In 2013, I found myself in strange times.
Strange times, indeed. After almost 30 years of struggling to make my small business profitable, I was in a state of trying to keep my overhead up! I was a chiropractor who had achieved some modest success. I loved my profession and I was overjoyed (and still am) that I had the privilege of helping thousands of people. However, over the past five years my wrists had gradually degenerated, and now were full of the cysts and cracked cartilage found in chondromalacia. Because I had the foresight to purchase very good (very expensive!) disability insurance, I was not facing bankruptcy. However, due to having private disability overhead expense coverage, I needed to keep my overhead as close to $37,000 as possible. Anything less, lowered my overhead expense monthly payout. At the same time, if I made any profit, it lowered my personal income disability payment.
I was paying other chiropractors to see my patients, some of them very skilled and competent and some less so. I was doing the tedious administrative work of the practice and missing out on the “fun” of seeing patients, while seeking to sell it to a new practitioner.
At home, my nest was emptying rapidly, as my daughter of 24 and my son of 17 would soon no longer need me. I was in a sprawling 4,000-square-foot house on 9 acres, which I couldn’t maintain due to the chondromalacia, and soon would be unable to afford the upkeep and mortgage on once the practice sold. My son, though grown into a strong young man, was building a career of his own as a DJ and working a delivery route, and so his help was not reliable.
I was also growing increasingly alarmed by the condition of the United States of America. From the USA PATRIOT Act to the imprisonment of Edward Snowden and others for laying bare a sinister web of spying and manipulation, to the bankers who had colluded with the finance regulators and government guarantors to drive the economy off a cliff but were banking their bailouts while everyone else pedaled harder and harder, to healthcare (where I made my living) increasingly strangled by government regulators colluding with private insurance and hospital corporations. The US had the greatest proportion of prisoners of any nation, most of them jailed for victimless crimes. Worst of all, we as a people continued to live as though we were at peace, going about our materialistic lives, while the voracious US military continued to murder people by the thousands all over the globe in an unending “War on Terror”. There had to be a way to stop participating in this!
A poem I wrote during this period reflects my state of mind:
This fear and rage
That wakens me and grinds
My molars cusp to cusp
Grief for those who’ve died
Resentment for those who’ve not
Fear of those have yet
To stab my back and break my heart,
Crush my dreams, or simply
Day by day do less and less
While I do more and more…
…What? Oh, yes, this fear and rage
Clatters ears to jaw,
Ropelike, knifelike, cinching
Like a python round my ribs,
Weighing on my neck and shoulders
Like a child too big to play,
Still clinging round my throat
And laughing when I flinch.
The one joy in my life was flying. I had dreamed as a girl of flying an airplane, but the path to that career was never plain to me and the dream stayed just a fantasy. A windfall in 2010 enabled me to pursue the dream of flight by earning my private pilot’s license, and in 2012 buying my own airplane, a small Cessna. If it had not been for those hours in the sky, I doubt I would have kept my sanity during the changes that followed. The feeling of the earth falling away as your aircraft lifts off the runway is an exhilaration like no other!
With the sale of my practice in July, 2014 to a big booming Viking of a young man, brimming with energy and enthusiasm to revitalize the clinic, one weight left my shoulders. Six months later, in March 2015, the big house finally sold, and there I was: free, with a guaranteed income for life. I had been busting my ass for over 30 years, first to become a chiropractor, then to succeed as a chiropractor. The only extended time off I’d had was when I’d had babies or surgeries, and even then I cut the recuperation short. Even though I had lost the ability to do many things I loved, from baking bread to gardening, anything requiring wrist strength, even opening jars and bottles, I had a freedom I had never imagined.
My husband of eight years, my sweet and loving soulmate Steve, and I spent many hours trying to answer the question: What next? We had many crazy ideas, but came down to four we really liked:
- Buy a condo on a mountain in the highlands of North Carolina and retreat there, living frugally and writing or tinkering.
- Buy a camper trailer and live a peripatetic life exploring North America.
- Move to Latin America and learn a new language, spending less money for a lifestyle less frugal than we could achieve in the US.
- House-sit around the world for various people with property who needed to leave it.
Next post: our process for researching, discerning, and choosing.