All Hail the Ticking Clock

I thought I was done with biological clocks when menopause set in. It had been loud, insistent, and overwhelming at times. At the age of 46, almost 47, the biological ticking clock had silenced, and in a lot of ways, I didn’t miss it at all.

But in its place came another clock.

Retrieving my dad from Panama when he fell ill, and bringing home to live with us for two plus years before transferring him to a nursing home, was a huge change for all of us.

It was also an enormous wake-up call for me.

I had always considered my dad to be quite intelligent, so I was dumbfounded by his lack of planning. He had no savings to speak of, was dependent on his only source of income, a meager amount from the Social Security Administration, and he was incapable of caring for himself any longer.

It struck me, hard, especially as I realized that my own health was at risk. I was edging closer and closer to Type 2 diabetes, and I could see firsthand what ignoring those risks had done to him. I needed to lose weight, get my blood sugar under control, and above all, get a plan in place for years and decades left in front of me.

My biological clock had been replaced with the “you’re going to get old and die” clock. And this bitch was a loud metronome, ticking down the moments of my life like the hand of doom had been set firmly on my shoulder. I began to ask myself, sometimes daily, what vision I had for the future. What would my life be like in five years? In ten? In twenty?

We had little or no savings, no real retirement plan, and at some point, my body will fail me – so cleaning houses would not always be something I could do, even if I did want to do it for years and years, which I really don’t. It has been a wonderful opportunity to make good money and dictate my own schedule. Frankly, I could double my income quite easily if I wanted, but instead, I’ve kept my client list low and turned away work so that I could instead have time to homeschool my daughter and write my books.

My dreams of making solid money writing books were constantly being interrupted and delayed by the housecleaning business, but the savings weren’t growing as fast as I would like.

Coincidentally, a few years back, a neighbor started running an Airbnb out of part of his large old house. I was fascinated by the idea, and Cottage West (which we had purchased in 2014) was the perfect place for us to create a short term rental.

The plan has taken many twists and turns, but I’m excited because the last month of hard, HARD work has taken us most of the last leg of the journey. This morning, after waking up still hazy from a bit too much wine (I rarely drink, so it really hits me hard when I do), there in one of the newly appointed bedrooms of Cottage West, I realized a couple of things.

  1. That ticking clock might have been loud, but more than anything, it has been effective. I’ve lost ten pounds in the past two months.
  2. My vision of a home revitalized from a decrepit house with raccoons as nightly guests has become instead, a beautiful, welcoming home for future guests.
  3. Just because I can’t do it all myself, doesn’t lessen the fact that I had the vision in the first place, and that’s a powerful thing.
  4. This is just the beginning. We have finish work to do to make the house ready for guests, and that will take a couple of weeks at most, but then I want to focus on several more areas (see below). My dream is far from complete, but it is well thought out.
  5. I’ve achieved a decent balance – I set aside all writing priorities in August, and honestly, I’ll probably do the same for September. I need to get the income flowing in. Once I have a decent rhythm in place, I want to sink back into my writing, dig my toes into it, and return to creating. The Airbnb income will give me that freedom. And if I handle it right, it might just give me the freedom to also stop cleaning houses and just focus on managing the Airbnb’s and writing!

The ticking clock in my head requires, nay, demands that I acknowledge my mortality. At the age of 49 years, the chance that I have already lived more than half of my years is a distinct possibility. Now I must focus on what the quality of the next half of my life will be like. It has felt like a race up until now, but I am hoping that as Cottage West begins to function smoothly as an Airbnb (and bring in good money) that I will be able to slow down a little.

I talked to my husband and said, “I see what we need to do so clearly, but I don’t want this to be a punishing race like the last three months have been (first building the front fence and then putting every minute we could spare into Cottage West). How about we discuss objectives for each month so that we have a project, one that moves us forward, but it isn’t an all-consuming ‘git er done’ kind of thing?”

He agreed, and so we continue, in approximately this order:

  1. Finish the main level of Cottage West and place it on Airbnb, VRBO, et cetera.
  2. Have contractor run PEX lines up to attic for a half bath (toilet and sink).
  3. Get Airstream into refurbisher and get it ready to Airbnb
  4. Re-do front entry pathway, side path, fire pit circle, and pathway to Airstream all in brick and mortar.
  5. Open Airstream up for rent on Airbnb and VRBO, et cetera.
  6. Finish out the attic in Cottage West to turn into a 3rd bedroom and half bath for guests. Rent it out on Airbnb, VRBO, et cetera.
  7. Clear out Cottage West basement and seal it so it is dry and not musty. Run electrical, plumbing and create a one bedroom, one bath, living/kitchen layout. Once a path to the back has been laid, open it up as a separate Airbnb.
  8. Begin work on Cottage East to create a four bedroom, 3 1/2 bath Airbnb on the main/upstairs levels that will have two full ensuites along with two bedrooms that share a bathroom. Also work on creating a basement ensuite with a separate entrance.

This is a long-term plan and we won’t be done with everything until around mid-2022. And these plans aren’t all about making money. It is also about creating our future. We are putting into place a legacy for our daughter Em (and our foster daughter if we are able to adopt her). I know too that if we have regular income coming in, where only basic management is needed, that I can finally relax, stop worrying about the ticking clock and our cash flow and instead focus on writing.

Heck, eventually, I hope to hand over the management of the Airbnb’s to someone else so that I can fully focus on writing and life here at home. A business that, with little effort or time from us, will run itself.

The other day I asked myself what it would be like if all I had to do was write – no more homeschool, no more cleaning houses (except, possibly, the ones I own).

I imagined waking up each morning and practicing yoga, meditating, and then filling my day with bouts of writing interspersed with house and home and regular exercise. It felt kind of perfect, to be honest. A future hard-won, but well worth living.

Also, when we are older, do we really want to live in this big old house and deal with stairs every day? Or would it be better to live on one level, in Cottage West, and even have a possible live-in help situation where someone with nursing experience could live in the basement apartment?

I refuse to ignore the future and I hope to plan for it as best as I possibly can. I don’t want to be a burden to my daughter, or blithely go about with no concern about where I will end up. That is a recipe for disaster – one that my father has to live with each day.

The future I dream of includes writing and publishing many more books. Of that I am sure.

Here’s hoping that once we have Cottage West in action, the ticking clock will quiet down a little. I’m ready for a little more peace and quiet!

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