Changing and Evolving

When I was in high school I always thought it was so strange that there were kids my age who knew exactly what they wanted to do with their life…  I have always placed the utmost importance on decision making, sometimes to the point that it paralyzes my process. I am constantly evaluating and reevaluating. I have had to continually grow and establish that which is important to me and actively bring it into my life.  I endeavor to cultivate skills, values, experiences and relationships that are meaningful. I also really like to help others.  I have found that I have a deep need to learn and try new things and eventually become bored if I don’t change things up every now and again.

This quote that I recently read from Mahatma Gandhi really speaks to me,

“Learn as if you were going to live forever. Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

Maybe I thought it was strange that my peers already “knew” that they wanted to be a lawyer and a mom or some such things because my soul was reaching and searching for something radically different.  I didn’t know exactly what I wanted and found the prospect of deciding that sort of thing with such little life experience somewhat overwhelming. The one thing I have always known is that I want to lead a fully conscious, meaningful and purpose driven life.  It just hasn’t always been easy for me to determine what that purpose is.  I have never had a lack of goals, the problem is that I tend towards having an unreasonable number goals.

It has been four months now since we have moved into our tiny space, our 21ft. travel trailer.  We have approximately 162 square feet of living space.  So far we don’t mind a bit.  We had the heat on almost every day last month and our electric bill was only $60!

In this blog I am going to talk about how our lives have changed since going from an 1800 square foot house to an 162 square foot travel trailer.  I am going to talk about what our life is like now and how and why this is working for us.

I have to say that while there was some adjusting that had to be done, and still does, the vast majority of change that has taken place is positive. We even enjoy coming up with creative solutions to new situations in our tiny abode; whether they are storage related, heating and cooling related, moisture related or ant related….  We are figuring this out one step at a time and this would probably be a good topic for a future blog post.

I do think that we were absolutely mentally prepared to do this.  It is truly what we both wanted and we can finally see the reasons for our move really coming to fruition.  This would and could not work if we were not BOTH on board. We have goals and we are actively involved with them.  It is difficult to forget about your goals and how serious you are about them when you live in a small space.  Your daily life is a constant reminder of why you are there and what you plan to accomplish.  Sometimes Rob finds himself surprised by what a big deal this isn’t.  RV living suits us well.  Our fantasies about where we will live next never include a “Mansion” or “Large Single Family Home”, it is always about our next RV or the Tiny efficient house we plan to build with our own hands.

The Goals and Values we are committed to:

  • Save Money – to have an emergency fund, be debt free, taking care of our medical issues and concerns, travel more, spend more time with friends and family, buy land in cash and build a small home without a mortgage, dance more, play more music, continue learning and education.
  • Leave a smaller footprint by wasting less, buying less and embracing minimalism.
  • Establish a deeper connection with Each Other, God, Nature, the Universe and ultimately our Health and Quality of life by focusing on that which is truly important to us, our core beliefs and values.

(Notice that none of our values and goals includes having more stuff or material goods. I am not saying this as a bragging point.  I think most people have similar goals and values, but they get distracted by status items and mistakenly begin to believe they are important. Living the tiny lifestyle helps us stay focused on that which is most deeply important to us and helps us avoid both distraction and the distortion that the meaning of life lies in material goods and status symbols.)

The Lifestyle / What it is like?

  • We are finally saving money!  It took 4 months for this to actually happen.  The cost of moving in combination with several very large unexpected expenses such as Sunny the cat being hospitalized made it hard to notice our reduced costs initially.
  • We don’t spend money on stuff we don’t need because we have absolutely no place to put it.
  • Even though we are both working, living in an RV campground environment is  relaxing and when we go on walks there is a very vacation-like atmosphere. We all wave to each other.  It is very friendly.
  • While we do have a small shower in our camper, we typically go to a shower room at the RV park.  It is nice.  There are four separate bathroom/shower rooms, each has two shower heads, hot water and good water pressure.  They have key code entry and deadbolts. Walking to the shower rooms in our bathrobes with our shower caddy in hand very much reminds me of summer camp.  We like it.  Showering is more of a ritual now instead of a daily inconvenience.
  • We have both a propane heater that is standard with most RV’s today and a small electric space heater.  Either do a fine job heating our tiny space.
  • We cook with propane as well.  We have to go on a short rural drive every once in a while to get our propane tanks filled at Direct Propane.
  • Coin Laundry, it has its advantages and disadvantages

Change Breeds More Change:

  • Short hair – I cut my hair really short.  It is more manageable and less hair for the drain  and my comb…
  • Off of Facebook – I took a 2 month break from Facebook and have recently resumed with less interaction and spaced-out, zombie-like scrolling. This could probably be an entire blog in and of itself.
  • Cutting other expenses – We have pretty much stopped going out and we have given ourselves a weekly grocery budget.  It is fine by us for now.  We love eating out, but we know how to have a good time with our grill at home for much less money.  Baking and cooking new recipes is also a cheap form of entertainment. We are willing to give up some instant gratification in order to achieve our long term goals.
  • Reading about finance – A really great book to kick your butt into gear is, How to Manage your Money when you Don’t Have Any.  I highly recommend it!
  • For entertainment we play music, sing, dance, play with our cat, go to the gym, watch movies, documentaries and TV series at home (basic cable is free at the RV park). One of our favorite activities is walking around the RV park and looking at the new coaches, trailers and rigs that roll in for the weekend.  
  • Work – our work keeps us pretty busy and stimulated as well.  We work on a variety of projects.  In the future I will write a post about what we, “do”.  I am sure some people are wondering by now….

By all accounts, we live a very fun and full life in our tiny trailer.

My sister asked, “so are you driving each other crazy being in such a close space together all of the time.”  The answer is no.  Maybe we are just lucky, but this aspect is not hard for us.  And honestly when one of us is gone for more than a couple of hours, we start to miss each other. We enjoy being together, working together, traveling together and truly these are the things that bring us the most satisfaction in life.  Like any couple we argue and get our feelings hurt every now and again, but the good most definitely outweighs the bad.

Moving in: Blessings in Complicated and Expensive Packages

It is official! We live in our RV!  It has not been easy getting here. And really, nothing important or worthwhile usually is. There is always a barrage of resistance when one sets about to make some kind of significant change.

I might be in shock. Maybe a little bit.  Not really. I don’t know.

There is this saying, and I don’t know who to attribute it to, but, It has been speaking to me lately:  “If you want something you have never had, then you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”

Here is how I feel:
I am glad not to be in a big house anymore, it did not suit me and I was counting down the days to a more minimalist lifestyle.  I was tired of living in the location we were in.  I have a sense of relief that the actual move is over and that we have parked in our new living space!  Also, so far, I really like the RV park we are in.  It is sort of rural, but only 8 miles from downtown.  We are bike riding distance to a lake.  There is a pool, hot tub and gym on the premises.  And we are paying half of the rent we were paying before.  I feel grateful to be here.

Getting here and the craziness that consumed our lives leading up to our big move was beyond overwhelming. It was numbing.  It was numbing because we have learned that panic solves nothing. I am not going to lie, I had an emotional breakdown and then resolved to be stoic and get shit done.  I am learning to recognize the blessings in certain hardships.

We knew the month of September would be intense.  After all we were making a major life change.  It didn’t end there though.  It got kicked up by about 5 notches. And as we all know, when it rains, it pours!

The Month and Days Leading up to our Big Move:
If you have been following my blog, you know that I was cast in a dance show at the last minute.  I had about 6 rehearsals before opening night.  The show in and of itself was intense. It was a lovely, beautiful, profound and fulfilling experience, that confirmed my inner need to dance more, but intense nonetheless. I was zip lining off the roof of a 82’ high building, The Long Center.

Additionally, we had a trip to Northern Wisconsin planned for my father’s 60th Birthday.  The plan was to take Sunny (the cat) with us.  Now that I think about it, even purchasing the plane tickets was a difficult affair that resulted in me getting charged three times!

Eventually that all got sorted out.  And when I got cast in the show, we figured out the logistics of changing my ticket, Rob leaving two days earlier than me with Sunny and then me flying up before the crack of dawn the day after closing night of the show.  Best laid plans! Right?

In the midst of all of this I would say that we were about 65-70% moved out of the house.  Most of the big furniture was gone.  We were sleeping on our mattress on the floor.  We had given away, sold or stored most of our worldly belongings to the best of our ability.  We still had stuff that fell into the category, “I have no idea what to do with this!”

The day before Rob was to fly out to Wisconsin, we took Sunny to the vet to get her certificate to fly.  This is when things started to go from “stressful in an exciting way” to “stressful in a bad, sad and scary way”.   Sunny’s skin was a yellowish tint, which indicated that her liver was not functioning properly.  She was sick.  The vet said that it could become very serious and that she recommended that she not fly.  Rob had to cancel his flight.

We still did not quite understand what was happening and still had hope perhaps I could go see my dad for his Birthday.  After several more trips to the vet and various tests, Sunny was diagnosed with Hepatic Lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome.  This was very serious.  She was not eating and her body was breaking down her stored fat and her liver could not process it.  I had to cancel my trip too.  Our baby, Sunny’s life was now in clear and present danger!

Why wasn’t Sunny eating? According to the vets, she was stressed out, probably from a combination of things.  1.) We had been trying to switch her to wet food from dry food and she was not into it.  She wanted her damn carbs!  But we thought she had been coming around and maybe starting to like the wet food.  Not so much.  2.) We were moving.  Apparently this is a major source of stress for cats when they see boxes, of stuff and furniture being moved around and disappearing, especially favorite chairs etc. 3.) With the move, the show and Rob getting some work in Tulsa, OK. our lives and schedules had changed drastically.  Sunny was used to being the center of our universe and suddenly she wasn’t.   4.) AND the icing on proverbial perfect storm was that she had killed and eaten the head off of a coral snake in the garage one night while we were  at one of my performances (I know, very disturbing).  While apparently cats have no issue with digesting and breaking down snake toxins, it might have upset her stomach enough to make her not want to eat for a couple of days despite the obvious pride that she had in her kill.

By the end of the week in spite of multiple techniques to jumpstart Sunny’s appetite, including begging, pleading and praying for her to eat, she was not having it!  She had to go to the emergency 24 hour vet and have feeding tube inserted and spend 4 days in intensive care with all food and 9 different prescriptions being administered every 4 hours via e-tube.  We were very concerned kitty parents to say the least!

Then, there was our vehicle.  The ever important Toyota 4Runner that was just shy of 200,000 miles and entrusted with the task of towing our RV, to it’s new location at the end of the month.  It was acting weird and we had just put $1500 into it at the beginning of the summer.  It seemed like it was about to fail and we did not want to put anymore money into it.   Now amidst everything going on, we had to go truck shopping with less than a week until our move out and with our beloved Sunny in the hospital.

I am just going to go ahead and give a shout out to Champion Toyota here in Austin.  This is the second vehicle we have purchased through them.  While Sunny was in the hospital, we traded our 2000 4Runner for a 2009 GMC Sierra.  We found the vehicle we wanted online, we went and bought it.  It was relatively painless as far as these things go.  This is my tip here – Always find the vehicle you want online before you go to the dealership, it is usually about $1000 cheaper.  Also it is always better to go to the dealership already knowing what you want.

After that we had to make an appointment to have the hitch and brake controller installed on the new vehicle, we are now at t-minus 4 days till move out.  Sunny had to go back and forth to the hospital in North Austin for check ups and bandage changing, we lived in South Austin and the brake controller had to be installed in Kyle.  For those of you who are not familiar with Austin, that is a lot of driving.   AND those are a lot of new bills, so we were trying to work as much as possible as well… Oh yeah and move!  Also, feed Sunny gruel through a tube every four hours around the clock in addition to managing her overwhelming schedule of medications.  There was no time to freak out, panic or complain.  Head down, missions accomplished, one thing at a time, reflect later.

When we brought Sunny home from the hospital, in the interest of not stressing her out we decided to move her into the RV immediately instead of the house which was in a state of moving disarray. We obviously moved ourselves into the camper as well.  We didn’t have water or sewer hooked up, so we had to go into the house to use the restroom, shower and do dishes, but for the last 6 days we stayed in our RV in the yard while we moved out.  This was one of the hidden blessings.  I think staying in the RV made the rest of the packing and moving quicker and less painful.  We were able to visually and physically separate our “living situation” from our “moving situation.”

Anxiety runs in my family.  I have tons of crazy anxiety that seems ready to strike at any moment.  Yoga has helped me with this tremendously!  I also have chronic autoimmune diseases which are exacerbated by anxiety and viceversa.  My life and most certainly my quality of life has depended on finding solutions to this anxiety.  Yoga, meditation, breath, and self talk are all part of the equation.  I know how to “trigger my relaxation response” ie. take myself from my sympathetic nervous system to my parasympathetic nervous system.  This has been invaluable over the past couple of weeks and really helped me find the value in some of our difficulties or rather how to take advantage of negative situations for positive outcomes.

So, here we are in our camper, one week after our big move.  Sunny still has a tube in her esophagus, but she is eating on her own now and doing normal Sunny things like grooming herself, playing and rolling over on her back to get belly rubs.  We have encountered some new RV related challenges…  We had a war with some black ants that decided to invade our camper the second night here, we have siliconed the edges of the shower, bought some damp rid and had a heroic fight with the sewer this morning.   We have also gone to the hot tub for a soak every night before bed and I have done some baking to make things feel homey.  Mostly, we have not stopped working since we arrived.

Life is a constant series of tests and challenges.  I have found that how I react in times of difficulty is ultimately what determines my happiness. After all being happy in the easy times is, well, easy.  The challenges are what make a person grow.  Holy man!  We are growing!