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Simplified Living

It's Not That Simple!

A Costa Rican Sunset, Glorious.

It’s
been 18 months since we sold nearly everything in an effort to lead a
more simple life, and to free up our financial resources
and our selves to travel more. During those 18 months, we have been
to Costa Rica twice, Panama, Nicaragua, multiple Hawaiian islands on
two different trips, and spent two summers on a gorgeous Maine island, where
we rent a small studio apartment with a deck that provides wonderful
sunset views over the mainland. We feel incredibly blessed to have
been to all these places, to have met inspiring and soulful people
from around the world, and to be in partnership with the majestic
plants, animals, and earth that sustain us. Each experience has
brought teaching moments for us and smiles as wide as possible. So, I
move forward in writing these words with deep gratitude for family,
new and longtime friends, colleagues, and all the majesty that nature
provided along the way.

I am also writing these words with an underlying sense of anxiety. I
wanted to share the feelings behind this anxiety because a lot of
people look at us and think one of two things: 1) we are crazy, or 2)
wow, that is so cool that you sold everything and you are traveling. Sometimes I think we are crazy and other times I feel we have made the absolute right decision.   

Getting to this point of simplicity, though, has not been, well, that simple. At least for me it has not been that
simple. Here’s why.

  1. I
    am, generally, an anxious dude. Especially around money. By
    minimizing our material belongings and by living in a small rented
    space, I have freed up a lot of time to write and create. (We are
    working on a new jewelry line as well!). This is a good thing. I now
    have more time to think. This can be a bad thing as I can think
    myself into negative thought patterns, with a focus on how are we
    going to make ends meet financially. When I cycle into the negative
    thoughts, my anxiety escalates and this is not beneficial for my spirit
    and my true mission of wanting to spread as many positive vibes as
    possible.

  2. I
    am struggling with the concept that we do not have a base from which
    to operate our To Live For venture, to which we can return to
    regroup after long travel, and where we can host friends and family
    for meals and visits. While the idea of reestablishing a base would
    help part of my spirit, and probably reduce some of my unsettled
    anxiety, my wife is right in saying that an old friend will return
    to my inner sanctum, and that’s the voice that says we have limited
    financial resources since we would be paying a mortgage, property
    insurance, taxes, heating costs, etc and we probably will not be
    able to travel nearly as much. The end result is my anxiety will
    ramp up.

  3. I
    miss my girls and part of me feels that if we had a permanent home
    close to them, we would connect more often. The beauitful one room
    studio we rent during the summer months makes it challenging to host visits, as does the long (but very beautiful) drive to our island space, but the
    flip side is that by reducing our financial imprint, we are able to
    provide some financial support to the 4 children we have between us
    (ages 20 to 24 this Fall). I also take some solace in believing that
    by living this simple lifestyle we are teaching our children that there are
    many ways to experience this world and we don’t have to take the
    same path as everyone else.

  4. This
    is the first summer of being free of many traditional financial
    obligations and it is the first summer when I actually have time to
    write regularly. I have already had moments, if not hours, though,
    when I have asked my self, “Okay, what should I do now?” I
    am having a hard time relaxing and allowing the creative energies to
    flow now that we are back on the mainland USA after being away for 8
    months. I can feel my body trying to slip back into the high paced and materialistic lifestyle that we used to live.

  5. Underlying
    all of the above is the general existential questions we all ask
    ourselves. “Why am I here” and if I think I know why I am
    here, “Am I doing it the right way?” “Is my writing making
    a difference?” “Am I making a difference?”

So,
you may be thinking, “What the heck is Paul complaining about,
or how can he have anxiety if he is traveling 8 months out of the year and he is hanging out on a beautiful Maine island during the summer?”
Well, you see, as my wife and I often admit to each other, I am a ‘piece of work’ or a ‘work in progress,’ and I
am just saying that there still exists an inward battle between remaining
on a simplified path versus returning to the high paced, fast lane.

Jumping into the unknown – not always that simple – but I am going to keep trying.

I
attribute my underlying anxiety to a couple of concepts.

  1. This
    is my human condition (and that of many others) and so it is my
    lesson to learn how to calm the anxiety and trust the process more. It just is who I am. This is my challenge to
    overcome. I can use a lot of energy
    trying to figure out why I allow this anxious energy to some times infiltrate my day or I can use my energy to write and to focus on other positive actions. My call. My choice. Still working on this!

  2. The
    concept of having materialistic things is part of the American
    culture. Have you been to Costco or Walmart lately and noticed the
    size of the large screen televisions? I noticed last night at a
    restaurant that every car parked there was a large SUV. We aren’t
    driving small, fuel efficient cars anymore. Our culture is hooked on
    ‘bigger is better.’ Our culture wants more and
    wants bigger of more. I have to fend these energy fields off when I
    am back on the mainland.

Again,
please do not construe these observations as complaints or
judgements. I am simply trying to share the notion that living
simply, after 55 years of living the traditional American lifestyle,
is not a simple concept in which to slide effortlessly. I am having
to work hard at this.

Speaking
of work, we do still work even though we have let go of many financial obligations except rent, food, cell phone, and health
insurance. In reality, we are working to meet these few financial needs and
so that we can keep traveling. This past winter we were blessed to
manage a small hotel while on the Big Island. This was an awesome
experience that combined travel and ‘work’ so it was a win-win for us. Wherever we go, Donna Maria can provide
holistic healing sessions and teach yoga, and I can offer
healing and consulting services, as well. What is nice is
that we don’t have to work any of these gigs at 40 hours a week
unless we choose to.

This
is a good place to say our hotel gig was at least 60 hours a week for each of us, and
we worked nearly 180 days in a row. That is not our preferred way
of doing things, but it was an experience that taught us so much as
we go forward on this intentional journey of letting go and seeking
service wherever we feel called. By working nearly 180 days, I FINALLY realized I can choose to live each day under my terms, which has allowed
this young summer to be the most relaxing one I have had in many
years. As a consultant I can work a schedule that is best for me, and
by not owning a whole lot, I simply do not have to work as many
hours.

I
am still decompressing from working that 180 days in a row. But more
importantly, I realize I am still decompressing from 55 years of
owning a lot and working hard.

Now,
I am working hard at not working hard. It’s a process to let go of
what we once had, but there’s something about the concept of staying
in this simplified mode that keeps pulling at me. So, I am going to
keep trying to resist going back to my traditional way of living with
the help of writing, medittaion, stillness, and being in nature.

I
will keep you posted on the process and thanks for checking in.

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