image description

My Year of Living Experimentally: Chapter 4

This chapter of MYoLE is full of “ch’s.” Challenges, changes, choices, and checks.

The biggest challenge came when one of my income sources literally picked up and moved away. I was renting the upstairs of my bi-level home and that kept my income fairly predictable. It was a financially precarious moment and it was sudden. Then, it was peaceful.

My changes began as I tried to rent out this space. I had three people within one week suggest that I change my rental into an AirBNB, which is an online way for travelers to reserve actual living spaces from people. It is usually less expensive than a hotel and provides travelers with varied amenities. Back to my point, I pay attention to these kinds of coincidences and gave the idea of having my own AirBNB a good, hard look. A friend in town let me see her AirBNB and how she runs it and I decided that I could do this. Within about ten days of me listing an empty apartment with one room with a mattress on a floor, I had bookings.

Despite this great change, the financial hit of losing a steady income forced me into my last stash of emergency money, which was scary. However, it took care of my property taxes and my minimal needs, while furnishing the upstairs. I now have a lovely upstairs that I can enjoy when guests are not here. Bookings are increasing and I enjoy meeting new people. They are happy to have a full-sized apartment where they can cook meals instead of a small room at a motel where they have to eat out.

Through this year, I have always had enough money, often just enough to get by, but enough. I have weathered this last financial storm without being late on my bills or getting any overdrafts. I came close to both. In fact, I got down to single digits in my bank account the day a bill was due. The check I had been waiting on came through that day. I take this as affirmation that I am doing the right thing.

Still, I get panicky around money issues. Despite the evidence that everything is okay, that I’m budgeting carefully, and living simply, money stuff alarms me. Even when it is good news, a large check with commas between numbers and everything can make me as apprehensive as a large bill. So, this means that the problem is not money, but my attitude towards it. Another change to implement here, that feeling of lack that pervades my life has nothing to do with reality.

Whatever my issue may be with money, I do not struggle with concept of value. I value my life deeply. It is splendid and wonderful and gratifying.

In my last job, I often worked long hours doing something that was fulfilling and meaningful. But, it stole time and energy from what I am passionate for. I would sit at my desk doing paperwork, not the fulfilling part of my job, and would ask myself these questions. What am I buying with this job? What kind of life am I buying to have this time-consuming, passion-robbing job?

For a time, I had a very good answer to those questions. Therefore, I am not sorry for the experience. What I bought was important. Interestingly, the job ended within weeks after that obligation ended.

Thus began my journey towards this year of living experimentally. I had been out of a job for several months, having already committed to starting my own business. Some income was steady. Some was erratic. But, I muddled through, still looking at the want ads, the websites, the opportunities I heard about. A job means security: a business means insecurity. I grappled with my yearning to feel secure which is nice, but not always true. Security can be a myth. My need for independence and meaning in my life outweighed my desire for a more predictable format for my existence.

Last night, I played first flute in the Emporia Symphony Orchestra. We performed Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, the “Pastoral.” It is one of the greatest works of music ever written by one of the greatest composers who ever lived. The flute part is magnificent and playing it was glorious. Truly, it will be one of the most memorable musical performances of my life.

It would be easy to look at that same moment and judge it harshly as only being a small city orchestra of community members and university students. It was a good performance, a strong performance, but not the best performance of Beethoven’s work. I could make it small and meaningless or just devalue it.

However, I had this amazing conversation with a Masters student after the concert. We agreed that it was a wonderful concert and we were feeling the high it generated. That high is unlike anything else I experience.

She and I talked about the fact that in the entire world, there were only some orchestras performing on Tuesday, November 15, 2016. Of those orchestras, only a few would play Beethoven's 6th. Imagine that there were five concerts on the globe that performed Beethoven's 6th Symphony. With about sixty players per orchestra, it adds up to 300 people. Only 300 people in the entire world performed Beethoven's 6th on that evening. Only five flutists got to play a nightingale's song. Out of the 7 billion people in the world, this is what I got to do. This is why my life is exquisite.

I cannot buy this in a store. I cannot medicate my moods to feel that very real experience of a concert high. The beauty of my life is that my life is full of beauty.

The illustration above has paintings by Charlotte Nickel, who is my artist friend. We have been sharing our struggles as artists and overcoming them. These are two of her still life works, which I love and purchased from her. You should check out her abstracts (and other stills). They are gorgeous! https://thenickelstudio.wordpress.com/