It’s a hundred and five degrees outside. Ninty-five inside. Yup, you guessed it — the air conditioner’s out. The dog and the cat have each staked out a section of floor and spent the afternoon sprawled across the ceramic tile, trying to get as much skin as possible onto the cooler surface. Fortunately I’m home alone (other than the critters), because I’m sitting in front a fan with my blouse wide open and a wet washcloth draped across my torso. Tomorrow is supposed to be just as bad.

Yesterday I took the car to a mechanic. He was recommended by someone I trust. The prognosis isn’t good: it’ll take $2300 to repair all the places where oil is leaking out. Thinking maybe it makes more sense to trade it in, I spent some time online last night checking the value and looking for a vehicle to replace it. No good — with the amount I still owe on the car I’d be lucky to break even, meaning nothing left to buy something else. And since I’m unemployed again, a loan is out of the question.

Meanwhile, the job search turns up nothing… (unless you count the calls from insurance companies looking for desperate people to peddle their “product”).

Sometimes I think I should just do it — just sell (or rent) the condo, and go — get started on the future I’ve been waiting for. But my youngest will be 21 next month, and in December he’ll finish his training to be a yoga instructor. He needs me (or at least the use of my home) while he sets up his own life.

I could explain, and he’d probably understand. His father might give him a place to live… but then again, maybe not — and neither of them would be happy about it either way. And I don’t know — bailing on him now just seems like a really half-assed way to end a quarter-century of parenting. I’ve hung in there this long, and as eager as I am to be out of the SoCal hell, I want and need to do right by my kid.

I wonder often lately: How did we get to this point, where our ability to feed and house ourselves is at the whim of some corporate CEO with the power to “give” us a job? And why did we accept a system in which everything we need or want requires ever-increasing percentages of our income to support the demands of all the producers and packagers and salespeople and financiers and advertisers and transportation specialists and retail outlets and security personnel and commercial property owners who need to make their profit so they can meet their needs? It’s a vortex — a black hole of a system that cannot survive. It’s consuming our society — consuming us, if we let it.

I will find a way to get through this year. And, meanwhile, I’ll work at arranging my life so that I don’t support the social and economic model that’s sucking us dry. I’ll choose connections that support my values. Intentional interdependence — that’s the goal.

Are you in?

One Year

One year – if I can last that long. Fifty-two weeks before I escape SoCal and head north to find the green open spaces I’ve been craving all my life.

I’m looking to trade a burdensome house payment for a tiny mortgage-free cottage, my decades worth of clutter for the liberty of minimalism. I’ll donate my blazers and throw out the heels, sell the car, quit paying stylists and manicurists and dry cleaners, flee the shops and traffic and relentless intrusive advertising. I’ll find a place to contribute something that matters – something more lasting and humane than shareholder profit. I’ll live in blue jeans and cozy sweaters, and take time to stroll rather than dash. I’ll let my hair grow and toss out the curling iron, and only wear shoes and bras when I feel like it. I’ll sit outside at dawn and at sunset, wrapped in fleece and sipping something warm, with my feet tucked under me and the mist soaking into my upturned face.

And mostly, in the hours between, I’ll finally write my novels. Ten years I’ve waited, while life churns on around me and the incessant demands of debtors and employers eclipse the whisper of characters and stories I yearn to tell. The words will come, free and pure, unencumbered by the crushing stress we’ve all been programmed to call “living”.

One year — time enough for my youngest to finish his schooling and build his own life. Less than nine thousand hours. I’m starting my list and I’m making my plans. Already, my lungs expand in the promise of clearer air, my smile in the hope of new friends to love, my very life in the discovery that this trap has been an illusion all along.

Take the time to dream of it: without your house payment, who might you become?