Most of us never give it a second thought. Or, if we do, it is when we have just lost someone we know or love. We are not often confronted with it ourselves. Coming face to face with the possibility of death knocking at our door.
When we first started on our full-time RVing adventure in May 2020, we had some adjusting to do. We were leaving behind family, friends, our house of 24 years, our neighborhood. We sold a business we had owned and operated for 25 years. We sold, gave away, or donated the majority of our furniture, and boxed and stored items we wanted to keep for a future house. Our home-on-wheels was all of 224 square feet, and everything we needed to live and be comfortable was packed into it. It took several months to get into a new rhythm of life, moving about the country during a pandemic, meeting new people at a distance, filling our time with explorations instead of work.
When we came back to North Carolina at the end of October 2021 it was to be just for a couple of months to spend the holidays with family and friends and to catch up on basic medical appointments – physicals, dental cleanings, eye checkups. Everything was moving along nicely, except for a weird gurgling feeling I was having just below my rib cage on the left side. Occasionally, I would have pain, especially if I tried to take a deep breath. I diagnosed myself, of course. These symptoms weren’t present at the time of my physical at the beginning of November, and—other than a low platelet count in my bloodwork—I was healthy. I was assured that low platelets were something they saw regularly, were not necessarily a concern, and they would re-check my bloodwork before we left for Florida at the beginning of January.
The gurgling and pain continued into December, and I finally decided to talk with my doctor. A telemed appointment—a video call—on December 15 was very productive. My doctor listened to me, listened to what I thought it might be, wanted to order a lung x-ray (she thought it was the lining of my lungs because I had pain when taking a deep breath), and decided to also order an abdominal ultrasound because I was certain it was NOT my lungs but maybe my pancreas.
As we all know now, my lungs were fine, but the abdominal ultrasound on December 23 revealed multiple lesions on my spleen, which began the journey of discovering I had stage 4 lymphoma and treating it with six rounds of chemotherapy.
Tumblers are turning; gears are locking into new places; an updated alignment is coming alive.
Our worlds tilted. Quick adjustments were required. Our Florida plans were cancelled. Our trip to Alaska the following summer (2022) was yet again postponed. We had to reach outside of our comfort zones multiple times from January to July, first asking my friend Chris if we could camp in her front yard for several months, then borrowing my brother-in-law’s truck so we could have another vehicle to drive since Carl continued his part-time job at Lowe’s Home Improvement, among other things. We took our laundry to our daughter’s house every couple of weeks. I took our garbage to a friend’s trash can. Carl took on a massive caretaker role, dealing with his emotions as well as mine, researching when I just couldn’t think about it, cleaning up after me when I was extremely sick the week after my first chemo, and working part time to keep his sanity in check and to feel productive. There were appointments with my oncologist, bloodwork between chemotherapy sessions, bloodwork at chemotherapy, echocardiograms, PET scans, and a trip to an endocrinologist.
Overall, my body handled chemotherapy fairly well. The first week was an anomaly. I contracted norovirus which made me very ill and dehydrated. After that, the main side effects I had included hair loss, fatigue, and occasional swelling of my feet and ankles.
We are on the other side of all of that now. Chemotherapy is over, and my hair is growing back. For the next few years, though, we are tethered to NC because of quarterly follow-up appointments and needing to have my port flushed to stay operational. So, although we plan to continue RVing full time, we are adjusting—recalibrating—our travel plans around these quarterly appointments. After our extended stay in Minnesota while Carl works the corn silage and sugar beet harvests, we will make our way back to NC for my November appointment. Bonus: We will be spending Thanksgiving with family. Then we will go to Florida for a few months, and we are deciding whether to drive back at the end of February or whether I will simply fly back for my next appointment. Then I need to arrange my May follow-up appointment to coordinate with our plans to drive to Montana as we begin our trip to Alaska for the summer (finally!). My doctor might not be thrilled about this, but we will still be in Alaska in August (for the next quarterly appointment). We will need to find a place in Fairbanks or Anchorage to have my port flushed, but my check-up will need to wait until we get back to NC sometime next Autumn. I am not happy to be tied to medical appointments for the foreseeable future, but I appreciate the care and cure I have received and will do what is necessary to make sure any recurrence is nipped in the bud.
Our thoughts about retirement are also being recalibrated. Carl is not yet ready to completely retire. He enjoys working, making money, and helping others in the process. Working part-time at Lowe’s for several months kept him happy and busy. The corn silage and sugar beet harvests have been on his bucket list for a few years. One day on the job and he has already said he is having fun and is talking about next year! It is becoming apparent that we will need to fit some type of temporary, part-time work into our travel arrangements these next few years.
Honestly, though, while I was working on other authors’ books, I was wondering why I wasn’t working on my own.
I am recalibrating my relationship to work and retirement as well. In all fairness, I never considered myself retired. I called it an “extended sabbatical.” My years publishing Innerchange magazine notwithstanding, I have worked for someone else my entire adult life. My website, BookLayoutPro.com, and its services were born last year out of my skillset, wanting to help others, and wanting to do something productive on a part-time basis. I have worked on a couple of books (see rivetingjourney.com’s sidebar), but promoting my website fell to the wayside because of my health. Honestly, though, while I was working on other authors’ books, I was wondering why I wasn’t working on my own. If I am to write a book on consciousness evolution—something I have been thinking about for a few years—I have to let go of my ideas surrounding work. Committing to myself and establishing a writing work ethic with self-imposed deadlines is different than taking on a project for someone else with his/her deadlines. Then there is the whole money thing. I won’t get paid until a book sells, and that is scary. Putting tons of work into research and writing to not sell a book is deflating and demoralizing. Plus, I’d be putting myself “out there,” and I have to be prepared to take the bad (comments) with the good. Considering I take everything personally (I mean, it IS all about me, right!?!), will I be able to handle an onslaught of criticism? On the other hand, it could become a well-sought-after non-fiction read! Will I be ready to own its success and carry it forward with another book? (I have a rough table of contents for one already…just saying.)
As you have probably surmised, I am getting in my own way. The questions and doubts continue as I realign my relationship with work. I can feel the recalibration occurring in my psyche. Tumblers are turning; gears are locking into new places; an updated alignment is coming alive.
I have the books I need with me in the Airstream and truck. I’ve downloaded dozens of articles and papers—many of which I’ve read and categorized for my research. My writing space is not ideal, though. I have claimed one end of the couch (the only place to sit in our Airstream) with a nice little table for my laptop. Some of my books are in a basket at my feet. If the weather is just right, I set up a table outside to work. Another minor issue: I concentrate best and am most productive when I have the place to myself. When Carl is here, he is usually doing several things at once—listening to CNBC, reading articles online, commenting out loud on the stuff he’s reading, reading to me, getting up to check on things, going in and out, etc. Very distracting! So, while we are here in Minnesota for harvesting, I hope to finish “recalibrating” and make good headway with a few chapters of my book.
Life’s circumstances require us to recalibrate—maybe more often than we realize. Whether it be health, work, family, friends, goals, plans, retirement, or daily tasks, readjusting our mindsets when needed allows us to forge ahead with strength, with purpose, with compassion, with love for ourselves. Hopefully, my reset will see a published book as a result.
Be kind to yourself. It will ripple out to others.
A few quotes on recalibrating…
“If you explode onto the scene at a very young age, there are so many people pulling you in different directions. It takes time to recalibrate and see what’s important.” ~ Clive Owen, PictureQuotes.com
“ ‘Due north’ on my compass is largely ‘due’ to the fact that in ‘due’ time I have been ‘unduly’ lax in recalibrating my compass. And I’m apparently ignorant enough to wonder why I’m lost.” ~ Craig D. Lounsbrough, from quotessayings.net
“If running a marathon excites you, create space in your life for it. Adding a new commitment means recalibrating different areas of your world. Logging more miles as your race date approaches means less time invested in other pursuits. Not forever, just during the months you train.” ~ Gina Greenlee, from quotessayings.net
“Getting healthy isn’t just about losing weight. It’s not limited to adjusting our diet and hoping for good physical results. It’s about recalibrating our souls so that we want to change – spiritually, physically, and mentally. And the battle really is in all three areas.” ~ Lysa TerKeurst, from quotlr.com
“Recalibration of the mind means clearing our perceptions and recovering our capacity for pure observation.” ~ Ilchi Lee, from quotlr.com
“Things are recalibrated according to new perspectives and perceptions.” ~ Tim Gunn, from quotlr.com
I have a theory, ill-formed and ill-informed as it may be. Back around 2016, I think our universe slipped into some type of black hole, tilting the earth on its axis in a different way than projected, and we have been living in this altered universe ever since. Between a weird presidential campaign, a raucous four years of politics, topped with a global pandemic, it has felt so completely different than “normal.” Of course, this is on a macro level. Is it abnormal or some type of new normal to which we are all adjusting? Right now, I’ll vote “abnormal.”
On a micro level, we bought our Airstream and brought her home in 2016, setting the course for full-time RV traveling, which we began in 2020 at the height of the beginning of the pandemic. Then, almost two years later, I was diagnosed with lymphoma (still don’t know the precise one!). What!?! I never, in a million years, would have thought I’d be diagnosed with that. I’m still grappling with it, knowing that my life as I’ve known it for the past two years is now completely on hold. The freedom I felt traveling this country with Carl and living in the Airstream has been taken from me by ruthless invaders in my body. The control I had over my everyday life has been snatched away as I wait for biopsy results, wait for treatment to begin, wait for the end of treatment, wait for a cure. Wait, wait, wait – somehow my new mantra.
Gratitude… Something we feel and/or express when a kindness has been bestowed upon us. Whether it is the gentle touch of a warm breeze, the sight of vibrant flowers or incredible waterfalls, or receiving a gift from someone we love, we are momentarily blissed and blessed. Or maybe gratitude is when we remind ourselves of the beauty that surrounds us, the people we encounter, or the friends and family we love. I often remind myself how blissed and blessed we have been to be full-time RV travelers, visiting exquisite parts of this country.
Good. Smart. Pretty. Rich. Successful. Skinny. Brave. Savvy. Strong. Experienced. Coordinated. Courageous. And many more adjectives that easily fit into the blank space. Many of us have thought, said, and maybe even overworked this phrase, replaying it in our heads, never getting quite enough out of it that we keep weaving stories with it.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, especially in terms of my writing. I enjoy writing, and I think I’m pretty good at it. Every once in a while, I’ll reread some of the papers I wrote while obtaining my Masters in Transpersonal Psychology, and I admit to being impressed with my own writing. I am usually amazed at how well they are written, given that I don’t remember writing them! I often think my writing—on particular topics, anyways—is more stream-of-conscious, since I don’t remember how I so eloquently got my point across. Unlike right now, I feel like I’m thinking too hard as I write this paragraph.
Back to not being “______ enough,” I have thought that I need to be some sort of expert on a topic to write about it. I don’t have some great romance novel or epic adventure/mystery/thriller waiting to be written. I’m more interested in writing about topics like consciousness evolution, the Yuga cycle, or some other sort of transpersonal topic. Since it is nonfiction, imparting information that someone out in the world might find interesting or useful, I feel like I should be a walking encyclopedia on the topic. I’m not experienced enough, or smart enough, or worthy enough.
- Gary, Minnesota for the corn silage and sugar beet harvests
- November – Goose Creek RV Resort, Newport, NC
- December – Florida
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We are Karen and Carl Newton, full-time RVers!
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