Sometimes you need to be still…

For two years I’ve lived out of a suitcase. Two years.

I never saw that coming.

The past two years, since we sold the house in Ketchikan, we’ve worked in small communities in SE Alaska, lived in temporary duty clinic housing, and traveled.

We’ve traveled a lot.

And that’s been good. We’ve traveled for work and traveled for fun, spent time with family and friends, and seen some amazing places. We sorted through a lot of stresses, a lot of questions, as individuals, and as a couple.

We didn’t really have a plan when this chapter began. We just sort of fell into this life. Mostly we couldn’t decide what we wanted, where we wanted to make a home again. We still haven’t decided. And the thing about Alaska is, there’s always plenty of work. It’s easy to ride the circuit of clinics, spending a few weeks or a month at a time, take a break, then make the rounds again. It’s easy to stay busy when you can’t make a decision.

But as of this month, we’re creating a hub again.

We didn’t buy a house, or settle on our “happily ever after” place. We haven’t retired, and we’re not working full-time either.

One of the locations where we’ve worked on a regular basis has individual clinic housing available that we can use with a limited commitment, so we’re taking the offer of housing, more stability, and a space to unpack, for the first time in a long time.

My personal commitment to Alaska is on the horizon. I have roughly four years to go to my next decade, and that’s the timeline I’m working with.

While I’m slightly giddy about seeing my Kitchen Aid again, spreading out, and having access to all my wardrobe in one place, this decision also serves other needs.

There’s no doubt we’ll be here more regularly, even though I expect we’ll still be working in other locations on occasion. It will be good to have a part in adding stability to this clinic. We’re not indispensable…no one is…but we have a contribution to make.

The other thing I’ve realized is: I need some stillness in my life.

In the past year I wrote a book, launched a site, I’m creating an online course, and I’m developing webinars and videos. All of it was done between working in three different locations, traveling back and forth cross-country, and trying to make sure I had the right clothes for the right season and occasion in my trusty roller bags.

Some days I’m disheartened because I have so much I want to do, and I feel so slow at accomplishing.

I finally recognized I’m never going to progress unless I slow down and carve out some space, and time. I’ve been telling myself if I’m focused, if I want to take my online work to the next level, I just have to try harder, be more determined.

What I really need is to slow down a bit. I need to be in the same place for more than two weeks at a stretch. I need to spend more time writing, and less time packing.

I need to set up my little home studio and leave it in place, rather than trying to cart it around with me. I need to use the timeline I set for Alaska as the timeline for my personal work goals as well.

Even as I write this, we’ve got more travel lined up for the fall. But I think the difference is in my mindset. There’s a place in this home that’s just right for a little creative nook, and I’m excited to have more time to invest in the work I’ve committed to.

So much about the last decade has been unexpected. To be honest, that pretty much sums up my experience of Alaska. Unexpected. Some good, some not-so-good. But this is a twist I hope will be in the first category.

And maybe my roller bags will get a well-earned break. 🙂

~ Sheila

 

 

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Selling Alaska

I wear many hats in my day job. Working in healthcare has stretched me in ways I didn’t expect. Some of my tasks are straightforward…arranging meetings, trainings, working with electronic records, learning the work flow of clinic front office processes. Others allow for more creativity, more flexibility, require attention to details of individual need and style.

Recruiting for open provider positions falls into this second category. Selling a vision of professional satisfaction, personal choices, family stability in a new environment, all while keeping yourself and your message honest about the pros and cons of the opportunity you offer…it’s a challenge from the start.

You find yourself trying to read the people you talk with, imagining them in the setting you know well, wondering if they’ll be successful, weathering the difficulties of life in rural Alaska, and celebrating the triumphs.

Rob calls practicing in the small clinics of remote fishing villages “earning the stethoscope.”

I call it brave, sometimes foolhardy, not a choice for the faint of heart.

When you have to ferry out to the nearest hospital, or on a good weather day, take a float plane, advanced care options are not easy to come by. Actual medevacs cost a fortune, most of which we pay for via tax dollars.

I’m always amazed at the folks who live in the middle of nowhere, on tiny islands, and who regularly appear in the local clinic for any and every need under the sun. They travel out of town, going to regional hospitals for specialty consults, surgeries, treatments. They come back home to recover, to live out their days….some to overcome and thrive, others to give up and resign themselves to dying at home, in their own space.

The people who come to work in these clinics are often wide-eyed idealists, imagining they’ll have an Alaskan adventure, experience a frontier with all the romance and excitement the travel brochures promise. The folks who are transplants to Alaska mix with the local staff, people who understand the land, the life, and the limitations of practice here.

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The beauty is here, for sure, and the adventure too. But you have to really want it to get much of it…too often the hiking, fishing, exploring, and traveling charms that lure people to work here are elusive…too much of life is consumed with work, and traveling out to visit family, to tend to other life needs…it can be surprisingly difficult to work in Alaska and have much time to really enjoy leisure here, in my experience.

A lot of people come to pay off school debt, to put aside some nest egg money, work in under-served communities to fulfill a service obligation of some sort.

The health care shortage the whole country experiences seems amplified here, where people can’t easily drive to the next community over, likely have one clinic and maybe one or two providers to choose from for their primary care.

Every clinic in this region is recruiting, looking for a few good men and women who’ll be clinical super-heroes, serving patients and trying to keep from burn-out.

If I sound dramatic, I don’t mean to. It’s just the reality of doing a hard job in a beautiful but challenging environment. You never know what you’ll have to deal with, and you may have to deal quite a while before you can send your emergency patient on to a hospital.

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We’re interviewing a candidate this week, hoping to connect with a person who’s up to the challenge…someone who will be able to weather the weather, the annual 13 feet of rain that falls in this rainforest, and the small town setting that feels like a fishbowl at times.

The bait…the beauty of the land, the ocean, the trees…it’s amazing when you see it, green and blue and so big you can’t believe it. But it takes a special sort to take the relative isolation, the limited options of restaurants and stores and amenities. The other major resource is the people that live here: resilient, often self-reliant, taking life as it comes.

To be honest…and I am honest with these people…it’s a mistake to be anything but honest…I can only take it so long myself. Working part-time here works because it’s part-time. I love the beauty, but I’m more into eating salmon than catching it. And while I don’t need mega malls or big cities, I’ll admit I miss the road system I so took for granted when it was always just outside my door in the lower 48. And a few other conveniences that can be hard to come by in fishing villages.

But some people wear it like a glove, snuggling into the small town settings, finding joy in the community and the fishing and the boats and the water. That’s the person we hope to find. Helps to find a couple…this is a hard place to look for a significant other. And great medical skills are a must.

Here’s hoping for a good fit! The only thing worse than not persuading a candidate to take your open position is persuading the wrong candidate to take your open position. Trust me, a bad fit is never a good thing.

So we’re honest, but we’re also selling…selling a lifestyle, a place, professional opportunity, financial security.

Know anyone who would be a good fit? Send them my way! I have an adventure to share!

Some days

Back working in Alaska again for a stretch, and picking up the threads of all my projects. I seem to have a never-ending list! Not that I think I’m alone in that. Who doesn’t have a list?

Lately my list has been a little fuller. I’m brushing off some long-unused skills and trying to recall what I’ve ever known of design programs. Admittedly most of my knowledge was via on-the-job learning. Back in the day, when I was in college, Adobe products weren’t even a glint in a designer’s eye. Now I’m learning with books, and the ever-helpful tutorials that abound online. I’m doing this as part of a multi-prong approach to creating digital income, and it occurred to me that it would be helpful to have a few more skills in the digital world.

So there’s that, and my second Kindle book which has been languishing for the past several weeks, waiting for me to pull it out again. Then my blog is wondering if I moved away and forgot to pack it along.

And there’s work, as in, what I am actually paid real money to do.

I’m so grateful to live in a time when so much is at my fingertips. It’s a rich experience, learning and growing, all at the touch of a few buttons and some time and effort.

But, I remind myself, life exists off-line as well. It’s easy to get sucked in by the vast world that lives behind my screen.

And if I’m always looking that direction, I miss so much.

Like this:

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Riley and Pete the Cat, preschool mascot

Or this:

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The boy, blowing bubbles for Gram

I don’t get bubbles from my laptop. I don’t know…maybe I don’t visit the right sites?

Nothing replaces reality. I can do a lot from my sofa, and learn a lot without going into a classroom. But on days when I feel like I haven’t looked up, I stretch and yawn and remember:

What I’m really invested in is out there, the people in my life.

I’ve always been able to draw that line between my work and personal life. I find it a little more challenging when work can follow me home, follow me to the sofa, be in front of me as soon as I click on my screen.

It takes discipline to create income out of hobbies, out of interests that have potential. And I want to be one of the people that finds that key to unlock the door.

But I don’t want to get sucked dry by the process, consumed by the ease of access.

I realize, now while I still am in the formative stage of creating online work, I need to set boundaries and schedules. Yes, I want to be able to work from anywhere, and anytime I choose.

But I don’t want to find myself working everywhere, all the time.

That’s not the plan.

Is it?

Aaahhh…there’s a difference in convenience and flexibility, and being consumed by the tool I’m using.

I don’t want the dream of creating my work world to become the monster that devours me.

For now, that isn’t likely to happen. For one thing, I can’t generate income without a regular job, which keeps me grounded and tied to a somewhat regular schedule. These thoughts are really about the future.

But this is the time to plan. What do I want more of? Endless time online?

Or bubbles?

Which do you think I picked?

Happy Sunday!  ~ Sheila

Too busy to choose?

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.   ~ Old Zen saying

I find it easy to be busy. Easy to let the tasks of life fill the days and create a sense of pressure. And though I’ve streamlined my holiday plans, December is not a month that lends itself to a slower pace.

Well, let’s be honest…is there any month that slows down? Not on my calendar.

And if I’m already busy, how am I supposed to carve out extra time to sit and meditate? Or find the quiet for reading and reflection?

It’s like so many other paradoxes in life:

The more love you give away, the more you have.

Without darkness there can be no light.

The pursuit of happiness makes people unhappy.

What is this strange logic that works in spite of itself?

The way I make sense of it is to understand the power of deliberate choice.

I can’t tell you how much time I’ve lost doing useful things that were unplanned. I sidetrack myself when I sit down to online work and before I begin I have to check email, my bank balance, my credit card charges, my this, my that, my other….All helpful, but not necessarily helping me to the end point, the goal of why I sat down with my computer in the first place.

Other times it’s errands. I have something that I need to do, but I tack on other stops since I’m out. Sometimes I lose whole afternoons to things that didn’t have to be, just because I was out and about anyway.

That may sound like good planning, batching running around and being efficient.

But the busyness also gives me a false sense of accomplishment. It’s easy to get to the end of one of those days and kid myself that I’ve done a lot, when in fact I’ve done very little that I needed to do, or wanted to do.

I’ve done what was in front of me to do, just following the line of busyness right into exhaustion.

But when I choose and stick to my choices, I control the game. When I set aside an hour to meditate, or an hour to read something powerful, I know I won’t have time to check all my favorite sites, or watch a casual hour of TV. I’ve chosen, I’ve committed myself. The decision is made up front, and I’m not even tempted to the things that nickel and dime my hours.

I’m still working on the discipline to set a specific time to read, and a time to meditate. I’ve been traveling, and that’s never a time to create a new routine.

But the paradox is also…if I put off until it’s convenient, it will never happen.

When I tell myself I’m too busy, I’m not always truthful. I may be filling my time, but I’ll acknowledge there’s a big difference between busy and productive.

Not that I think there’s no room for down time in life. Of course I need the down time, the lazy afternoons or slow mornings when I feel the luxury of a change of pace or the joy of the unexpected.

I try to get around this with lists. Yes, I’ve written about the power of lists before, and how as a list maker I’m compelled to check off things as they’re done. But here’s the thing…if I’m deliberate about sticking to my list, I’m better about avoiding the time-suckers. Because you know what never makes it on my list?

Funny, I never list browsing on Pinterest.

I never schedule time for catching up on Facebook.

I never set aside time to aimlessly wander the internet.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, she hastened to add!

But you know what I mean. It’s ok to do it now and then. But too many of those side trips and I’ve eaten up my hour to sit, or my time to read something inspiring, given away all my opportunity for real, and substituted illusion.

Do you ever catch yourself doing that? Give up real for illusion?

One of the words I heard over and over again at the meditation retreat was “balance.” The need for balance is a struggle for most people, and that’s pretty well acknowledged. There are whole book store aisles devoted to time management and work/life balance, personal/family balance, etc., etc., etc.

However you manage it, here’s my tip: Choose, and choose wisely. Be deliberate. Be intentional. Be picky. Be focused. Be honest with yourself and with your time.

And maybe, just maybe, the next time you’re really busy? You’ll find yourself sitting for an hour, and you’ll know it was just what you needed to do.

Hope overcomes doubt.

No guilt, no telling yourself you don’t have time.

Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.  ~ Frank Herbert

Here I go!

I’ve been in a bit of an upheaval in the past few weeks. My house is once again on the market, which feels good. I’m hopeful, fearful, wondering about next. But this also gives me a lot of motivation and incentive to tackle some chores that I’ve been avoiding for a while now…the dreaded sort, pulling out and evaluating everything with a view to: KEEP / DON’T KEEP and SELL / DONATE. Or worst of all: WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS????

There are a lot of questions to answer, and work that I’m still doing..will be doing until I’m literally heading out of town. And that’s good too. Busy keeps me going, productive, and positive. And who knows how long it will take to sell? I don’t want to jinx myself, but you never know about these things.

I’m trying my hand at a few new things. I decided to use my Alaska experience as a bridge to a new adventure, so I’ve written a short e-book, So, You Want to Move to Alaska? Hot off my keyboard today. I self-published on Amazon’s Kindle site, and whether it sells two copies or two thousand, it was a good experience for me to work through. It takes a day or so to show up on the Kindle site, and I’m excited to see how it looks in final form. I see they offer an option for updating, even after the initial publication, so that reassures me in case I find a typo right away. Even after proofing, it seems like there’s always something missed.

I understand that non-fiction books are a good source of ongoing income…the more you work at putting titles out, the more chance you’ll make sales. The price is low…$2.99, but the idea is to make up in volume what you lose in the per-book sales amount. I’ve got a second title already in the works.

Anyway, the process is free. I wouldn’t say it was painless, but I think I’ll be able to do a second book much more easily now that I’ve been through it once.

My little Kindle book!

I’m also launching a YouTube video channel. Or at least I’m working on doing that. I’ve got a camera in hand, and I’m sorting out the process, and content.

I’m also changing the focus of ReVision Me. I had initially thought I would use that site as a business platform for writing and editing, focusing on healthcare documents…policies, strategic plans, etc. But I find my heart isn’t really in that. I’m still working in that world for my day-to-day income needs. But now I think I’ll focus the concept of ReVision on women my age…maybe men too, eventually, but it seems safe to begin with the gender I know.

In taking stock of where I am in life, I realize, for what it’s worth, that I could be a poster child for AARP. I’m 53, female, vibrant, energetic, looking to renew and extend my working life. I have a multitude of interests outside of work, I have extended family and a wide range of life experiences. I love the digital world, and I think I have something to offer.

I know there are already a lot of sites that cater to women, and even women of my profile. But I have a voice too, and I want to use it. So, I’ll be updating some of the work I had done on ReVision Me to bring it to a new focus. I set it up on the WordPress.org platform and will likely have affiliate advertising to help sponsor the site….another new adventure.

And last, I’m thinking about Etsy. Not sure how I can be part of that marketplace, but I’m intrigued, and I have been for a while now.

My challenge is to focus, and to look toward a new launch. Waiting is always the hardest part, isn’t it? Maybe if I’m busy enough it won’t be too too scary.

Fresh picks

I’ve been on my own the past couple of weeks, back in Alaska to do a little work for income, and to have a little work done on the house. I’m focused on policies and grants for one clinic, and filling in for the medical staff coordinator at the local hospital. The variety keeps me on my toes, keeps me learning and productive.

On the home front, the house and deck were power washed and some of the paint was refreshed. With a house that’s almost 100 years old, there’s always some project in the works. The replacement glass for my cracked front window has arrived and I almost had that replaced yesterday. But no, the weather didn’t cooperate. We had a gale of a storm and had to postpone until June. My hedges and trees are all trimmed up, and I have a new lock on my fuel oil tank. So I’ve marked off a few of my to-dos.

But it’s not all been work. There’s been cooking too! Or at least some cooking, and some prep for future yumminess.

Last week I bought a king salmon, the first one of the season. Here’s that beauty:

Alaskan King

Alaskan King

Thank goodness it came without the head and tail and guts. I don’t need any of those, although I hear I’m really missing out by not making fish head soup. But someone else can enjoy that delicacy. I’ll just content myself with the non-head parts. I’m taking some of the fish I vacuum sealed and froze down to California for a little Memorial Day grilling. See, I know how to get ready to camp. 🙂

Ready to freeze

Ready to freeze

I couldn’t resist trying my hand at smoking some of the fresh king. I borrowed a Little Chief smoker and researched a brine recipe. Here’s my finished product:

Smoked to perfection!

Smoked to perfection!

The smoked salmon makes a great dip. I can’t give exact amounts, but try blending smoked salmon and a block of cream cheese to a chunky paste in a food processor. Some people add onion or other seasonings, but I like just the salmon and cream cheese. Serve with water crackers or whatever dipper you like. Easy and delicious!

I made a quick pickled salad this week. You could use any firm vegetable. I used diced cucumber, cherry tomatoes (cut in half), diced red onion, and diced baby bell peppers. I made an oil and apple cider vinegar dressing and seasoned it with a little sugar and salt and pepper. Again, no measurements…just mix to taste. (You’ll want enough dressing to coat the veggies, but not so much that they’re swimming in it.) Chill in the fridge to give the veggies time to absorb the flavor of the dressing. It’s a cool and crunchy light lunch or dinner.

Healthy lunch!

Healthy lunch!

Beautiful and simple

Beautiful and simple

And last but not least, I harvested my rhubarb this week. Rhubarb is a late comer to my life. I discovered it about a decade ago and immediately fell in love with the tartness and the way it pairs so well with other flavors to make amazing desserts.

I started my rhubarb crop here in Ketchikan with one plant a friend gave me. This stuff is hardy. You plant it and forget about it. Two or three times each summer I have enormous leaves and stalks that demand attention. The rhubarb is planted behind the hedge in my front garden, and when I begin to see the leaves poking out above the hedge, I know it’s time to harvest. You can cut the plant down to the ground and it grows right back. Let me just say, here and now, this is my kind of gardening! Seems indestructible, impervious to weather, and I literally do nothing but cut it back a few times a year.

I should have made a photo of the plant, but I wasn’t in blog mode when I was in harvest mode, so you’ll have to google “rhubarb” if you want to see the the full glory. I’ve been told that rhubarb likes cooler climates, which is probably why I first met it in Colorado and renewed my acquaintance here in Alaska. My grandmothers, who grew most fruits and vegetables known to man, didn’t grow rhubarb, so I assume it would not do well in the heat of a Mississippi summer. Which explains why I missed out on this taste for so long.

The edible part of the plant is the stalk, which looks a lot like celery, except it is a deeper green and has shades of red and pink as well. You cut the stalks off and remove the large leaf that grows at the end of the stalk. Then you wash and dice. That’s it! You can use the fresh rhubarb to make all sorts of dishes. I see savory recipes and I’ve even tasted a couple. But I’ll admit, I just use it for desserts and sweets.

You can make rhubarb pie, rhubarb crisp, rhubarb jam. You typically see rhubarb paired with another fruit, and the classic choice is strawberries. Yes, yes, that’s a good flavor. But do yourself a favor. If you can get your hands on rhubarb, pair it with orange. Orange zest, orange marmalade, orange juice. Nothing. like. it.

Here’s my rhubarb journey this week:

From 1 (!) plant!

From 1 (!) plant!

 

You cut the long stems off the base of the plant and have these celery-like stalks. They’re even a little stringy like celery. The only thing I do is wash and chop. You’ll have different widths but honestly I can’t detect any difference in texture or flavor once the rhubarb is cooked down, so I use the small tender stalks as well as the monster wide ones.

Chopped!

Chopped!

I used a little for a sweet treat (reward for my two weeks of work!) and popped the rest into freezer bags. It’s the easiest thing to freeze. I just chop and bag. No need to blanch or prep in any other way.

Ready to go

Ready to go

And now, just to whet your appetite!

Dessert for two: (or just me 🙂 )

Butter the bottom of a small baking dish. Spread a layer of chopped rhubarb and lightly sprinkle with brown sugar. I added a couple of teaspoons of orange marmalade, then topped the fruit with a crumb mixture. The crumb mixture is a combination of quick cook oatmeal, brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and a couple of tablespoons of butter. Spread the crumb mixture on top of the fruit and bake at 350, about 25 minutes, or until the crumb topping is lightly browned. Voila! Dessert, or snack, or whatever you need to call it to eat it as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Rhubarb and orange layer

Rhubarb and orange layer

Crumb topping

Crumb topping

All I need is ice cream!

All I need is ice cream!

If you want to mix in other goodness, add nuts or raisins. You can also do this with strawberries or apples instead of the marmalade. I just happen to like the orange, so that’s always my first choice to pair with rhubarb.

Happy start to the summer! And happy Memorial Day! Thank you to all the people who’ve given so much to freedom and our way of life. Remember them while you’re enjoying family and friends this weekend, and find a man or woman wearing the uniform to thank.

 

Get moving

So, I took my own advice and decided to quit wandering in the valley of technology and self-education. I’ve found a small design firm that I’ll be working with in the coming months to help me move to the next level with a business website and integrated design plan.

Aaaahhh…that’s the sound of my brain cells relaxing, thanking me, and getting ready to focus.

Actually, I think focus is one of the biggest challenges of our era. There’s so much coming at you, every waking moment. I like technology, gadgets, and all the positives.

But I finally had to admit: I’m just not able to absorb everything I need to learn, keep my current work going, keep up with my travel schedule, manage my day to day, and kid myself that I have energy left to launch a digital business. Just not possible.

I was reading a post a few days ago about outsourcing things to virtual assistants to free time for creative thinking and higher productivity. And I realized…why am I trying to learn how to set up a business website? I don’t have that expertise, and in the time it takes me to create a site, I could pay someone else to do it for me, and be working on building a client base.

I read so much about how easy it is to set up a website…well, WordPress made it easy enough to create a blog. And if I put 40 hours a week on this project, I might be able to do it for myself. But that’s not happening, and it’s not going to happen.

As I often say…I’m a slow learner and a late bloomer. But I think this will give me the boost I need to move forward. And that’s a good thing, because frankly, doing it the other way…trying to be a team of one…has been exhausting. I see so many people on line who look like they’ve created an amazing blog/business/website that’s an overnight success. Maybe that’s true for some, and maybe it isn’t. Maybe the sites I see that look like the lone entrepreneur is the only one behind the work…maybe there’s really a team effort going on. Whatever. The reality is, it doesn’t matter. What matters is finding a way to pursue my goals. I don’t think there’s a special medal for doing it all on my own.

I’m looking forward to focusing on the things I can do…creating content and looking at ways to add value to service and product…and getting out of the way of professionals who can give me a beautifully designed site.

And yesterday I picked up some more work for the summer, so my costs for this boost will be covered.

Just seemed like a little message from the universe. 🙂

“Make a pact with yourself today to not be defined by your past. Sometimes the greatest thing to come out of all your hard work isn’t what you get for it, but what you become for it.”   Steve Maraboli

Chooser

I often write about the challenges of life at my stage: empty-nester, part-time worker, full-time budding entrepreneur, wife, mom to young adults, grandparent, daughter, friend. The intent is to share the struggles and epiphanies I’m having with the hope of helping someone else who’s struggling too. I haven’t got it sorted out! Life is a work in progress, but I’ve learned a few things along the way. I’m a slow learner, and a late bloomer. But here’s what I know today…

It’s good to be home! I know, it’s a common theme with me. Two weeks out of town for vacation and a family visit, and then two weeks working at the Metlakatla clinic, and I’m done. At least for the next three weeks. These are mine to enjoy at home.

Home is complicated right now. We have a house in Ketchikan, which I love, but we’re spending limited time here these days. Between time working in Metlakatla, and time out and about for personal reasons, days to putter around in my own little nest are hard to come by. It hasn’t always been that way. In fact, most of my life has fit the norm…parenting, working, raising children, and though the location changed a few times throughout the years, the basic pattern was set.

A couple of years ago, Rob backed out of full-time practice with the promise to himself that he was done with that lifestyle. Too stressed, burned out, and exhausted to do full-time medicine any more. So now he works part-time, and for the moment, that’s in three different clinics in SE Alaska.

We tried the arrangement of me working in a full-time position and staying with the house, and him out and about, working, coming home, leaving again to work, coming home, leaving again…it was wearing, and lonely, and not what either of us signed up for. But for Rob, the variety is good. He enjoys moving about a bit. The change-up of the routine is good. And I’ll be honest, he’s not wedded to home and stuff as I am.

I like my stuff. I’ve spent a lot of time and a fair amount of money accumulating what I have. I love to putter about in the kitchen, using the gadgets and tools I have to try new dishes. I love pretty linens on the bed, comfy furnishing that have a look of warmth and tradition. I love the books on my shelves and the art on the walls. It all speaks to me, of people I love or a mood I want to evoke.

But that isn’t what comforts Rob. He’s a wanderer, and a nomad. Through much of our marriage he lived life in the traditional way, because that was the model we knew, and we were raising kids. But that’s changed, and with the empty nest has come new freedom. Freedom for both of us, in different ways. It has freed us financially, to some extent, and it has removed the need to keep a stable home base for growing children.

So now what? I’ve written about making the choice to leave my full-time work. It was two years ago in January. I’ve already lived a semi-nomadic life two years. Some of it has been amazing. Some of it has been fun. And there have been moments of weariness, times when I said, over and over in my mind, like a litany, “I just want my life back. I just want to go home.” Those moments have been few. But they have been part of the tapestry.

This week I said, as we sat over a late breakfast, looking out on the Tongass Narrows from our front windows, that it was good to be home. That I miss my things, that right now, I live a crazy life that keeps me on the run, and often somewhat adrift. Rob looked at me and asked, “Why is that?” I was in the process of answering when I got interrupted, and we never really finished the conversation. But I can finish it. I can give the answer.

I’m living a crazy life right now because I made a choice. I made a choice to match my lifestyle to what was working for my husband. He didn’t demand that I do it. He didn’t make it a requirement of the relationship in any way. I made the choice, and I’m committed to the choice because I realized, after trying to do it differently, it was all or nothing. I couldn’t keep a foot in both camps…happily married and living alone for weeks at a time. It wasn’t good for the relationship, and to be honest, I got almost no pleasure out of my things when I had them all to myself. Things do not replace people. And though I knew it in my head, it wasn’t until I found myself living that reality, that I knew it by heart.

If I learned anything about myself during the time that we lived mostly apart, it was that a lot of my pleasure in homekeeping and cooking comes from the relationships around me. If I’m cooking dinner for the two of us, or for a crowd, I enjoy every piece of it: planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, eating. Even the cleanup is a validation of time well spent, and spent with loved ones. If I’m by myself, I have little-to-no interest in any of it. My enthusiasm dries up. I lost weight when we were living apart. I hated to go to the grocery store, because it wasn’t for anything fun…it was just for food. And what’s the fun in that? And pretty rooms? They just don’t mean much when you wander through them by yourself, trying to enjoy the never-disturbed perfection because there’s no one around to move anything out of its place.

Why am I saying all of this? Because it’s important for me to acknowledge…this crazy life I lead is by choice. I could be home every night, in my bed, eating at my own table. But that’s not the priority of my life. In a few weeks I’ll be in a different setting, camping in the RV again. I’ll have time to write; work on my baby business that’s slowly coming to life; I’ll do some work for the Met clinic via phone and email; and all of that will fit between the plans of the day that Rob and I make together. Because that is my priority. And how can I be ungrateful for that freedom in my life? If this time looks chaotic…if it seems like we’re always on the move…well, we are. It won’t last forever, I’m sure of that. There will be a time when we make different plans…when we move nearer family, and we settle again.

But for now, this is my choice, and claiming it, owning it, helps me avoid the victim mentality when I have one of those moments of just wanting to be home. I am not a victim or a martyr to Rob’s choices. I have made my own. It feels good to recognize: if I hadn’t jumped off the corporate ship, I wouldn’t have some of the opportunities that are on the horizon. I wouldn’t be in the process of developing a design for a logo and business card and a new web site. I wouldn’t be a budding entrepreneur at the ripe age of 53. I wouldn’t have the freedom to work from home, or from the RV. I wouldn’t have the flexibility to make my own commitments. And the reality is, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity and the financial stability to step out on this ledge.

And if I hadn’t jumped off the corporate ship, and into my crazy life, I wouldn’t have the joy of seeing and doing the things that I seen and done in the past years, with the man I chose.

Life is complicated. But it helps if you know that you’re where you are by choice. So I’m a chooser. I’ve learned to choose love over things, experience over money, and freedom over security. I’ve learned that you don’t have to be traditional to be normal; that you can walk a different path and still get where you need to go. And I’ve learned that although head knowledge is good, there’s no replacement for understanding something from the heart. Because the heart gets final say; and if my choice has passed the heart test, I’m on the right path.

Dinner for two…

My One Word

I’m trying a new approach to resolutions this year. Following the ideas outlined at MyOneWord.org I’m choosing a word to focus my energies and goals for the year.

My one word for 2013 is “momentum.” Last year, I used the term “re-vision.” My intent was to revise myself…to embrace change in how I work, and the rhythm of life, and I believe I’ve been successful in doing that…I’ve created a beginning, and now I need to fuel it. I’ve done a mini-launch…now I need to find my power and really get going.

In 2012, I worked just like my husband does…full-time in blocks of two-to-three month increments, then I take block time off. I didn’t gain ground financially, but I didn’t lose either. I proved to myself, for the first time ever, that I can generate work that works for me…at least in terms of pace and timing. I’m still working on generating work that is creative and self-directed. But that’s a longer process, and a larger goal, so I’m content to take my time to get it right.

That’s what this year will be about. I’ve demonstrated to myself that I can survive in a non-traditional work life. Now I need to take the things I’ve learned…am still learning…and find a way to translate a non-traditional work life to a more entrepreneurial role. That’s the next level for me. I want to create my own work, to be my own employer.

I’ve got lots of ideas, but so far most of them would require a physical presence. I’ve thought of everything from a bakery to a personalized “to-do” service to digital editing, writing and project management. But the reality is that I need to create a flexible and portable vehicle…not something that will tie me to a brick-and-mortar business, or a clientele that is specific geography-based.

I’ve explored writing and digital publishing, and while that continues to hold the most interest for me, it is also intimidating. I need reliable income. I don’t mind it being a little erratic. But the writing business can be very slow indeed if you don’t measure up…and you can invest a lot of time and energy before you have that reality check. So while I’m not losing sight of this one, I’m not putting all my eggs in this basket.

Regardless of direction, the important thing is movement. That sounds counter-productive. Don’t I need to know the exact goal I’m working toward rather than seeing movement itself as a marker of success? But I believe I’ll define my direction as I progress. I don’t know if I can explain it clearly in words. But in my head, it makes perfect sense.

Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor.  ~ H. Jackson Brown Jr.

So…a year of momentum. Got my dancing shoes on!

Service

You want happiness, we all do. And there’s only one rule for happiness in this world, Sue, and that’s service. Just to the degree that they serve, people are happy, and no more. It’s an infallible test. You can try nations by it, you can try kings and beggars. Poor people are just as unhappy as rich people, when they’re idle; and rich people are really happy only when they’re serving somebody or something.

Norris, Kathleen. Saturday’s Child Artemis Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I found this little quote in a quaint old book…a lot of things contribute to my happiness, and I would put faith and family at the top of my list. I separate those two from the concept of service. But maybe that’s not accurate either, for what does faith and family call us to, if not service? Maybe the best things in life are simply disguises for opportunities that allow us to serve. We serve from various motives…family love, or faith that moves mountains, or belief in a cause, or ambition to achieve. But doesn’t the work we do distill to service?

I’ve equated the terms service and work. But they’re not really equivalent. I suppose you could serve without working, and work without truly serving. Maybe the difference in the two is the sense of purpose that lies behind service. Work is just work. But service is work defined by deliberate intention.

I think I’ve worked enough in my life. I’m going to look through a different lens, think about how I’m able to serve as I move through my days. That’s not intended to make me sound saintly, just purposeful. Maybe what I adjust is not specific action or work. Maybe I adjust my vision to see what I can contribute, and what I am contributing. Maybe I just need to reframe to see clearly.