My life is piecing together like a beautiful mosaic! It’s now been five months that Rick and I have been traveling the country in our “tiny house” on wheels. Living in close quarters and spending most of our time together (still liking each other), and five months that I’ve spent pondering the pieces of my life…and imagining what is waiting in the wings. What direction should I head next, not just programming the GPS, but spiritual and career navigation? I’m turning 60 soon, what will the next ten years look like? What is on my bucket list that I’d better get to before I…well, you know? These last five months have been transformational. I’ve been given a new perspective, a new lease on life and I am embracing the new me.
Our first night in the van, December 1, 2015, we decided to spend parked at the Park ‘N’ Ride in Nashua, NH. Between packing up and selling the house, I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I climbed into the top of the van where our queen size bed is located and fell asleep early. About an hour later, I woke up with a jolt. What followed was a full-blown panic attack.
Now, I may experience anxiety from time to time, but I’ve only had a couple of panic attacks in my entire life; the previous one years before I met Rick. That night, everything caught up to me – saying goodbye to most of our possessions, finding a new home for our cat, taking minimalism to an extreme…for Gods sake, I was living in a van! I felt claustrophobic. I couldn’t breath. I hit my head on one of the support beams located right next to my pillow…it hurt. I was incredibly hot and knew I had to get out of there. I sat up and began to cry. Rick was wonderful. He took me down stairs and sat with me for a few hours, talked to me and comforted me until I was ready to try again.
Fast forward five months. After a relaxing adventure in Florida we returned to New Hampshire a couple of weeks ago. The other day we were in the neighborhood and decided to try the Nashua Park ‘N’ Ride once again. We actually parked in the same spot we were in during that anxious night last December…and guess what happened? I slept peacefully the whole night, loving my bed and celebrating the fact that my head rests right next to a steel pole.
The difference? The first night I was overwhelmed with life. I thought I was prepared to live in the van, but how could I be? When people learn we sold our home and live full time this way, they often ask us if we camped a lot together before we made the decision. Nope. Never once. Oh, I had gone tent camping with my kids when they were little, but this was a whole new ballgame. People are sometimes amazed that we left our house and embarked on this lifestyle without even sleeping in the van for one night. I can see their point, but Rick and I seem to live by a code of closing doors while allowing God to open new ones. This was a new one indeed.
After being overwhelmed, we had to figure out a way to make me feel as safe and comfortable as possible. We worked as a team and outlined what I needed to be able to do this. Something as simple as changing from a zipped up sleeping bag, to using it like a quilt covering us was a lifesaver. And that darn pole…it wasn’t going to move and yes, it was right next to my head. I decided to embrace it and let it work for me. It became a balance bar, something I steadied myself with while getting up or turning over. It also works as a temperature regulator for me, always cool to the touch, whenever I get too hot, I shake hands with that same steel pole that proved so adversarial five months earlier.
Over the months, we have occasionally stayed in hotels, even a couple of luxury accommodations given to me by clients. They were enjoyable and yet Rick and I couldn’t wait to get back to the van. We recently house-sat at friends where we were encouraged to stay in their guest room…we prefered the van.
What made the difference? Acceptance.
Although I love adventure, I never really pictured myself living in a tiny space before this. Adventure was something you went off to do followed by returning to the safety of your home. Now, adventure is my home. I had to learn to accept that life was different now, with new rules and new ways of doing things. Its one thing to have a notion of doing something…it’s quite another to actually do it and accept it.
I had to recognize the fact I had no physical address, my home was in motion and my walk-in closet had been replaced by two rattan drawers from Ikea. My kitchen was now a picnic table, internet was sporadic and, last but not least, that darn pole by my head was not going anywhere. I’d better learn to make peace with it before it did me in. Acceptance of everything happening around me is how peace found me. Free of all the stressors associated with living in a stick home allowed me to focus on the important task of figuring out what to do with the rest of my life.
While the answers to my “what’s next in my life” questions were being formulated, I found a little book about acceptance. It states, “Acceptance is the way to serenity and peace.” I agree. From that wonderful “Serenity Prayer,” written by Reinhold Niebuhr…God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (that pole), the courage to change the things I can (me) and the wisdom to know the difference… acceptance has been the key for me.
A question to ponder this month might be this: Is there something going on in your life putting you in panic mode or keeping you anxious wishing things would change? Would acceptance of the situation help? Finding peace has been the key for me. Once peace finds you, guess what? It frees you up for more important things – like what to do with the rest of your life. Peace be with you my friends.