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ChoicesIt’s after midnight and I’m sitting here on my front porch watching a gentle spring rain, Bob (the cat, you filthy-minded thing) in my lap and a cup of coffee by my side… OKOKOK, enough gloating about my semi-retirement….

Since I’ve moved to my cabin here in the wonderful Tellico Mountains I’ve had that, to steal a phrase, “peaceful easy feeling”. The feeling is so intense that it’s caused me to put some thought into why. I think that maybe I’ve come up with something.


That’s right, choices – too many of ’em. Back in the city life, that is. If you are like I was, you always have a million things going. “need to go to the food store, the hardware store, the book store and so on”. Need to fix this and do that. Too many things tugging in all directions. A decision tree with too many forks.

Linear Lifestyle

Here things are different. The nearest anything is about 20 miles away over a winding country road. This precludes a dash here and a dash there. This is good! To go anywhere or do anything down in town effectively requires a half day, not something to be taken lightly. One plans his trips to town, making a list of things to get and places to go. Post office, grocery store, maybe eat lunch, get a haircut. Dedicate a day to it and get stuff done maybe once or twice a month. Otherwise, keep my butt around the home place and do things.

As I thought about it I realized that “running errands” typically took a good part of a day even in town. The problem was, there was no mountain road to stand in the way of spur-of-the-moment dashes. The result? I’d reach the end of a day stressed out and realizing that I’d accomplished little but not understanding why.

With the option of wasting time darting about off the table, I find myself living a linear lifestyle. That is, I proceed from one thing to another in a very orderly and linear fashion. I don’t feel the internal pressure to hurry up with breakfast so I can run out and get the mail before that appointment and to get the meeting over with so I can run out to lunch while the lunch special is still on at the local chat’n’chew.

Now I start something, see it through and then look around, asking myself “what’s next?” I generally have a list of projects written down (have to, in order to know to get the necessary materials on my “town trips”) so I can look and see what needs doing next. No Brownian motion to deflect me off in other directions.

At the end of the work day, there’s no pressure to race to the store or restaurant to beat closing time. I can without guilt sit down and relax.

Now some folks will say that if I were better organized and disciplined, I could live life this way in the city. Perhaps. But I was born with my personality and skillset and that doesn’t include being highly organized. I’m more the “absent minded professor” type and trying to force myself to act differently only leads to stress.

I suspect that a LOT of people out there who think they’re organized are really like me and are forcing themselves into a very highly stressed life. A couple of years ago I was diagnosed a diabetic. My doc said that stress was a direct cause, indicated by the high level of cortisol in my blood. Cortisol is apparently a stress hormone that interferes with insulin’s action. I suspect that stress instead of or in combination with obesity is the root cause for the diabetes epidemic currently underway. In any event, the “Tellico Effect” has both my blood glucose and my blood pressure on the decline.

Guilt Be Gone

A few years ago I Tossed the Tube (threw out my TV), dropped my newspaper subscriptions and turned off the radio. I had realized that the constant yammer and the barrage of fabricated “issues” was keeping me in a low level of tension all the time. I went through about 6 months of withdrawal but then things got good! Mostly.

I still had that little lingering doubt that maybe I was being weird for rejecting what Big Media was trying to feed me. Just a little doubt but it was still there.

This place removes all vestiges of that guilt because now there is no choice. This is a Media-Free Zone. No TV, no paper delivery, no mail delivery and almost no radio – none worth listening to, at least. Some folks can’t stand it, of course, so satellite TV mini-dishes have sprouted like mushrooms after a rain. But I’m in hog-heaven. There’s a Toob sitting in the corner, left over from my parents’ days of using the cabin but the coax cable dangles loose except for when I connect up my video camera.

Debt-Free Living

I could literally feel my life being shortened by the stress so in a 60s flashback, I dropped out. Without turning on, of course. A major ingredient in being able to do this as a “50-something” is being debt-free. I don’t owe anybody anything and I have my monthly bills down to electricity, ‘script drugs, insurance and food. Plus the net, of course, but it’s paying for itself.

It’s hard to imagine what it feels like to not owe anything. It’s like an anvil has been lifted off my chest. Some folks claim that only the rich can live like that. I’m certainly left out if that’s true. Living my new lifestyle will require a mild financial sacrifice, at least at first, but it’s worth it. If rich is the north pole then I’m parked in Antarctica!

If you’ve just become aware of that debt anvil sitting on your chest then I suggest looking at the Dave Ramsey method. Dave peddles an uncomfortable amount of expensive literature and the “ministry” bit is discomforting but his radio show is free and his books can be found used for practically nothing. His first book Financial Peace is probably the only one you need.

I discovered him after I’d decided to get the debt anvil off my chest. The discovery was one of those Eureka! confirmatory moments that told me that I wasn’t crazy for going against the grain of society.

When I occasionally happen by a TV and hear that credit card ad (remember who’s paying for all that TV advertising) that asks “what’s in your wallet?” I just smile to myself and think “oh, a single debit card…. And cash!” What a concept.

Some folks will think I’m strange, of course. But consider the guy who brought his own life preserver on the Titanic. He got a lot of ridicule until the iceberg came along… Like the saying goes, “Don’t knock it til you try it.”

Well, the rain is slacking, my coffee cup’s empty and the skeeters are coming out. That’s my cue to post this thing and go to the next item on my list. Or not.


Posted by neonjohn on June 14th, 2007 under Philosophy

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