The Verdict’s In & It’s Oh-So-Good!

This month, the “year of half-time” trial period ended. The verdict?

Livin’ the slow life has been oh-so-good.

And the goodness doesn’t stop with me.  They’d have to confirm it, but I’d say those closest to me are enjoying the fact that less pain, stress, and sickness equals a much more pleasant me.  I have time to do the things I’ve always wanted to do, to nap, to invest in my relationships, and as a result, I have a renewed appreciation and love for what I do in my working life.  I know I’m very lucky to be able to work half-time in a job I love while being able to afford my independence.  This isn’t an option for many people with chronic illness because of familial and financial obligations.  I’m unmarried and have no dependents, no mortgage or debt to pay off.  I don’t like “stuff” and I can live off very little, so having half the income isn’t a big deal to me, but now that this trial year is over I know I have some planning to do.  If I want to keep the oh-so-goodness of the half-time life, I need to have a financial plan to make sure I maximize the earnings I do have.  Maintaining my independence while living the kind of life that will keep me healthy is a tricky combo, but I’m hoping some intelligent planning and creativity will keep me where I want to be.  Oh, and a really good financial advisor.

So, the work hours stay where they are and I move from “testing the water” to “sink or swim.”  The waiting period is over and it’s time to make some long-term plans.  I guess I should say that long-term planning isn’t really my thing. I’m more the “why-plan-more-than-one-year-ahead-if-I’m-just-going-to-get-sick-and-have-to-start-over-again” kind of gal.  That’s worked for the last nine and a half years, but I suppose nowadays we’re aiming for more of a “plan-ahead-so-I-have-the-skills-and-finances-to-deal-with-sickness” attitude.

How do you start making long-term plans after so many years of fearing the disappointment that comes with having your plans ruined by a lupus flare?  How do you make goals when a voice inside you says your life is just a series of temporary windows of health and success?  And as I ask these questions, I see one of my keepers in my head, her chin cupped in her hands and a smile on her face:

“That’s easy, babe.  You just do it.”

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Gas Jockey by Night, The Decider by…

Dead of winter.  Cheese grater clouds skip against a black and blue sky.  I can see the moon.  It’s barely 6 o’clock.  I watch the numbers on the digitized gas spewer as I bounce up and down beside my car.  It’s frickin’ cold.  The thing is, I don’t mind, not today.  The prairie wind-chill is lessened by the fact that today ,”Elena The Decider” (previously of the undeciding kind) surprised everyone with a spontaneous bout of deciding after a decidedly dry spell of, well, not deciding.  “Elena The Decider” is a rare species, endangered even, so when she pops her head out of the sand, I am naturally happy to see her.   

Every flare-up is a wake-up call.  This last one was loud and clear – something’s gotta change, baby, or something’s gonna give… and next time it’ll be for good.    

The handle on the gas spout finally clicks and I scurry into the adjacent hut to pay the cashier.  As I approach the plastic partition between us, a blast of hot air from a small heater hits my face.  I smile at the momentary reprieve from the cold and at the fact that Elena The Decider has made her proclamation:  After almost 6 months off work, I will not be going back to work full-time, but will commit to at least a year of half-time work in order to respect my body/mind’s process of healing and to explore passions in my life that I had long forgotten.  

It’s an experiment and for once, it’s a real lifestyle change.

 And now… a cup of steaming hot tea.