P is for the Poorhouse

I struggled with the letter P. I wanted to make this something fun like P is for Porpoises, or P is for Parrotfish, but clearly I’m not the least big scared of those two things and really hope I see a lot of them. I am, unfortunately, worried about feeling like I’ve been sent to the ‘poorhouse’.  People who are ‘out there’ cruising on their boats say that it’s all worth it, and that they love living on less money and living a simpler lifestyle. I truly hope they are right and that I love it, too, because we are taking a serious decrease in income in order to make this happen.  I’m also giving up a career that will be difficult to return to in the same way if I ever need to start practicing again.

P is also for our dinghy, Puddler, which Mike is selling since we can’t take her with us. She’s a great dinghy.

Even though we feel pretty old, and are anxious to get going before true old age hits us, Mike and I are actually young to be ‘retiring’. We are not independently wealthy.  It’s probable that this will not be a permanent retirement, but only a hiatus from the daily grind and level of responsibilities that make us both just, well, tired. As the day when we stop bringing money in through work gets closer and closer I think more and more about how we’re going to be living on less than 1/4 of what we live on now. I try to imagine it, but when I do, my imagination gets the better of me. Will I never go to Starbucks again? Will I forgo Costco? Perhaps this is what is currently being referred to as a ‘First world Problem’, but I don’t care. We have worked very hard to be where we are in life financially. It’s something I continually have to talk myself off the ledge about. “It’ll be okay. It’ll be okay. Stop worrying. It’ll be okay.”

Not high, but definitely something I can waste a lot of energy thinking about.

If we were in our ’30’s, or even our ’40’s, it would be easier to wrap my head around taking a few years off from a career. We would still have many years of earning potential left and still be young when we returned. At this point, however, I worry that coming back to work might be hard for us in terms of finding jobs, mostly due to ageism in the workplace. Mike feels confident that he can get a good job, and he does have excellent skills as a programmer/developer, as well as good job contacts.

But I have absolutely no idea at all what kind of employer would look at hiring me, someone who has been in private practice for most of her career. What do you do next when you’ve had a career as a psychotherapist? Do any of those skills even transfer to anything else? It takes a long time to build a practice. I have given up all my insurance contracts, something that fills me with an odd combination of joy and dread. (No, I would not be able to get those back. The networks are all closed.) Will I even want to continue to practice if and when we come home? And if not, then how will I make money? I’ve worked since I was 16. I don’t yet know how to not make money. It makes me feel ‘poor’ to even think about it. And yet…the freedom…

In terms of what keeps people our age at the dock until they are too old to go, I’m betting this is the number one fear. It would be so easy to convince myself that if we just stayed put another couple of years, we’d be financially so much better off. But of course, we could also be dead. There’s that. And I’m pretty sure Mike would die of pure misery.

Cost to have this view? Nothing. Worth? Priceless.

Perhaps this anxiety is more about my own identity in the world than it is about being in the ‘poorhouse’. Actually, as I write this I get a little excited to see what’s next. There is a very fine line between anxiety and excitement. And sometimes where you are on that line is dependent on how you look at things. That’s where psychotherapy can really help. It teaches you to look at things from another perspective.  If I focus on the money, I’m going to be very anxious. But when I focus on the freedom, that’s where the joy is.

What’s the next thing I will do, that I can’t do as long as I continue the job I have? Looking at it that way, being “poor” might be just the right thing.

Just joined us for the A to Z challenge? Want to know more than you ever thought you wanted to know about Anxiety? Start with the letter A, here.



17 thoughts on “P is for the Poorhouse

  1. Excellent! Catches that conflict perfectly! “Who am I without my job?” is a question not easily answered, and not often enough asked!
    Here’s a career thought though: when you ultimately decide to return to land from cruising – if you do – you’ll be of an age of respectability as a therapist still, and you’ll have all the new life experiences of a full-time cruiser. Experiences that may well make you uniquely qualified to work with a whole new type of client with a new empathy. Cruising could improve your career prospects, rather than end them!

    • Well, I’m certainly open to that. It does take time to build a practice, and who knows if i will even want to do this kind of work when I return? You’ll have to ask me then!

    • Keith,

      I agree that the adventure we are embarking upon should be viewed as a unique qualification that could well be a distinct advantage in my job market. At least that is how I am proceeding. While sailing has nothing to do directly with IT or aerospace, the skills needed to pull off such a stunt are applicable anywhere. I don’t know if I will want to go back into IT full time but I feel like we will need to at least pretend that we are normal people, re-integrating ourselves back into society.

  2. Hi Melissa,

    You’re writing about where I live, in the “poor house”. On the other hand, I have ‘t had cancer again, since my mastectomy in 2011. Talk about anxiety, and fear of either fighting to live, and be poor, or just give up. Do you remember how much you helped me to fight to live, and how I began meditating especially during every chemo drip, or radiation treatment about how all the cancer cells were leaving my body, and miraculously they did! I had also resigned from all the insurance networks, so I knew the money I had made wasn’t going to come in like it had, and even though I had been wanting ObamaCare to come through, I also believed he’d hold the insurance companies feet to the fire and make them accountable, which didn’t happen. What did happen , was that everyone in the middle to upper middle class (not sure if those folks actually were in existence anymore) just had huge deductibles and ridiculous copays. Anyway, I digress. Rudy and I are definitely living in the “poor house”. Fortunately, I was able to pull out money from our home ‘s equity, and Rudy’s disability for TBI was finally approved, over a two year fight, even with a siocial security law firm. Bottom line, I’ve retired from practicing psychotherapy, tried to start a “spiritual” practice, using my ministerial studies and degrees, and fell flat on my face! First time I’ve actually failed in manifesting where God led me. (Big disappointment). Began again to start a new endeavor, when after registering a domain name and buying a package of stock photos, I gave up because I just don’t have the energy to do it! Besides, my eyesight has deteriorated to the category of “legally blind” in both eyes, which means even with glasses I can’t totally even see the big E, the first line on the eye chart! It is exhausting to read and write, luckily there’s Siri and other audible apps to help. So, how do we live? We make it barely wit SSD, my social security, and drawing money out of our IRA account. We make so little, that for the first time since I can remember, we did’t owe any federal income tax. I’ve passed through the anxiety stage, and even given up on “b” for bitterness. It took some help from Prozac and prayer, and remembering the bible verse about the adornment and no toil for it, but I decided to also remember my mother’s words, ” my children will never starve”, as well as when I would talk about worrying about financial matters, she would ask me two questions whose answers were always “yes”. The first one was “Do uou have a warm bed to sleep in?” The second, was: “do you have a roof over your head?” When I answered “yes” to both, she would simply say, “then you have nothing to worry about”. ( I’m pretty sure that there was a third question about whether I was hungry). Anyway, I just heard about a telescopic lens that can be implanted into just one eye, but that’s enough to give me new hope in that area. God does provide for his children, and no matter how you think of him, I know you are one of his favorites”.

  3. Hello Carole! It’s always lovely to hear from you, although I am saddened to hear that you are going through so much suffering just now. Yes, I do remember how you worked through the cancer in your body, and how you gave that up with grace. I think medical care in this country is a big mess, no matter who seems to be in charge. There is so much money at stake that it’s going to take more than one act of congress to get a handle on it. As a rule, I think Obama care was a good move, but I do think that it has many glitches that need to be tweaked, and the middle class ‘problem’ is certainly one of them. Many of my clients have much higher deductibles than ever. It seems like insurance has more loopholes than ever before. Every day there is another ridiculous story about how they were able to refuse payment for some technicality or another. Consumers have to be experts in the insurance industry nowadays. I’m really finished with them psychologically. Just done. Personally, I’m of the opinion that if we don’t go to a single payer system this is only going to get worse. I hope that Obama care can be tweaked to allow people to go back to having a catastrophic care system where we have a high deductible, pay cash for most services, which we can receive at a discount for circumventing the draconian billing system, and then are protected financially should anything bad happen. Sort of like our home insurance. I am, however, grateful for living in a progressive state that embraced Obamacare as without it my daughter, who travels, would have no insurance. As future cruisers is pisses me off that I’m required to buy insurance in this country, even though I’m unlikely to be able to take advantage of services here while I’m living on a boat somewhere else. Plus, medical care is much cheaper almost everywhere else. If I have a virus, I’m not flying back to the US to treat it. I’ll just go to a local doc. But meanwhile, I’m going to pay a big penalty if I don’t buy insurance here. I’m not a fan of that. Anyway, I’m sorry about your practice. I do think it’s hard when we think we are being led to take a certain action, and then that doesn’t pan out. I always think to myself ‘well, maybe I just needed to give that a try to be sure it was not the right path. ‘. That’s kind of what happened with our house. We’re sitting in a perfectly rentable house that, on paper, should have been a success in the area where we live, and we’ve had zero action. Zero. Financially, we’re at a stand still until we figure out what Andrew is going to do. Accepting that with grace is not always easy for Mike, who still goes to work every day to pay those bills. However, we both feel like if we have to sell the house, we don’t want to have regrets. So we have to go through all the motions of keeping it, even if that doesn’t work out. I hope you are still doing your meditation and personal spiritual practice. All of us are works in progress from birth to death and beyond.

  4. Especially enjoyed this post! Though I am not a cruiser (unless you count a few cruise ship adventures, and exciting kayak larks), I can identify so well with the idea of “poor house” and finding identity after retirement, plus having dealt with cancer for myself and with my daughter. I was astonished when I retired as a psychotherapist, as I had so completely identified with my work that not being one was truly incomprehensible. Now that I am a widow, and completely on my own, keeping a sense of purpose is a challenge. The “poor house” part comes in when I wonder if I have enough to last me in comfort. Since my investments are all based on the stock market, it’s an iffy deal. And I can identify with your uncertainty, Melissa, about your house. I am rattling around in mine, and though I love it, keeping it is a great deal of work for which I am not well-equipped. So I hire things to be done and that takes spending money, which is beginning to eat into my principal resources. At this point, I am no one’s wife or employee, nor do I make significant income practicing my two great passions, writing poetry and doing astrological charts. I am very glad that you’ve made plans to get out there on Galapagos and enjoy the freedom of that while you and Mike are relatively young! I know in my heart of hearts that you’ll discover your next ‘occupation’ when the coming sea journey has completed. You are tremendously gifted and creative, and have inspired so many to move ahead with their lives. You’ll know what to do, as you wisely and perceptively follow your heart. Yes, the ‘beyond’ is quite intriguing, and I’ll admit to a certain excitement about it. Perhaps it is the gift awaiting at the end of life which puts everything into perspective!

    • Joanne you are always so supportive! I do appreciate it. I worry about the fact that my IRA account is stock driven. Some days I wonder if I should sell them all and sit on the cash. I do hate to see you move out of your house. But I also know that it’s a lot of house for just you.

  5. Retiring early is a big adjustment that can cause a lot of anxiety, but I think you’ll be surprised at how far 1/4 of your income will go once the monthly bills stop coming in: There are no more car payments or car insurance. No mortgage (or insurance). No cable bill. No internet. If you keep a cell phone, you’ll probably just have one and pay as you go. And on and on and on. But I understand what you’re saying when it comes to re-entering the job market. When we started this life, I assumed I’d be back to teaching by now but so much has changed in education over the last 15 years that I’d be starting over from scratch. I try not to think about it very often but, when I do, I have to tell Amy to shut up!

    • I want to be pleasantly surprised, Stephanie! I really do! Because that’s what’s happening so I want it to go well. I’m working on shutting Amy up. Perhaps she will quiet down as time goes on after we resolve the house issue.

  6. This definitely hits home ! Before I left full-time work at age 42 (Patrick left at 55), I charted every penny we spent for 3 years to identify our real cost of living versus the optional categories. We’ve had to eliminate almost all of the optional things but honestly I don’t really miss them that much. I think a lot of our optional spending was out of habit more than real pleasure, and when you’re our there cruising, life is so different that you don’t think about those old habits. Dealing with the whole “who am I now that I don’t DO anything” is the hardest part.

    • i definitely think I am going through that, especially as Mike is the one with the skills on the boat. I imagine I will develop skills in terms of maintaining things, but it will be a long time before he isn’t looking over my shoulder. I suppose I am realizing that the places in my life where I am feeling completely confident, my work, my home, my garden, are not coming with me. Even our relationship is likely to change. I am insisting on taking my art supplies on the boat. I haven’t had any time to do art this year as we’ve been focusing on getting the house ready, so no place to leave a mess. I hope in time to explore more of that part of myself at a quiet anchorage somewhere.

  7. You’ve captured a lot of what I went through when I stopped working and we stopped having regular pay checks come in every month. The fear of being in the poorhouse still lingers in the back of my mind, but it is outweighed by the prospect of travelling and experiencing things while we still have our health. I can’t imagine being able to find a job at the level I was at in my field ever again, but I’d probably be happy doing something else (Walmart greeter?) to top of the cruising kitty when it runs dry.

    • I’m not yet at the point where being a Walmart Greeter is even a consideration. But I did, twice, try for a job at West Marine because I figured it would be kind of fun, I would learn a lot, and I would get the discount for the boat. I would be good at it, too. But they didn’t give me the time of day, even though I actually know the manager at the store where I was applying. Maybe it wasn’t the right thing at the right time, I don’t know, but to not even get a call back makes me wonder if I filled out the psychological profile in some way that make it seem like I was a bad fit. Truly, it’s been so long since I’ve worked for anyone else, I have no idea what employers want in an employee anymore. hey, maybe I wouldn’t look good in their uniform. Who knows? Mike has a much better handle on that than I do. Good thing I still have my day job.

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