. If we did that, never used the air conditioning, air dried all of our clothes and wore three or four layers of fleece in the winter, we might be able to stay here. We could take out an additional mortgage, buy my brother out of his share and try to keep the house. Then I sat down with a pen, paper and calculator and did the math. If both of us worked 60 hours a week, we might just make it.
I proposed my plan to Allan and he looked at me like I was ready to be committed to the nearest mental health facility. That was SO NOT what we were going to do, my husband informed me. We were going to do whatever needed to be done to sell the house and all of its contents and then we were going to WALK AWAY, with a few suitcases and a few plastic bins. We would humbly ask his Mom if we could move in with her for a while, work on paying off our debts and get back to the plan we started 18 years ago. He was adamant. Nothing I would say would change his mind. I looked at apartments in our area and realized that he was right. Even by cutting our living expenses, getting rid of the house and moving into an apartment, we would still be trapped in that rat race lifestyle of working a million hours, never having enough leisure time and slaving away to pay the crazy high cost of living in New England. My student loans are coming due and the monthly payment on those will almost equal a rent payment. Moving to a cheaper State is not an option. I see my Mom three times a week at the nursing home. There is a lot that I still need to do for her, so staying close to her is necessary. Plus, we love New England- even after the winter of 2015.
I stewed about my husband’s plan for a few days and then I brought it before God in prayer. I asked Him to show me why this was bothering me so much. After a few days of intense prayer devoted to this topic, God brought me the answer, and it was one that I did not like very much………PRIDE. The answer was pride. My second worst sin. The one, after gluttony, that I struggle with the most. I was worried about what people would think about me. I was worried that people would think I was a loser, because I could not afford my own house. Allan and I knew that if I continued with Graduate School, we would never own a house. We discussed it nine years ago, when I went back to school, and we were totally fine with it then. We discussed it again, six years ago, when we got our boat. If we made the decision to go for the boat, we would surely never own a house. We made the choices- a very expensive education for me and a boat for him. We made the choices and were completely at peace with them, so why was I going into this crazy state of planning million hour work weeks to hold onto a house that we never wanted to live in in the first place????? Pride. Pure and simple pride. Ughhh.
Once I saw it for what it really was, I could repent, ask for forgiveness, and wake up from my temporary stupor. I got on board with Allan’s plan real quick and the more I started imagining what total financial freedom would look like, the more excited I got about it. Wasn’t this, upon closer inspection, a God-given opportunity to REALLY practice the anti- consumerism that I have been preaching for the past year? Wasn’t this a God-given moment to really “put my money where my mouth is?” So, God moved my husband and me back onto the same page. The same page that we were on when we started this journey together eighteen years ago. It feels good and right and blessed and anyone who thinks I am a loser can just keep those thoughts to themselves.
Minimalism…….here we come!!!