Back in 2010 when the you-know-what hit the fan, I knew deep down that I probably wouldn’t be able to keep my house. As an independent photojournalist almost my entire life, and as the internet grew and magazines started to die, my livelihood also began tanking. Another issue, which is a whole different story, was my age. People, particularly women, become invisible after 45!
But my biggest concern was lack of any sort of pension or savings (it had all gone into real estate) and I wasn’t quite old enough to take social security. Fear began to rear its ugly head, something new to me as I had always been fearless. Always trying new things, traveling far and wide, experiencing new and far-off cultures.
I Was Petrified
So not only was I penniless, I was petrified. And as the months ticked by, fear and loneliness grew and I began to think that maybe I was heading towards being that little old lady huddled on a street corner. The fear was irrational but very real. Logically, I knew that that scenario would never happen. I have a super-supportive son and friends who kept telling me, “We will never let that happen.”
But it held me captive for too long. More and more, I stayed home. I didn’t want people asking how I was doing and wanting updates. It was too embarrassing and humiliating to see the pity in people’s eyes!
After a couple of years, when I became eligible for early social security, I took it and discovered that there are other services out there for people in my situation. So I began to explore them, battling bureaucracy and some very snotty government employees. Food stamps took some of the load off and my health coverage was covered by the state. (I think each state has different plans which provide different benefits.)
During the next few years, I picked up a few part time jobs but never enough to pick up the pieces of a shattered existence and never enough to really allay the fears. I kept thinking, “Where will I go? What will I do? How can I make a living?” These thoughts spun around my head, on an endless loop, immobilizing me. The fear had me completely trapped — in my mind, in the house, in the situation and I felt completely incapable of getting myself out of there. And of course, the shitty weather in Washington State did not help my frame of mind.
Finding a Passion
What I discovered though, during that time, that new experiences and developing new ideas helped alleviate the fear. I discovered a passion for craft distilleries! And that developed into a website where I profile the local distillers and distilleries. So that, along with not making any headway with the mortgage people, finally got me moving and out of there for good at the end of 2016, because I knew that if I did not leave, I would, literally, die.
I had a plan to develop the distillery site all worked out, but once again I ran into the lack-of-resources issue and have had to put the big plans on hold while keeping the site alive.
Losing the house and heading out into the world with just a suitcase and backpack was daunting. For a while, fear had me in its grips again. But I thought back to what had pulled me out of it before; getting busy and having a plan.
So that is what I am doing, working to develop a program, or something that can help people move past the fear that immobilizes. At the moment, I don’t have a clear picture of what this will look like, but am trusting that my vision comes clearer in the next few days! It’s going to take some time to do this, but I have plenty of that and feel hopeful and energized. I look forward to each day of my inappropriate life as I learn something new through the course I am taking, knowing that despite the long hours in front of the computer, this is my vehicle to a new life.
First published on Medium