21st Century Dad
One Dad's Thoughts, Ideas, and Feelings.
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Life – Some Disassembly Required

January 14th, 2009 . by 21st Century Dad

As a small child, I loved taking things apart and putting them back together. It’s about time I did it with my life. Invariably, when I reassembled a toy, a few parts always remained, not having a clue where they came from. This time, I am stripping out as many unecessary items as possible, just like you’d do to a car you intend to use for racing.

The Sand Mandala

My thoughts return to the first time I learned what a Sand Mandala is. An intricate pattern of colored sand is laid down by Tibetan Buddhist monks over several weeks. Upon its completion, the Sand Mandala is ritualistically and methodically destroyed.

You don’t know what you need until you don’t have anything. I still have too much stuff. eBay and craigslist have been helpful here. Here I am, in the midst of dismantling the life I have built for the past 35 years.

This is just as much a spiritual journey as it is one of financial rehabilitation. Some of this consumerist detritus can be converted into cash. Video games, photography equipment, electronics, and supplies for projects conceived but never even started only weigh us down. One tenet of Buddhism is that our attachment to material things is the source of our suffering. Only when we release that need, do we find enlightenment.

Of course, when I first learned that about Buddhism, I thought, “no way I’m giving up my Commodore 64!”

Fighting the Clutter and Winning

Sentimentality conspires against us. It makes us hold on to things and squeezes us out of a harmonious relationship with our home. It is our experiences, thoughts, ideas, and feelings that make us who we are. Do we really need to validate those things by holding on to physical objects that only takes up space?

Ironically, I feed someone else’s urge to purchase things as I offload items through eBay and craigslist. I’m selling instant and temporary gratification to alleviate the ill effects of my own journey. The extra cash is nice. It’s the last gasp of usefulness I will get from these items. Their potential energy has been pent up, buried within clutter and disarray. This last release keeps the lights on at home another month. It buys a bus pass. It buys groceries.

You don’t know what you need until you don’t have it. The packrat defends his ways by recounting the few times he needed an item that was recently discarded. The only thing I ever needed by holding on to things was more storage space.

This isn’t loss or destruction. It’s liberation.

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January 9th, 2009 . by 21st Century Dad

2007 was tumultuous followed by an even more tumultous 2008. However, 2009 is looking better already. I didn’t write about my troubles here because I felt uncomfortable with sharing certain things. Renee and I have decided that telling the truth would be therapeutic.

The Downward Spiral

A chain of events that commenced in 2006 wound its way through a business startup, a battle with depression, unemployment, a car accident, a staggering amount of consumer debt, getting my car repossessed, joining the ranks of homeowners in foreclosure, the loss of two pets, and relocating to another state. We put on a good show while remaining in the closet about the status of our home. We did a disservice to ourselves and to others by hiding our problems and hiding from our problems.

Starting Over

People who can’t afford to live in New York move to South Florida. People who can’t afford the cost of living in South Florida move to North Carolina and Tennessee. The cost of living isn’t terrible here.  What’s killing me is the huge disparity between the cost of living and the typical wages paid here.

We loaded up a UHaul trailer just before Christmas, and we spent the holidays with Renee’s family in Tennessee. I returned alone on a Greyhound bus to South Florida so I can pack up, sell, donate, or throw away what remains here. I still have work here, and will be moving in a few months. Establishing some remote freelance work means I can literally pack up and move my job too.

Tennessee Homesick Blues

Is it possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never lived before? It didn’t take long for Renee to figure out that I would love Tennessee. It reminds me of a southern version of Maryland. She used to joke that if we ever visited, I’d never come back to Florida.

Leaving this place where I have lived for 28 years got a lot easier by what awaits me at my next stop. My truest of true loves is in Tennessee, so that is why I belong there.

Nobody Invited Me to the Pity Party

And I’m not going to crash that party either. It was a precipitous fall to this lowest of low points in my life, but I am rebounding well. I am filled with optimism, faith, the lessons learned from my experience, and an exit strategy.

I don’t have the use of a car without calling upon the kindness of friends. The popular perception in South Florida is that a car is an absolute necessity to get around. The supposedly inadequate public transit system here in Broward County has filled my needs. I face many logistical challenges, but it is still a viable lifestyle. It’s also far less expensive than maintaining an automobile – even one that is completely paid off. Learning how to use public transit early on has eased my transition to this car-free lifestyle. Riding my bike was a cost-cutting measure. Now it’s one of my main modes of transportation. I also enjoy watching my waistline shrink. The money I save by not having a car will have to go toward a new wardrobe soon!

I am 900 miles away from my truest of true loves. Being separated from my daughter is the most difficult thing I have ever done. Circumstances that have incapacitated me in the past seem so trivial now. As great as this challenge is, I have never been better equipped to face it. I still cry every day because I miss my daughter, but somehow, I’m finding the strength to move forward.

Turning Things Around

The circumstances we find ourselves in has inspired me to reevaluate everything. Any and all previously held beliefs are subject to questioning and discarding. My sense of fiscal responsiblity lapsed long enough to find myself in this mess. Now I’m back on track, but digging myself out of the deepest hole I’ve ever been in.

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