What is peace of mind worth?

For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to find a way to move closer to my son. It is all that’s been on my mind. I thought, “Why am I staying, when I could sell and go?” The original idea was to put a cement slab in the back of his property and put a metal building, tiny home, or RV there. Then I saw some cute houses for sale in a nearby town, and the hunt was on. I felt that I could keep from imposing on him.

I met with my Realtors here and discussed pricing and what needed to be done to get my place ready to sell. In the past, I’ve had no problem selling a property and finding a new one in short order. I’ve done this several times in my lifetime. I just underestimated this time how ridiculous the market has gotten.

There was one house I fell in love with. It was about $50,000 higher than I had originally wanted to spend. (The goal was to go down in price and monthly cost so that I could be prepared for retirement.) It was an adorable rambler on a 1/3 acre – fenced. Everything in it was in pristeen condition (did a video walkthrough with my agent). Everything about it was right for me. Half-hour drive to my son’s house. Half-hour drive to major medical centers. No problems with crime or anything like that. I could not go over asking price, however, so I made an offer at full price, no contingency. There were six offers on the place, so I knew I wouldn’t get it. Then yesterday, after I had already moved on in my mind, my agent reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to do a rent-back with the current owners while they found a new place. I said, “Absolutely!” Some part of me suddenly had hope! I thought perhaps they were going to go with my offer if I made that concession.

And then this morning, the property is under contract, and it isn’t with me. My heart was dashed on the rocks again. I had to start asking myself some tough questions.

During all of this house-hunting, I have been packing up things to get ready for the painters to come in. They don’t move furniture, so I need to get everything away from the walls so they can work. (They don’t pull out refrigerators either, so that just won’t be painted behind.) Almost every day, I find that I have to medicate for my anxiety. My hands shake. My head pounds. And, most worrisome, I start to have chest pains. I think it’s from indigestion, so I’ve been eating Tums regularly. I’m trying to get rid of things as much as possible so that I’m not continuing to carry the past into the future, but in many cases, these are things that I either need or want. For the last six months, I’ve cut way back on buying anything that I can’t immediately put to use or consume (for example, I still have to buy pet food and supplies, lotions and self-care items, and so on). So far I have several boxes and bags of donations. I have more that will be hauled away to the dump (broken things or things that would not be of use to anyone else). It’s all good. Decluttering is something I’ve been trying to do in small batches. I’m not a hoarder, but like most people, I let some things accumulate without much thought.

I was going to borrow money from my IRA (which, to be clear, means I take a distribution and lose 30% to taxes) to put down on a new place because in this market, you have to buy before you list. Then I was going to put the money back in (and then some) and buy some of the bargain basement stocks right now. I’m not a “middle-class millionaire,” as one of the financial companies puts it; I’m just middle-class and have, like most folks, a good deal of my money tied up in real estate. Due to life being what it has been, I have lost money in stocks when the market sank in 2008 (and before that when my ex-husband and I took money out to care for our daughter) and have been trying to make it up ever since.

I’ve worked since I was 15 years old, and someday I want to retire. I want to write books without the constant pull of my job. I want to be able to focus and to write at whatever time of day or night the muse appears. The house hunt was about that, too. I wanted to find a place that would let me afford to live on Social Security and the little bit of money in my retirement accounts. All that seemed to be going up in smoke as the market in North Carolina got hotter and hotter. It’s not sane right now. It’s ridiculously volatile.

When I was younger, I wanted to find a little farmhouse with some acreage. I wanted a writing room that overlooked a pasture with a few Holstein cows. I was going to write. It was always my goal. But I had to earn the lion’s share of our living. Writing took a back seat. I came last.

I have a friend who has a little farm right outside Rockville, in Montgomery County, MD. It’s 8 acres of heaven. I don’t know how much she has downsized from the original farm operation since her wife died and her kids grew up, but they used to have an egg business (lots of chickens), a few rescued horses, 3 dogs, a couple of Holstein cows (her wife had grown up on a dairy farm in West Virginia), and a couple of alpacas. She taught school, maybe still is. She rented out the little cottage on the property (where my ex-wife lived when we met). I know that it was a lot of work, but her wife, who was legally blind – but also a therapist with a PsyD – did a lot of the work. When I stayed at the cottage with my then-girlfriend, we would sometimes watch the place while our friend and her family took the kids to the State Fair with one of the cows or such. We would feed the animals and collect the eggs. I loved every minute of it.

I don’t know if my body would ever allow me to do something like that. I would need some help.

I can just imagine having chickens and maybe some pygmy goats. Maybe a rescued horse or two that I simply cared for, because I’m not fond of riding. My mental well-being would be so good if I were surrounded with animals. I actually prefer them to most people. In the afternoons, after everyone was fed and tended, I could write and nap. Then I’d do the evening feeding and tending. I could get the chickens back into their coop for the night. I could write some more. Maybe I’d do a little painting.

I could live in a small house and maybe have another small house on the property to rent to a farmhand or a helpful friend. A big red barn would house the horses. A cute chicken coop would keep my chickens safe. I could have a little playground for the goats. Goats are hysterical creatures, but they can also get into so much trouble.

None of us know how long we have to live. The actuarial tables say the average lifespan is going up. My medical history says maybe I could have another 10 or 15 years. How do I want to spend those? What is peace of mind worth? How do I get to where I want to be?

I have more questions than answers today. There are two more properties that I have already committed to look at tomorrow. I won’t be looking beyond that. And honestly, I’m not sure they’re what I want. I guess I’ll go back to daydreaming and fixing up my current house to make it more of what I want. When the time is right, I’ll move on. Meanwhile, I’ll continue missing my son like mad.

Peace, Jude

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About Me

A writer and solitary soul in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

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