Sunday, October 20, 2013

Adaptability

I read somewhere that the happiest people are those who can adapt to the changes in circumstances that life throws at them. Apparently, it is the ability to adapt to those changes without stress that counts. It makes sense to me. The Buddha said that one of our sources of suffering is trying to hold on to things as they are and refusing to accept that everything changes, whether we want it to or not.

Of course, things are changing around us all the time, and there is little we can do to stop them. Our kids grow up and move out. We get married and then, often, divorced. Our parents grow old and die. We change jobs, change homes, and change friends. Getting through life is much easier if we are able to accept these changes and move on. I think the secret may be to file the fond memories away in our hearts, and then jump right in to find out what other adventures life has in store for us.

Twelve years ago, when I first retired, my plan was to spend a year traveling all over Asia. It was an ambitious plan - Japan, Korea, Shanghai, Taiwan, the Philippines, Bali, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong - but I had been looking forward to it for a long time. A few weeks after I arrived in Japan, the bombs went off in the nightclub in Bali. Then the US State Department began issuing warnings to Americans traveling in Islamic areas of Asia. To put it bluntly, I chickened out.

I had, by then, realized that I really liked Japan, so I just decided to stay there, maybe even get a job teaching English for a year or two. After traveling around for the first three months, I rented an apartment in Osaka and settled in and had met quite a few friends. I was ready to go to work when I realized out that something was wrong with my mother. So after six months in Japan, I said goodbye to my new friends and flew home to Portland, Oregon.

Mom had diabetes and couldn't seem to figure out what she was supposed to be doing to manage it. But there was more to it. My mom was only 70 and had always been very intelligent and independent. Why did she need me there? I leased an apartment in Portland while she stayed at her house in a tiny coastal town a few hours away. Then she got a pancreatic cyst. We decided that maybe we needed to live together, so we bought a house outside Portland. Two weeks after moving in, we found out the cyst was really cancer. She died at home two months later.

As you can see, life threw a lot at me during that first year and a half after retirement. If I had focused my mind on all the things that were going wrong, I could have been pretty miserable. I didn't get to see all of Asia that I wanted to see, but Japan was lovely. Then I missed the spring cherry blossoms in Japan, but Portland was just full of pink and white cherry blossoms when I got there. My apartment was delightful, but our house was even better. Mom truely believed that she was going to be with my father and her parents, so she almost looked forward to her death. I was able to resell the Portland house at my full asking price in one week, and I was soon on my way to Mexico, which was what I had planned for after the Asian trip.

Fortunately, the past nine years have been much calmer, but not without unwanted and unplanned for changes. While I was in France last spring, I found out that the best girlfriend I have ever had in my life was leaving Mexico and moving back to Florida. Then I learned that Mexico had changed their immigration laws and I would never be able to nationalize my car. I liked that Honda and thought I'd drive it the rest of my driving life. But even these changes haven't turned out to be that bad.

Patty ended up renting a house in Leesburg, only 30 miles east of Terry's brother's house, so we will be able to visit now and then, and last Sunday, she and I talked on the phone for an hour and a half, just like the old days. And thanks to Skype and Vonage, there is no reason we can't continue that quite regularly. I hired someone to take my car north of the border for me and sell it, quite easy and painless. When I couldn't decide what Mexican-made car I wanted to replace it with, I realized that I really did not want a car. The buses run about every 10 minutes and cost me only about 30 cents. I figure I'm saving a ton of money on gas, insurance, maintenance, registration, and depreciation. That will easily cover the cost of an ocassional taxi or rental car. I'm really enjoying walking around the villages rather than driving on cobblestones and trying to find a place to park. And I've always had a bike, but now I have more excuse to ride it. Also, my former carport is now a new patio right inside my front gate!

One more huge change... before she left, Patty got me involved with an art quilting group that she had joined. Quilt guild politics and lack of selling opportunities had led me to just kind of give up on my old quilting passion. My new quilting friends have re-inspired me, and I'm now look forward to spending five or six hours in my studio every day. And that, essentially, is my excuse for not posting to this blog for the past five months. I will try to improve -- I promise!

6 comments:

  1. You're so right, adaptability is an important quality we must all develop ... but I think I'd actually like adapting to a lifestyle without a car. That's definitely going to be a major consideration in my next move.

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    1. Hi Tom,
      I'm finding that the worst problem of going car-free is that none of my friends can understand why I'd do such a thing and everyone wants to give me a ride all the time. There are times when I really could use a lift, like when I have something large or heavy to transport, but I don't want to take advantage of the other times because I know they would begin to resent it eventually, even if it was their idea. Otherwise, I'm loving it!

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  2. I envy your lifestyle. I wish I could just drop of everything, retire and move to some exotic place. Unfortunately, I have these large bills to pay...and the mortgage :-(

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    1. Hi Elaine,
      All I can say is that I planned this for a long time. I lived without many things and paid as much as possible into my mortgage. Then I sold my house and bought down so I wouldn't have a mortgage. That isn't for everyone, but it is my way of getting it done. I still am very careful with my finances, but I now live cheap so I can travel. Good luck with your own dreams!

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  3. Glad to hear the quilting thing is reenergized. Nothing wrong with giving it up if it wasn't making you happy, but good to hear your rediscovering things.

    While I've never lived a car free life, living in an inner suburb with most things in walking distance we had me, husband a driving teenager and one other kid with one car.I'm with you on the bus walking and rental car for as long as one can.

    Just curious, if there are no local selling opportunites, do you have someone you trust who could bring your stuff to sell or show north of the proverbial border?

    i am borderline diabetic I found recently and have not been working on that as agressively as I should, so I am restarting. Oh, and a boat barge tour next summer would be nice, lol.

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    1. Hi Barb!
      Yes, I jumped back into quilting with both feet! My little art quilt group is having a show on November 9, and I will have about 25-30 pieces in it, mostly new stuff. I think I'm ready for that, but I've already started some new pieces. We actually have a small market down here but no one wants to pay a fair price. I'm ready to get serious with my quilt blog: set up PayPal and post every quilt. We'll see where that takes me.

      One thing that's great about walking is the number of people that I run into that I haven't seen for years. We always have to stop to catch up, so it takes forever to get anywhere, but we are all retired so we have plenty of time for socializing.

      I'm considering a trip to southern Mexico in February, have a girlfriends reunion in New Orleans in May and then on to Florida for a month. I think that will cover the next year pretty well. Unless Terry decides to take me to New Jersey in October for his 50th class reunion.

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