Another short entry from my Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.
I wrote this on May 7th 2014:
Many of you may be like us, making some big decisions about where and when to retire. We just signed a contract yesterday to sell our home in Fort Collins, and move south in the next month or so.
When we started thinking about this major change, we chose to remain in Colorado for a number of reasons.
We were looking for inexpensive land to build a solar home with great views and a cleaner, quieter, calmer existence. We found that in the rural southern part of our state.
Then I just found out this week that in terms of medical care and finances we made a very good choice!
First of all, Colorado ranks in the top quartile in healthcare systems nationally, beating out all other western states. Then I saw a new Bankrate.com financial survey announcing the best states to retire to. Colorado ranks number two, only after South Dakota.
Here’s a quote from that article: “Colorado gets above-average marks for cost of living, crime rate, health care quality and taxes. The Gallup-Healthways survey finds that the well-being of Colorado residents ranks among the highest in the nation.”
The first thing you need to know about Colorado is how different parts of the state really are. Most Coloradans live in what we call “the front range” cities like Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs. Then there are the mountains which are beautiful, but cold, snowy and generally an expensive place to live.
I have spent most of my life living in Colorado Springs, Boulder and Fort Collins, and to my mind, a city is a city in terms of their ever increasing cost of living, overcrowding, traffic, pollution and quality of life. After living the past nineteen years in the Fort Collins area, I can say these are our worst problems, and they are not going to get any better ever.
The rest of the state is rural and quite different than “the front range.” The eastern plains are mainly small farming communities and the mountains have few good job opportunities. We have chosen to put down new roots in a rural area west of Interstate 25. We have found the perfect perch for our custom, passive solar home.
Postscript: I would only add that the average household income for some place like Fort Collins is near $60,000 now, while the average down here in Huerfano County is around $33,000. Colorado exhibits quite a wide range of income levels. You don’t need to be rich to live here, only in the big cities like Denver, Fort Collins, etc.
I decided to write a memoir of the process Mike and I went through around age 60, as we were going through it. I thought, we can’t be the only ones thinking about leaving city life behind for retirement, hoping to find a quiet, peaceful sustainable life in some beautiful rural area.
As we put this plan into action and bought three acres west of Walsenburg to build our passive solar home at the beginning of 2014, I discovered that Mike was MUCH MORE CERTAIN than I was about this whole plan! He felt certain that he wanted to leave the city behind regardless of our old friendships back in Fort Collins, and the services and predictability of city life. This plan was suddenly coming together far faster than I could assimilate! I knew I loved visiting down south, but was I ready to give up everything I knew to move there?
After we moved into our rental for the building process, I learned that many wives felt the same way initially about pulling up their roots and going completely rural. The men seemed to know what they wanted, but the women were more careful or hesitant to move to a rural area. Much like I felt at first that our new homestead was rather “isolated” other women I met felt the same. Luckily I totally trusted Mike’s sense of place and his unique abilities to make this home the best of my entire life.
But I just realized yesterday that my memoir is especially suited for wives or partners who want to move somewhere wild and rural, to show them the process I went through. I certainly changed my mind as the building went on…
At first I was so scared and uncertain of this choice we were making, mainly because we needed to sell our suburban home to afford the construction of our new solar home. There was really no way to go back on this deal if I ended up not liking it! It did feel really risky to me, but not to Mike.
I found that very quickly after we moved into our new home about one year after moving to Walsenburg, I loved it here. The silence, the natural beauty, the amazing sunrises and the big sky feeling… what’s not to love about that?
It just took me a while to adjust my vision and expectations and QUIT WORRYING SO MUCH ABOUT EVERYTHING!
So, for any of you who want to convince your pardner to move to a more rural part of the country. This book might really help!
For some reason this spring I keep flashing back to four years ago when we were still living in suburbia in Fort Collins and preparing to move down here to build our solar home…
Here’s an excerpt from my Memoir of Retirement:
I saw a stupid retirement TV commercial last night that really got me thinking. The question was:
Can you keep your lifestyle in retirement?
Say what? It suddenly struck me that this may be the most important difference between those of us facing retirement in the next few years. I for one have NO intention of keeping this lifestyle. If we did, what would be the point of retirement?
My dream retirement involves escaping this lifestyle! I feel that I have become ‘metro-fied,’ and I’m now more than ready for a peaceful escape from my present lifestyle.
I have lived in metropolitan areas for most of my adult life, for access to good jobs. What I have observed is ever increasing crowding, pollution, traffic and aggressive behavior.
What I now long for is a quieter more peaceful existence with just a few people per square mile, where we can enjoy a friendly, caring sense of community; a place where we can make new friends through our daily lives.
We know and accept that this will involve a major lifestyle change, and we are ready for that. No traffic sounds great to us in exchange for less shopping convenience. Valuing and having time for new relationships is what we seek, not more of the same overcrowding, air pollution and road rage.
As I sit in the constant traffic in Fort Collins or Denver these days, I can only think, “This is never going to get better!” People will continue moving here and traffic will keep increasing every year, and I do not want to spend one more precious moment of my life sitting in traffic.
We want out of this lifestyle, the sooner the better!
Postscript four years later…I WAS SO RIGHT ABOUT THIS!
The Oscars did not disappoint last night. Even though I live in such a rural area that I still haven’t had a chance to see any of the films discussed last night, I still enjoyed the pageantry and political points made. Why? Because I love the genre of film. After almost 60 years of going to movies, I love the escapism offered more than ever! Dissolving into a totally different world for a few hours where my problems don’t count and others face much bigger dilemmas, that is magic!
Now more than ever I see why certain films feed my imagination and make life seem good.
Just this week I saw “Moulin Rouge!” for the fifth time and realized immediately why it speaks to me. The story is that of a writer writing about love, one of my favorite topics. The setting is so foreign and yet fascinating to me, and the heroine has tuberculosis so she cannot breathe, something I struggle with daily. And the music! And Ewan McGregor! Don’t get me started…
I see now I have a true fascination with the late 1800s/early 1900s, the gilded age. I happened to see “Victoria & Abdul” this week too. What a wonderfully honest film about the racism and absurdities of British court life. Court life viewed through the eyes of a couple of Indian clerks is fantastic, and of course Judi Dench is divine in this role! Don’t miss it!
There are truly so many films since childhood that have educated me while improving my life experience. Has anyone out there seen “A Thousand Clowns” from 1965? What amazing writing and acting! It feels more like watching a play, and with characters like Jason Robard playing his unique anti-establishment role? Marvelous!
“Oh my God, I’ve been attacked by the Ladies’s Home Journal!”
There was one great line in the Oscar show last night that really stuck with me:
Film: A machine that allows us to experience empathy… So true!
I received so many heart-felt responses to my recent post about the many reasons and ways that we grieve. One really hit home. Writer and member of Women of Midlife, Carla Birnberg, told how the grief from divorce “hits me in waves at odd times and often in public places.” This brought back memories of how I struggled with my own divorce in the early 2000s, so I decided to share this essay:
Divorce: The Loss of the Dream:
Sad to say, I find myself to be a bit of an expert on divorce. It certainly wasn’t my intention to know so much about it, but there it is. The first thing I learned from my own experience and talking with hundreds of others is that divorce is always traumatic.
When my husband of six years and I decided to call it quits back in the year 2000, we went about it in the most civilized and ‘adult’ way. We both agreed that we were making each other miserable, we had tried various counselors, and we were simply too different in our goals and interests to stay together. In other words, it was a purely rational decision. Unfortunately, my emotions didn’t agree. While it seemed easy for my soon-to-be-ex to cruise through this difficult time in our lives, I was crushed and temporarily emotionally disabled. I felt like the biggest failure in the history of womankind and his apparent inability to feel anything, just made things worse.
I quickly launched into a mid-life crisis of astronomical proportions, asking myself all the tough questions. Why can’t I ‘do’ marriage? What is it about me that makes me unable to be with others emotionally? Do I have to live alone forever? Why doesn’t love last?
As luck would have it, I lost my job just two years after the separation and divorce, intensifying the depth and drama of my ongoing mid-life crisis. Then I began to ask myself even more difficult questions like: What am I doing here? Will I ever find meaning in my life? How do I want the rest of my life to be different? I felt a strong need to understand the first half of my life, so as to make the second half better.
I got so wrapped up in this quest, I decided to start my own dating service to explore the simple question, “Do I still believe in love?” while helping other recent divorcees with their own explorations. Although it wasn’t a conscious choice at the time, it turned out to be the best therapy for understanding my own feelings about love and rejection.
Lessons learned from divorce
First of all I learned that I most certainly was not alone in my disillusionment with love. There are millions of us who don’t know how we feel about love and relationships. Interviewing scores of disillusioned divorcees showed me that we all have a lot to learn.
It became clear to me that we can learn a lot more about a person by divorcing them, than we could ever learn by staying married to them. When we are married, we are always “playing nice” to some extent. We still have a lot invested in the relationship and its future. When divorce becomes real, and it takes varying amounts of time for each of us to register this disturbing reality, the gloves come off and we become more honest with our soon-to-be-ex.
There is no more relationship to protect so we naturally begin protecting ourselves and our own interests. In short, we say what we’ve been thinking all along!
A singles workshop I offered to my dating clients provided a moment of awakening and clarity for me. We were involved in a discussion about the distance between the simple rational reality of divorce, the total ambivalence we may feel towards our ex, and yet the contradictory deep emotional emptiness that can ensue after it all sinks in. A short, elderly gentleman who looked a bit like Sigmund Freud and spoke with a heavy German accent stood up and said, “Divorce is not about the loss of a relationship, it’s about the loss of the dream.” Truer words were never spoken. I had not only lost a significant human connection in my life, but, more importantly, I had lost all faith in love and the beauty it can bring to an otherwise difficult existence.
For what is life, if we fear that we will never feel true love again?
I knew then that I had to get busy and turn my heart around. I needed to find a way to believe in love again. In my case, this wasn’t an easy assignment, but I took all the necessary steps and love did return, so much better than I could ever have imagined!
This essay appears in my first book “Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside.” Please let me know if you would like to purchase this or any of my books direct from me for a great price! MidlifeCrisisQueen@ gmail.com
My last post about misfortune and friendships turned out to be somewhat controversial, at least to some. Putting my anger so obviously on display can be seen as weakness. After all, aren’t we supposed to get beyond that sort of thing as we age? Can’t we turn our anger into compassion for ourselves and others?
I like to think we can, but not immediately. A loving friend, who knows of what she speaks, observed yesterday that my response to my own failing health is so normal and so a part of “The 5 Stages of Grieving.” Yes, grieving is not just about losing a loved one. It can also be about losing a belief that sustains you. In my case I lost my illusion that my body is strong and healthy, and somehow immune to the millions of accidents and other misfortunes that life can throw at me.
It has been so confusing to me to be angry that I even caught this disgusting infection, while not blaming those who refuse to be around me because of it. I so understand their fear of contracting it. It’s the worst! But where do my feelings figure into this discussion?
My husband Mike is an interesting person to talk to about illness and friendships. He lost friends when he somehow contracted Myalgic encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) at age 35 in the early 1990s. He had no idea what he had at first and either did most doctors. They would do lots of tests, and when they couldn’t figure out a proper diagnosis, they took to blaming him or his depression. His friends also had no idea how to react and some just decided to vaporize, but the hardcore ones remained for decades by his side. Of course he of all people understands fear of illness, but he also had no interest in looking up those who vaporized when he was very sick.
Mike has grieved for years over the loss of his high level of health before he suddenly became ill in his 30s. He has also developed an amazing level of compassion for those who struggle with illness, pain and frailty. He does not seem to judge anyone. He just understands.
I will continue to deal with my own losses day by day. I do feel sorry for myself sometimes, and when I do I remember one of my favorite lines from an incredible therapist I saw for five years in my 30s:
“At least when you are feeling sorry for yourself, you are feeling something for yourself.”