I’ve been living with an income decrease for almost 6 months now.
I prepared for the “eventful” decrease with the help of one of my sons who has some financial savvy.
I’m on a scary end of this financial learning curve because, as an adjunct professor, every single semester I am considered a new hire and each new semester I have to go an entire month with no pay. That’s two months of the year with no pay. If I don’t get summer and winter classes, that’s more than two months, but unemployment does intervene then. If you’re a divorced older woman whose ex doesn’t refuse to pay court-ordered alimony, count your lucky stars, I guess. When I teach summer and winter intersession classes (accelerated classes and the pay mounts up quickly) I may be able to make up what I’ve put on credit and/or drawn from any savings I have. I don’t know yet. I’ll update at the end of January.
I don’t really know where all of this will go. I don’t know yet whether it will be feasible to keep this house. And I don’t know yet whether I will be able to sell my home if I have to, or whether I will have to walk away from the mortgage and deal with all of that.
I’ve had so many bad experiences with landlords that I know I don’t want to go back to renting. Last landlord I had was a great guy, but he’s the only one in a long time who wasn’t a jerk. But, then, we do what we have to do, don’t we?
At least I have a part time job. In fact, I have two part time jobs, but one only pays me once a semester and it’s only a tiny bit of extra money, that’s all. Not ideal, but the work is pretty rewarding and money is money, for that matter. My health has made freeway flying unacceptable. It’s no longer on the table unless something undeniably great comes along.
So. Yes, I have a part time job.
Over four years of intense job-searching with no full time offers have finally shown me that I’m moving down a path that’s not likely to bear fruit. I had to try. Now I am done; I don’t care anymore. Time to move along.
What I’ve learned is that I can find part time teaching just about anywhere. And I’m currently looking for work outside of the academic madhouse. I’m open to what it takes. I’ve got a mixed bag of proficiencies here; I am looking at non- or less-academic ways to make the most of my skill set. At my age.
For four years I’ve thought about “working more productively.” I’m beginning to wonder whether I need to drop that idea and replace it with “thinking more creatively.”
It’s taken me over four years of scrambling mentally, emotionally, and physically to try to feel as if I can help make my family secure on my own. Do I feel that I’ve succeeded? Feelings aside, we’ve managed. There’s that.
Until recently when I had a turnaround and full-on shift in perspective, I’d been running faster and feeling like I’d been falling further behind. What changed?
First, my offspring, the younger ones, who live here with me are comfortable. They help in a multitude of ways, from work on the farm to work around the house, to contributing to household finances. They refuse to take on the poverty label, even though our household makes less than 138% of the Federal Poverty Level, which pretty much labels us poor. They take a global view of poverty and I’m grateful for that. They refuse to back down in the face of my days of bleakness.
Now I’m changing my approach.
I’ve been talking for years with older women friends who are also single about how we need to cobble work together from our own skill sets to get us through.
I’ve begun making art again. That’s a huge thing for me. This is not a radical change, not yet anyway. It’s tentative and a bit stiff and fearful. But it’s one of the most hopeful things in my life right now. This is not a money-maker but it is something I have never stopped loving, even when I laid it aside. It’s a good thing and it definitely lifts the haze of confusion and depression.
Years ago when I first began opening up Rainshadow Farm for community farm days, one of my daughters told me told me I should turn the land into an ecovillage. She didn’t have a clear plan, but a flicker of a vision. I don’t know if the high desert is the best place for something like this to fly, but it happens to be where my land is. I wonder sometimes if this is an idea that could become a thing.
A couple of my friends think it’s more than a potential thing. They both think it’s a real thing that will become necessary to many older women who are poor and in need of some security.
One of my friends thinks I should gather some of my kids, some friends, and build some tiny houses (or Cal-Earth adobes) on the property. She has said she’d love to live in a community of women like that. She describes it as, “tiny houses in a circle, like covered wagons.”
Where the money for something like that would come from, no idea. It’s only a thought.
When I say I’m going to be creative in my approach, I honestly don’t know what I mean. The idea does kindle a tiny flame of hope. Maybe things will be changing. Maybe they’ll even be changing radically. Women my age who feel like they’re getting backed against the wall are capable of some pretty radical changes.