Lighter, freer … and living with my parents

I’m sitting in my comfy pajamas as the gray sky outside the window slowly lightens; my sweatshirt cozily hooding my head, and a wool blanket tucked around my legs. My mom is to my left enjoying her coffee, snuggled in her fuzzy bathrobe. Rodney sits to my right, equally cozy in front of the glittering Christmas tree. Nixin is just out of view, snapping together her advent puzzle. We moved in with my parents a couple weeks ago.

This is the third Christmas in a row that my small family (Rodney, Nixin, and I) will be living with my parents in their large home. Many people hear this and think that it’s a situation we resorted to, rather than created. It’s funny to me that the first impression that people have to this news is usually the polar opposite to how we perceive the situation. We don’t have to live with my parents, we choose to and actually very much enjoy it. We have also joined households in the past for economic and familial benefits with no clear goal or target in our sights. This most recent joining of the households, however, has a very different feel to it. This time, an enticing target rests on the horizon and there is an almost imperceptible current subtly pulling us towards an incredible and life-changing adventure. And every day I feel the pace of the current gently increasing.

August 2018 is when we take the final steps to embrace the major life shift we have been working towards. “Eight more months, eight more months!” we sing to ourselves when faced with an irritating situation or task that will be left behind when we board the plane to our next phase of life. It’s really, really going to happen. It’s really, really happening right now!

Yesterday, we officially moved out of our old place; it’s sparkling clean and ready for a new tenant. I remind myself that these aching muscles from determined scrubbing of property and endless hauling of “stuff” will soon be free from both. I have my fingers crossed that I will never clean any of our rental units again. And I am hoping with all my might that by spring, I will be the proud non-owner of several fine rental units. Oh how the tables have turned!! Not long ago, we aimed to become small-scale real estate magnates as part of a goal towards financial independence. Now, we are excited to shed our couple of properties and with them, the last of our debt and business responsibilities.  When we board the plane to Sweden in August, we plan to walk on with our backpacks, and leave zero encumbrances in our wake, either financial or physical. Our remaining ties to Alaska and the United States will be only of the highest value: our family and friends.

So now we’re living with my dear, generous parents. We’ve expunged approximately 90% of our belongings and I’m anxious to get rid of the remaining bits over the next eight months. It feels WONDERFUL!!!! It’s insane how much one small family accumulates in a short period of time. It’s insane how difficult it feels to let go of items once they are in your household. We are vowing to be more deliberate about possessions. It is so easy to accept and purchase more goods because they are useful, because they are beautiful, because they were gifts. But these things weigh us down, use up our precious moments of life, and eat up resources from the earth that can never be replaced. I’m nearly disgusted by our thoughtless accumulation of goods over the years … and ecstatic that our consumer trend line is plummeting in exchange for a freer, lighter existence.

For now, I will sign off because we are off to celebrate that we’ve cleaned a rental unit (fingers crossed) for the last time!!!!

 

Live more like Frida

— Some readers may find the last image on this post disturbing —

I vow to express myself more honestly, without reserve or fear, and to encourage that trait in our daughter.

Well, I actually vow to put effort into developing that trait.

I feel that too often in my life, I held myself back and deferred to other’s opinions and desires. To be polite, I willingly placed myself in the backseat of discussions  and social gatherings, as well as the actual backseat of vehicles. But I also think I put myself in the background because it was easier. And less risky. If your opinions are muted, nobody can challenge or ridicule them.

I want to push myself to become the person I’d like to be. A person unafraid of what other’s think of me, undaunted by the potential reactions and responses to my actions. My life is my own; I need to let myself be me. It’s not that I am dishonest about who I am. I am genuine in my relationships. I believe in honesty. But I haven’t always stood up for what I believe in moments that I should have. I have put too much thought into how others perceive me.

I can’t control the perception of others- they will think what they think. I have just one life and I shouldn’t spend it worrying about what other people might be thinking. I should just live how I want to live. I want to live more like Frida.

Photograph of Frida Kahlo

I honestly don’t know a great deal about this legendary artist, but there are aspects of her character that I am definitely impressed with and would like to cultivate in myself. Frida Kahlo inspires me to nurture my neglected self-confidence, self-expression, and boldness. I want to pursue my interests and follow my inclinations without deferring to the assumed perceptions of others. Frida’s tendency to do what she pleased, with seeming disregard to public opinion, is what first drew me to the artist, although she’s not the first to attract my attention with such characteristics. Tim Ferriss is another well-known, albeit contemporary, figure who inspires me for many of the same reasons. After a little more research, however, I discovered that Frida and I share a mutual, somewhat uncommon experience. It’s a painful and intimate experience which pulls Frida deep into my heart, and forges a strong personal link to this woman who lived and died long before I was born.

Frida was never able to have children. Her physical injuries prevented her from carrying a pregnancy to full term. Frida conceived, but ultimately lost each pregnancy. The losses of her potential children, and the destruction of her dream to have children with her husband, filled her with anguish and tormented her for many years. While it would be unfair for me to claim that I know how she felt, I do empathize with her agony and her need to express the very specific pain of loss. The loss of a life developing within her womb and the loss of her future as she had anticipated. I’m devastatingly familiar with the emotional trauma of loosing a pregnancy. And I’m still figuring out how to rebuild my life from the shards of broken dreams.

We expected to be mothers. We expected that the tiny being developing in our womb would one day lie warm and soft against our breast. We expected that tiny being to one day breathe in fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun while physically representing the love between ourselves and our husbands.  Instead what we experienced was the unexpected.

Even without a common experience, Frida Kahlo would have inspired me to pursue self-expression and self-confidence. Her fearlessness is beautiful and admirable. It is, however, the unexpected and sorrowful link between us which pushes her status as role model to an even higher regard. Frida endured unimaginable physical and emotional pain throughout her life and her dreams of being a medical professional and mother were denied by circumstance. Yet Frida reimagined herself and built a new identity, blessing the world with her creativity, perspective, and talent. The least I can do is choose to be active in my personal development and deliberate in my life; to live in the world and make choices that will make me, and Frida, proud.

Holey moley! It’s not just talk anymore!!

Recently, I’ve been feeling like I’m riding on a whirlwind. I imagine the blustery tornado from “The Wizard of Oz,” lifting up Dorothy’s house, twirling it around, and jettisoning the unsuspecting Dorothy off into another world. It’s a somewhat scary but spectacular world, brimming with self-discovery, new friends, and adventure. It’s not the perfect analogy, but it’s the visual that I’m relating to right now.

Rodney and I have talked and talked, planned and planned, and then talked some more about potential changes to our lifestyle. To be fair, we have made some decent headway and important progress in the last few years, namely in our finances and diet. But we have never taken steps that I would consider to be … dramatic.

Until now.

During our many discussions we always remind ourselves that the lifestyle of our dreams won’t just drop into our laps. It will require decisions and, most importantly, it will require action:

“The unexamined life is not worth living, but if all you’re doing is examining … you’re not living.”

Well, now we’re doing a lot more than just examining. Just this week:

  • we enrolled our daughter in home school
  • we made an appointment with our realtor to put our properties on the market
  • we started to give away our belongings

Whoa.

Whoa, again.

Taking some real action is definitely exhilarating, but it’s also a little … not quite frightening, but … maybe reality-inducing? We find ourselves saying “Oh man, we’re really doing this?!” and “It’s happening!!!”

And then it occurs to me … we’re graduating out of the “big talk” phase. If we truly want to live the life of our dreams, we need to majorly reconstruct our lifestyle and that will require big change. Big change requires much more than big talk.

Maybe we should plan a ceremony, or at least a celebration, because after years of mostly words, Rodney and Dianna Wehr have graduated from Big Talk to Big Action. (Congratulations to ourselves!!)

 

You just never know

“I’ve been thinking; selling the rental properties and not having those responsibilities to deal with while we travel would feel really, really good,” Rodney says to me a few days ago. I sit up a little taller and try not to shriek with joy.

“You are absolutely right,” I say in a voice so calm it surprises me. “We would never have to deal with emergency maintenance bills, nightmare tenants, the inevitably disappointing management help … selling would remove all that potential stress.”

I’ve wanted to sell the properties before we take off, but Rod has been hesitant. Whereas I’ve never much enjoyed being a landlord, Rodney grew up helping out with his parent’s property business and was pretty much raised on construction sites. Rod literally cut his teeth on a wrench (maybe that’s why he needed so much orthodontic work later in life? Ha!).  It’s kind of in his blood, and I think he almost feels like it’s just the right thing to do. We “should” own property because it worked out great for his parents. I completely understand, and do agree. I just don’t enjoy being a landlord. Anyway, regardless of our differing preferences, the little bit of real estate that we own is unquestionably a major component of our longterm investments for “retirement.” For all these reasons (and perhaps others), Rod has resisted my inclination to sell off our property and so I dropped the subject. Instead, we’ve been trying to figure out how to best manage the rentals from afar. Ugh. Headache. Sigh. Sigh again.

Buuuuut, low and behold (and fingers crossed), Rodney may be changing his mind?! The lure of a life without major responsibilities lurking around the corner may be drawing him in? Embrace that notion, my dear husband!!

Eeeeeeeeee!!! (that’s me, no longer containing my shriek of joy!)

We would get on the airplane with only our bodies and backpacks. No obligations or responsibilities back at home requiring our attention. Talk about absolute freedom!! We would have endless doors of opportunity in front of us, and we could walk through any one of them without us first having to consider our responsibilities as property owners. If we didn’t want to, we would never have to return to Alaska. We will definitely want to return, but we would never have to.

Is this just a passing thought for Rodney? Will the property management in his blood outweigh the call of absolute freedom? Apparently not. Several days have passed and Rodney’s enthusiasm to sell has increased, not waned.

We have decided. Absolute freedom wins. We will sell our properties.