Sunday, May 19, 2024

How Do I Save Myself?


Hello Invisible Audience,


I have already written about The Conundrum, but here’s the gist of what I’ve been thinking a lot about the past six months or so. Do I stay in Leavenworth, or do I go somewhere else? If not here, where? If I’m not teaching, what do I do instead?


And although I still have all those questions, the context in which I’m thinking about them has changed since the last time I wrote about it. 


Here is what I have figured out:

I don’t want to leave where I live.

I would rather be here. I would rather be able to walk out my door and straight onto hiking trails. I would rather continue to hear the river when I’m outside, even if I can’t see it. I would rather continue to enjoy the changing seasons, with long summer days and long starry winter nights—although if I’m going to be honest, I could do with less snow. I want to continue to enjoy the cold, clear, glacier-fed water that I swim in all summer in so many alpine lakes and river eddies.

I want to continue to feel like I am a part of this community—that the work I do somehow benefits some of my neighbors and friends. I want to revel in the deep knowing in my blood that comes from having been born in this place. Although I grew up 50+ miles from where I now live, North Central Washington is home in a way nothing else ever has been.


Do you know what I don’t want?

I don’t want to continue to struggle so much to pay all my medical costs, even when the care is either substandard—i.e. the sinus infection I had misdiagnosed three times a couple years ago, etc.—or my insurance that balks at paying for things it already agreed to pay.

I don’t want to continue to hope that I feel well enough that I don’t have to choose between eating foods that don’t hurt my gut or paying for that thing my insurance doesn’t cover that will reduce my pain.

I don’t want to think about how rent has doubled and sometimes even tripled since I moved to this area nine years ago, and how there is no way in hell I will ever be able to afford to buy a house here.

I don’t want to spend so much time looking at my budget, over and over, to make sure what I make covers my expenses plus my debt.

I don’t want to feel like I’m fighting so hard against a culture that tells me it’s my fault if I’m sick, or not thin, or I don’t have enough money, instead of considering the implications of the policies that have brought me and so many others like me to my knees.

I don’t want to think about how hard it is to save for a supposed future retirement when all my money goes to treating my illnesses now, and how that wouldn’t be the case in any other country in the world because our healthcare costs are so astronomically high.

I don’t want to continue to feel so isolated in what feels like a nuclear-family-centric society. I want to be part of a thriving, interdependent community.


I want to be here, Invisible Audience, but I am not sure I can afford it, in more ways than one.


I was listening to an On Being podcast episode today with a climate activist from Louisiana named Colette Pichon Battle. She talked about how it doesn’t matter if she already knows the land her family has had for generations is going to be underwater soon, no matter what. “My last name is Battle,” she said. “I am not going down without a fight.”


So here is my question, Invisible Audience: do I stay and fight toward creating a place for myself here to make it feel even more like where I want it to be? Or do I leave?


I had a thought start dancing through my head in the middle of the night a couple days ago.

Why wouldn’t I save myself?


Why wouldn’t I go where it’s easier? Where I don’t have to adhere to the culture because it doesn’t feel like it applies to me? Where the cost of living is cheaper; where I can live better on less? Why wouldn’t I do that, when I have the language skills that would allow me to live more comfortably in 20+ Spanish-speaking countries, not to mention the number of English-speaking ones? Where the kinds of people I would likely befriend have probably also checked out of the American dream and all the lies that stack of cards is built upon?


Why wouldn’t I save myself, Invisible Audience?


Because maybe saving myself is not as simple as leaving North Central Washington behind.


Every day I listen to podcasts or read books or go to theater productions with people who are trying to change their worlds from the inside. People who are eschewing the larger cultural messages of conformity and fighting to bring change to their communities and their world. And when I ask myself if I want to leave and the answer is no, not really, it means the alternative is to become the kind of person who creates the world I want within this one that I don’t. The one who builds a bubble of my values and invites others in and we watch diet culture and bootstrap culture and terrible, expensive medical care press down on our bubble but it does not burst. And we take care of each other instead hiring someone to do it like we’re told we should. We become each other’s families because ours are not right for us. And we move into spaces that do not welcome us and we dig in and we stay. And maybe that is a way to save myself just as much as leaving would be. In fact, perhaps it is even more the case.


Is it possible, Invisible Audience? Is there room there for me? For the me who is tired a lot of the time, and wants to have enough energy to write to you more than I want a paying job? Is there room for the me that is terrified that I will not be able to afford assisted living for myself one day because of all the money I’ve had to invest into my care now instead?


What does saving myself look like, Invisible Audience? Does it look any different than what my life looks like now? It’s hard to know.


Love and life preserving kisses,


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