As of today, I have been unemployed for a year. Prior to a year ago, I was long-term under-employed, so it has been awhile since I have had enough money to cover my basic monthly expenses, let alone had any extra money for horseback riding, travel, savings or paying down debt. It has been nearly 4 years since my checking account was in the black; I have been living at the bottom of my overdraft. It has been longer since my credit card was paid off. It is charged to the limit, and all I can do is pay the minimum. It has been a decade since I have had any savings. It has been a year since I have paid my rent on time. It has been 4 years since I went abroad on holiday. It has been too long since I could donate to animal rescue, buy holiday gifts for friends and family, horseback ride, buy clothes, maintain my automobile, pay for yoga, and buy furnishings for my home. Everything in my life is on hold -- including my federal student loans, which are in forbearance.
If you'd asked me 10 or 20 years ago whether I'd have my own historic horse farm by now, my reply would have been, "of course!" Instead, I am barely holding onto my rental. I feel as if so many things I want to do in life -- have my own farm, have horses, have sheep, rescue cats & dogs, have children, travel, help my family, help animal rescue, have an orchard, raise organic crops -- are on hold. Yes, ok, I have chickens: that is a start on farm life. I have some flowers and a small organic veggie and herb garden. But it is all at the sufferance of my landlord, who does not allow pets. I can't farm properly on a rental property. I live in a historic house, built in 1780, but another tenant lives upstairs, and the house is not restored. In fact, it is covered with vinyl siding. Hardly my museum-quality historic masterpiece.
I am grateful to have this, and I appreciate the beauty that is here, the opportunities that I do have in this rental. I love the sugar maples in the front yard, and the really local syrup that comes from them. I love the porches (it's a big deal for a city girl to have her own adirondack chairs). Hell, I even have a small bbq grill -- definitely not something one can have in the city! I love that when I want blueberries or raspberries for my morning yoghurt, I can go out back and pick them right into the bowl. I love watching the lilac and winterberry bushes that I planted get bigger every year. I love seeing the echinacea attract hummingbirds and bees. I love the bike path, the hills, the local, seasonal organic farmstands, the local ice cream and cheese, the historic houses with plaques stating the year they were built. I love the hay trucks stacked high with bales rumbling down the street, leaving a wispy trail of hay in their wake. I love how you can't give away squash around here because everyone has such a prolific crop of their own. I love picking sweet corn in the back field and carving pumpkins that I have grown myself. I love collecting fresh eggs for breakfast, still warm from the chicken. I love my 7 feathery girls, mostly heirloom breeds that I am helping to preserve. I love picking the first asparagus of spring knowing it was planted decades ago and keeps coming back. I love seeing up close how tenacious nature is. I love watching the baby squirrels that live in one of the maple trees venture down to explore their world. I love noting the weekly growth of the baby bunny whose burrow is under the house.
It isn't MY farm, but it still beats the hell out of a city flat. I do appreciate that. I can breathe here and some days that is enough. But anniversaries are a time for reflection, to consider our goals, how far we have come and what we have yet to accomplish. Each year for the last decade I have slid back a little - gotten a little fatter, a little more out of shape, a little more worn down by anxiety and depression, a little poorer, a little (ok, a lot) further into debt. I become less employable, less attractive, less fertile (yes, the biological clock is ticking LOUDLY), less quick and sharp due to stress and fatigue. Each year, I see my goals sliding further out of sight instead of getting closer, as they should.
Money is the reason that I cannot pursue most of my goals, and money would solve most of my problems. But I am not even doing the things I can do without money. I have passions that are inexpensive; I could still sing -- I can't afford a voice teacher but singing on my own is free. I can't buy a Steinway grand at present but I could still play the instruments that I already own. I could still knit and spin. (Like most knitters, I could knit from my stash for the next year and have yarn left over.) I can't afford riding lessons but I could make friends with people who need their horses exercised. I could garden the hell out of the small space I have. I could write. I can't afford to rejoin the gym or yoga studio, but I could run, bike, and do yoga at home. I could be doing ab work and lift weights all day. I could be a good friend, even if I can't afford to visit. I could help my family emotionally, if not financially.
But I haven't been doing any of these things. Since I am unemployed, you'd think I'd have time on my hands, but my garden is full of weeds and my UFOs sit in my knitting bag with my untouched stash. My musical instruments have dust on them. And my endless lists of writing ideas remain lists. Why? Why don't I use my time productively? I think the main reason is depression; it runs in my family. There is also anxiety/OCD, which makes it hard to concentrate, and my perfectionism. But everyone has issues. Absolutely everyone, no exceptions. And most people get shit done anyway. So, that is no excuse.
The clichéd, but accurate, definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again & expecting different results. On what I am calling the 10th anniversary of sliding further from my goals, I need a new strategy to turn things around and start moving towards them again, at an accelerated pace, to make up for lost time.