So let me tell you about my friend Ann. She’s 72, and her husband is 75. Five years ago the two of them built a three-bay shed (by themselves). They’ve finally sold their house in Vermont and are moving full time to Cortez, Colorado, and Tim is thinking that at 75 maybe he’s not into building the house they’re going to live in.
They’ve lived everywhere, gone everywhere. In the winter they throw their camper on the back of their pick-up truck and drive down to Mexico and camp on some beach. She says they just drive until they find an unoccupied stretch of beach and park there.
They take a family vacation every year, camping (via tent) with their children and grandchildren. They seldom make reservations ahead of time, just show up at state and national parks and there’s usually some place they can camp. They just drive, and check things out, and then come back again, living life as it comes.
They’ve lived in the San Juan Islands (with two kids and no electricity), on a sail boat (and nearly drowned — did you know you can hear the voices of the drowned during a life-threatening storm?).
They lived in Taos and took in foster children, they ski (downhill and cross-country) and just live life to the fullest. And I was asking her about the camping, which we hadn’t done since we were in our thirties, and she said you just have to be fearless. Just go out there and do it.
So many things hold us back. We get fond of our creature comforts, our safety zone. It’s easier to stay stuck in old patterns of behavior because they’re comfortable, or if they’re uncomfortable, at least they’re familiar. As so many other things are changing (our bodies, our families) at least sometimes the isolation or the dysfunctional stuff can be a weird stability.
I’ve wanted to break free of this place for a long time. I’ve lived here full time for 41 years (27 in this house alone) and I just want to try something new. I want to travel, I want to camp, I want to show up on a beach and wake to the water on the sand.
I watch House Hunters International obsessively. I want to do what Eloisa James did and spend a year in Paris (can’t afford that) or buy a tiny house in Spain. I feel like Anthony Bourdain, hungry for experience, and yet fear holds me back. Well, maybe poverty holds me back, but there are things I can do that aren’t as expensive.
Though actually, as I get older I get less fearful. I love talking to people, asking about what they’re interested in. I think I’d probably do fairly well out and about.
So why don’t we just pick up and go? Why are we afraid of making a move, when god knows nothing is permanent?
One problem is that Richie is a chronic worrier. He’s always had trouble making changes, committing to things. He’s always worried about money, whether it was rolling in or when we’re living hand to mouth.
I want to strike out, go somewhere new. I’d rather have my safety net, my home to return to. In a perfect world we’d probably spend summers here, because it’s cool and incredibly beautiful. But if we find a new home that’s beautiful as well there might not even be a reason to come back.
I think fear keeps us from making decisions, making moves. Fear of change and fear of making mistakes.
Ann and Tim have sold everything (they’re finishing up with a yard sale this weekend and I went to help out) and they’re going to drive across the country in a pickup, hauling a trailer. They’ve got a whole new world ahead of them, countless possibilities. They could go live on a boat again, build a house, buy a house, go anywhere, do anything.
A good friend of mine is currently battling breast cancer. And I was thinking about how a diagnosis can sometimes wipe away all the tiny, miserable little fears that have been holding you back. When you’re fighting for your life you realize that all those little worries don’t mean shit. It’s time to just go for it.
I don’t want to wait for a diagnosis to go live life to the fullest. I want to embrace everything, go everywhere. I want to stop worrying about little things. I want to go to France and get on the metro and speak my lousy French, I want to sit by a river in Oregon, I want, I want, I want …
I want to live! And I don’t want fear to hold me back.
I think a timeline. I think an ultimatum for Richie. I think we go for it, and devil take the hindmost (isn’t that a great phrase?).