Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Stepping Off 4

In order to achieve the dream of stepping off, here are some of the changes I have made so far:

1) Stepping aside from the work of being a Methodist minister. That was for the sake of integrity, because of family issues, because the Methodist community did not really want to go where I wanted to lead, because I believe in the circle of faith rather than leaders set over people, because I think paid ministry tends towards dishonesty, because I think there are times to be silent so the obligation of saying a word on every occasion inappropriate, and because I wanted to be free to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow his prompting discerned in my heart. Leaving the ministry meant losing the regular small income from preaching, funerals and retreats.

2) No longer being a car owner. I had a car in Aylesbury and one in Hastings, though I did the shuttling between the two on public transport. The Aylesbury car was just for my use, the Hastings one was shared with two of my tribe. Both were sold, and the money went back to Badger who paid for them.

3) Selling and giving away most of my possessions, to make space in the house. This was both so that the interior would be as little cluttered as possible, so cleaning it would require the least time and attention; so that we would be as flexible as possible in our use of the space and our future choices; and so that we could have two lodgers, to use the living space responsibly, build community and sharing, and return an income. Badger has the income from one lodger, I have the other.

4) Moving my work base to, and centring daily in, the Palace Flophouse.

There are some more changes I still have to make.

1) I need to make some physical changes. I am overweight and have bad varicose veins. Circulatory problems mean it is excruciatingly uncomfortable to sit at any length in a normal chair. I have to sit on the ground or on a bed. If I can't, my legs swell up. My main occupation is writing, but the laptop sitting on my thighs makes serious pains from my abdomen to my knees. So I need to use the computer less, and without it resting on my lap; and I need to walk more and lose weight.

2) The implication of that is that I will have to restrict my writing time/projects, and spend more time walking, gardening and doing other things that are not using the computer.

3) This will be a big challenge for two reasons. The first is that I allot my time carefully. I set time aside for the tribe, to nurture being family; I set time aside for chores, errands and house-cleaning in Aylesbury; and then I set time aside to think, listen, pray and write. The tribe time is a stretch of 10 days in each month down in Hastings. The rest of the month is spent mostly in solitude in Aylesbury. I alleviate the solitude by keeping in touch with friends and family on St Pixels and Facebook. Restricting computer time means cutting back on that. It will be lonely, I think. The second reason is that cutting back computer time may mean writing less, which will take my income down again.

4) So the next change I have to make, if my income is going down again, is to learn to be very frugal. At the moment I pick up bits and pieces on ebay, and buy secondhand books, buy cheap clothes. Those expenses will have to be cut right back.

It looks as though life is asking me to go a little further up the mountain again; to simplify still more. This is a bit scary. I thought I had got my life tucked right in, but I can see there is loads more to do.

I think the difficult part will be the withdrawal from the company of other people. I find the internet communities very cheering and encouraging. Also, participation in offline human society is very expensive. For example, this last weekend I travelled to Hastings a week earlier than my normal schedule, to take part in supporting the art and flower festival at our chapel. The expense of this is significant: train travel to Hastings; a weekly bus ticket to use in Hastings (cheaper to buy than the two trips to the chapel over the weekend); regular groceries for the week; travel food on the journeys down and back; lunch and snacks purchased from the chapel in the two days spent there in support of the event. It comes to a lot. Down-scaling financially means withdrawing from participation in the community, because participation always involves necessary and unforeseen expense.

Choices bring consequences, don't they!

This is turning into quite an adventure.


Buzzfloyd said...

I'm not sure that further scaling back is necessary (or healthy) actually! Re the computer - why do you have to have it on your lap? Can't you have a tray with legs or something?

Pen Wilcock said...

A solution is in process....