Sunday, June 23, 2013

One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

Before moving to Durango, I had made a conscious choice to live a simpler life, to give up many of the materialistic obsessions of society, like my car. Through reflection over the years, I had been growing into a life of awareness, in both the world around me and the world within me. I learned as much as I could about off-grid living and sustainability, herbs and holistic healing, meditation and other healthy lifestyle choices. I became a Reiki practitioner and even an ordained minister. I felt a deep connection to the divine and looked forward to progressing further in my quest for walking a more enlightened path. Ironically, my move has done little to advance this feeling of inner peace. In fact, it has done the exact opposite.

After nearly three and a half years of unemployment where I could make my own schedule and focus on what was most important in my own life, the unemployment compensation and my inheritance ran out and I was once again among the gainfully employed. I never realized how having a job could change my life. I am fortunate in that I like my job, my employer, and my co-workers; and I’m actually good at what I do and feel like I can make a valuable contribution. However, with that being said, I never really thought about all the stuff associated with being a working member of society that I truly hate until now.

I am completely grateful for my semi-monthly paychecks. I love having an income. Let’s face it, not having money sucks. However, after thirteen years of being paid a salary or receiving a predetermined benefit amount on a regular basis, I find that working a job with an hourly pay rate is a little unsettling. The pay is irregular, so I can’t count on my budget being met some months. Planning has become a dreaded chore. Then there’s all the deductions that I apparently can’t avoid (or afford):  simple IRA, taxes, and insurance. Ah… there it is. The word I hate the most – insurance.

To say that I despise the insurance industry as one of the corporate world’s greatest evils is quite the understatement. Again, Irony rears its ugly head. Not only does the government now require me to have health insurance, but I also now work in an industry where its biggest source of income is derived from health insurance. To further complicate matters, I work in a pharmacy. After a lifetime of avoiding prescription drugs and moving toward a more natural way of health care, I find myself immersed in the very things I’ve held in contempt: pharmaceutical companies who foster sick care and the insurance companies who have ruined the so-called healthcare industry. I never understood what people meant – really understood – when they said they were living a lie. Now I do understand. I know what it feels like to be a hypocrite, because that’s what I am.

Pharmaceutical companies don’t create cures, they make bandages. They mask symptoms and make us feel better, but they don’t care about curing diseases because that would put them out of business. They have convinced society that it’s better to take a pill than to make healthy lifestyle changes. They scorn natural remedies, yet many drugs are artificially synthesized versions of them. I do understand the importance of western medicine, and I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t serve a purpose. I just realize that as a business, their primary goal is not the betterment of humanity, but to make as much money as possible.

Likewise, insurance companies don’t really want to be there for us when the worst possible health disaster strikes. They want to ensure that their bottom line continues to grow and that they pay out as little as possible. In fact, companies like Medicare are now so steeped in bureaucracy that they make it nearly impossible to keep up with all the changes and they count on mistakes so they can recoup payments or issue fines that can put a private practice or small independent pharmacy out of business completely. There is so much I could rant about on the topic of insurance, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, I believe that insurance has become a monster that needs to be slain.

Despite being at odds over the essence of my job, I have to remind myself that in order to function in this world, I must have an income. After all, until my books start bringing in the big bucks, I have no other choice. However, it’s not just the job that has kept me from progressing on my trek to a more enlightened life. I was recently presented with the opportunity to drive a co-worker’s car for a while and I took it – and saw the folly in that almost immediately. Maintaining a car is not in my very modest budget. This one needs an oil change, blinker light bulb replaced, possibly a new muffler, and a thorough cleaning. Keeping it fueled up is also an expense I hadn’t considered when I made the agreement. Oh... and again with the insurance! What was I thinking? While I definitely enjoy driving again, the stress of having a car was one of the things I wanted to purge from my life. This is not freedom. This is stress – the last thing I need more of in my life.

It’s funny how I felt less stress when I wasn’t working than I do now. It finally occurred to me that while I was unemployed, I had a sense of freedom partly because I still had an income, but also because I had no ties to keep me in one place. I could go wherever I wanted to go, whenever I wanted to leave. When you have a job, you’re tied to your employer. You go when they say you can go. You’re trapped. You can’t just wake up one morning and decide that you’re going to work on something that’s important to your own life instead of fulfilling your obligations to your employer. You put your own goals and dreams on hold while you help your employer reach theirs.

During my unemployment years, I decided to try turning my hobby into a business. It wasn’t my passion, but it was something I enjoyed and felt compelled to attempt. Through this business, I was connected with a wonderful community of people who practiced meditation or who wanted to learn how, with people who were also seeking a more enlightened path. My work was admired. It fueled my artistic side. Today, my creativity lies in spreadsheets and process documentation. Although I brought most of my beading supplies with me to Durango, I have yet to create anything new. The beads have remained untouched in their bags for a year and a half. I closed my business bank account. There is no more time or demand for Wandering Spirit Beads.

I miss having my own business, but admittedly, I didn’t like the paperwork and accounting that was involved. What I do miss is the enthusiasm I felt about it because it was something I believed in. I made my own schedule, made my own plans, did my own marketing, worked on what I wanted to work on, and still had plenty of time for expanding my horizons and engaging in my biggest passion of all – writing. Today, I struggle to conform to the mainstream working world, bound by schedules and other people’s agendas. Even if I wanted to revive my own business, Durango would not be the right place for it. The market and community is very, very different here.

Ironically, while I definitely see a future for my job, the future I see for myself isn’t as clear anymore. I have become lost in the system. I have given up more than I intended and remained attached to all I had hoped to release. My forward momentum got knocked on its rear end and pushed way back. I now struggle to find balance between living by my own values and coping with the standards of mainstream society that have been thrust upon me yet again – a world I had once successfully escaped. 

One day, I will reclaim the lifestyle I desire. Sadly, it won’t be soon enough, but I am thankful that no one can take away my vision of it. And I am very grateful for the opportunity to make a living; I just don't want it to be at the expense of making a life. I miss my bliss.

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