Life Shifts 2021

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.

Albert Einstein

I want to take a moment and focus of my personal challenges and blessings in 2021. As the end of 2021 slams shut and 2022 comes roaring in, I am thankful for my family, friends, blessings, health, and that I still have a sense of adventure–and the ability and resources to do something about them. In short, 2021 has been a year of life shifts for me, two which have taken place in the last week. Following on Einstein’s quote above, I have been able to keep moving forward and thereby, maintain my balance. That said, 2021 was a year of significant changes for me.

The first six months of 2021 for me while sitting at home in hermit isolation from THE COVID pandemic, I poured a lot of effort into going deeper into my Zen spiritual practice. In this regard, even though I was very isolated, the pandemic had a blessing: via Zoom I was able to participate in several intense meditation “retreats,” called sesshins, from home, including meetings with my Roshi, during those first six months. I had not done a sesshin for about seven years. If the pandemic had not come along, my Zen Windhorse Center would have never (probably) started offering remote services, sesshins, and meetings with the Roshis via Zoom. Zen is an “in person” type of practice. Offerings via Zoom and Internet was almost unheard of prior to the pandemic. Since those first days, and with vaccinations and precautions, the Center has backed off somewhat, but still offers Sunday services, weekly sittings, and the first three days of sesshins via Zoom.

Did I make any progress with my efforts to go deeper? Yes. I found out how to reach a point of great stillness, which I’ve blogged about earlier (see, “Stepping into the Stillness“) and started working on my first koan, the famous Mu koan. As I have moved away now from those intense days, tapping back into that stillness is often elusive or short lived. In these holiday season, I have slipped out of being consistent in my practice. I’ve paid a price for that negligence. I can only briefly touch that stillness but not hold onto it. To “hold” it, that is, to be able to stay in it, requires more practice. The stillness helps me maintain my equanimity to cope with the ups and downs of my life. Consequently, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to get back deeper into my practice.

That first six months of 2021, I also closed down my counseling practice. I had been a professor of Clemson University for 23 years, so I thought it only fitting to step out of counseling at 23 years too. I like symmetry. No counseling practice, no need for the office space upstairs. I could downsize and move a reduced office to the multipurpose room downstairs. It occurred to me after a couple of months of being away from the counseling that, Ah ha! I could renovate my upstairs office suite into a studio apartment for rental and replace some of my counseling income.

Still in the first half of 2021, I sold my truck…

In February, I sold my nice truck while prices for used vehicles were up and transitioned to an all-bicycling lifestyle, something I had been wanting to do since October 2019 after my last trip to Big Bend National Park. The money from the truck sale still sits in my bank account (mostly), giving me a nice cushion. Plus, I am able to live comfortably within my budget as a result of the sale–along with the apartment rental income.

Following the sale of my truck in June, over the next several months I transitioned to an all-bicycling lifestyle. I found this more difficult than I had anticipated due to the extremely limited access to public transportation in the area and the dangerous country roads lacking shoulders. Ubering it was out of the question, undependendable, and expensive out here in the boonies. I could catch the Clemson Catbus if I bicycled into Central, some ten miles and several challenging hills away. The buses accommodate bicycles, and I can take it to get to Clemson, Central, and nearby Pendleton and Seneca. They also do a Greeneville route, which would be very handy, that route, however, only runs during the semester when the nursing students are in season (doing practicums at the Greenville Hospital System).

Another issue with the bicycle is that I am a fair weather rider: I don’t like to ride in the rain, when it’s too cold or hot, or, anything more than a breeze. I knew when I made this made this lifestyle shift, I was going to have to broaden that. Ugh! Let me just say at this point, “I’m working on it.” I say this with a grimace unfortunately. It is hard for an old dog to teach himself new tricks. I figure after my 2022 bicycle tour, I will have expanded that parameter. I’m going to encounter a wide range of weather conditions. It will toughen me up (hopefully). By the time I get back from that tour, the challenges I face here now will probably seem trivial. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Downsizing included decluttering and simplifying also as I mentioned. I had been making faltering attempts at decluttering the last several years and had made a little progress, which really says, not nearly enough. The downsizing kicked this into gear though–and along with the simplifying. During that process, it occured to me that I could now use that office space for an apartment for rental income.

With all the decluttered, downsized and simplifying stuff. I needed to have a yard sale. That took up a whole month of 2021! Made pretty good $$ and got rid of a lot of stuff. Garage sales are another thing I’ve added to my list of “Things I Don’t Want to Do Again.” I posted about this earlier.

However, before I could use the upstairs for rental, I would need to do some renovations: replace the whirlpool bath with a regular bath, install a galley/kitchenette, and purchase a refrigerator for the apartment. Oh, yeah, and build a separation wall across the front of my living room so that the apartment and I would have different entrance doors.

Rental was in high demand. My goal was to have the apartment available for rent by January 2022. I beat my January goal by more that a month! As I detailed in an earlier post, going through the rental process was scary, see “Landlord Nightmare Before Christmas“. Happy to say, I have it rented, at even a higher price than I advertised, and my tenant moved in last week.

I still have a lot yet to do in the decluttering arena as lot of the stuff from upstairs just got moved downstairs for me to go through later, once I got the apartment up and rented. Now I have to go through the rest of that–and I haven’t even started much on my shop yet.

Even pandemic aside, 2021 has been a very busy and filled year for me. Now I get to turn my attention back to my upcoming bicycle tour. Last week, my partner in this adventure came in for a day ane we started going over maps, making plans, and got to know each other better. Actually at this point, I am thinking of two tours in 2022: a spring tour on the Southern Tier route and a fall tour of the sacred canyons of the Southwest. Anyone want to go with me!

Right now I’m getting to go on another local adventure: a 20-mile bicycle ride to the local hospital for lab work for an upcoming, outpatient surgery. Ouch!

Gassho, and keep on pedaling.

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