Monday, May 27, 2019

Selling off bikes, and other radical implementations

 1. Stompy is for sale.
The third incarnation of my singlespeed mountain bike is something I can't really enjoy riding anymore, thanks to arthritis and a bad knee. It's also a good excuse to get the stable down to two bikes and leave it there.
So if you're in Portland and looking for an affordable way into singlespeed off-roading -- and you're between 5'3" and 5'7" -- this is the bike for you.
Built up and improved with some decent parts, but nothing so fancy that you'd cry if you had to straighten it with your bare hands after a crash. Asking $70. Message me.

Scaling down the stable is just one in a series of steps I've taken over the last few years. Here are a few more:

2. Working less.

This has its roots in a number of things, which I'll outline as briefly as I can.
-- my health, first a foremost. Between three autoimmune conditions, age and the rolling fatigue that comes with depression, I simply cannot manage a 40-hour week anymore.
-- time. You can make more money -- governments do this all the time to adjust the value of their currencies -- but you cannot make more time. All you can do is take it back from your boss. And I use that time to rest, to cook at home more often, to spend time with my loved ones, to create, to daydream. I would suggest that even if you have s child, you can still work less outside the home, and devote more time to raising your child.
-- things. I'm learning -- over and over and over again, because this has truthfully been the hardest one -- that I do not need as many things to be healthy and happy. I mend clothes rather than shop for new ones. I scavenge free boxes for basics, including unopened dry foods. (I picked up a bag of cat food someone had left behind at Sunday Parkways, and my cat seems to like it, so that's ten bucks I didn't have to spend.)
-- money. If I'm working less and I have more time, I can choose not to use that time to go shopping for stuff I don't really need.


a. I'm privileged. I'm white and educated and already live low enough to the ground that making these changes -- evolutions, really -- has taken awhile. We bought our little house 16 years ago, before the housing market went north, and so today we enjoy a modicum of housing security that those who rent do not.

b. I'm in my later 50s. Which means that the government's expectations of me are lower, and I'm no longer required to seek full-time employment in order to qualify for social services based on my health needs. Being in my later 50s also serves me a little better as I wait for a disability hearing. Because again, I'm working under a cloud of lowered expectations.

c. My self-absolution, for having little to show after working full-time for so long. Guess what? Not everyone can be a financier or a professor. Not everyone will earn a real salary or the benefits that go along with one. I've spent my entire life working for piecemeal pay (by-the-job), or for an hourly wage, and most of that time with NO benefits. That reality is based on choices made by employers and governments and those choices were beyond my control. They still are. So I see no need to beat myself up for having earned so little money over my lifetime.

d. Realigning my values. In my late early thirties I discovered a radical notion: You work only as many hours as you must in order to cover your basic needs. If you want more than that, you can choose to work more. Or, you can learn to be content with what you have. Why would I spend the majority of my waking hours working for someone else who may or may not really value me and my contributions? Very few people working for an hourly wage get to do work they love, for people who truly value them. That's just a fact of life. Don't believe me? Here's an article about people who knew how much they were needed and how little they were valued, and how they dealt with that reality.
What do I do with my time? I rest, I daydream, I create, and I spend time with my loved ones. I still watch TV but I'm mindful of how much and what I watch, and I'm pretty good at disengaging from the tube when I want and need to. There's plenty of other stuff to do and life is far too interesting to spend most of it sitting on the couch staring at commercials, which is what most of television programming is anyway.

e. Eating more simply by having more time to prepare food at home. Because let's face it, eating healthy and cooking your own food at home takes more time. It also can cost more money (because processed foods are manufactured by companies that are subsidized by tax breaks and other government niceties, while whole/organic foods are not). We save money by making things that extend whole ingredients and by growing some of our own vegetables at home. In good years, we'll finish the growing season with jars of tomatoes that we can use over the winter for all sorts of recipes, and sometimes we'll store a basket of potatoes in the crawlspace and eat potatoes well into winter. (Pro tip: If you want to eat more whole foods, eat what's in season. That's another way to save money.) We still eat processed food, because it's unavoidable in the city; but I'm more thoughtful about what I eat than I used to be. It's a work in progress.

f. Going back to the privilege -- we are both creative freelancers, my spouse and I, working from home. We live close enough to everything we need, including family, stores, doctors, our house of worship and some of our friends, that I can take public transit almost everywhere and not need a car. I sold my car in 1990, back when it was a burden rather than a privilege. Now, not owning a car feels like a privilege because I don't depend on a job that's an hour's drive away. It's taken a lifetime to get to this point, and while it's fair to say that my relative privilege allows me to support these choices, I would suggest that everyone who CAN choose these things right now MUST choose them if we are to build a critical mass of people choosing simpler living.

And it's hard.

It's hard to avoid the bleating TV or computer screen that shouts advertisements at us all day long, the multinationals that use every resources available to entice us to buy more things and to believe that this will make us feel and live better. It's hqrd to be the one who doesn't drive everywhere when your friends can't live without their cars. And it's not perfect. But I believe that even my imperfect life looks better now than it would have if I'd continued to buy into capitalism's message of constant acquisition, constant work, and constant stress. I have placed myself as far from that maze as I can and still draw breath comfortably. I have no regrets.

I would like to believe that if enough of us make smarter choices about how we send our finite time in this life, and we talk about living lower on the economic ladder without shame, then that will open the door to make it easier for others to choose similarly. And if it doesn't, well, I've picked a course that works for me. And if it looks like a big middle finger to the American Nightmare, so be it.

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