The simple things in life

One of the key elements that cancer includes is a keen desire to reflect on the past, the finer things, and the simpler things.  It will also help you turn your thoughts towards the future with a careful reflection upon our past, the things we did or didn’t do, why we did or didn’t do something, and do we want to do something about it, are the factors used to decide upon the path to follow when making decisions in the present.

I used to confuse people when we were drinking by occasionally making up some wildly philosophic saying, credit it to an unknown important sounding person in the past.  One of my favorites was “if memories are made from things we have done, and seen in the past, which is behind us – why don’t we walk around backwards in order to get a better perspective of what was on our path as we travelled it”.  Ok, so I mixed some Timon/Pumbah with a little bit of Bill/Ted in the philosophizing department, but I think you get the point of how to use the past to help shape the future.

In my current circumstances, I have started to meet more and more people with cancer, and continue to be impressed with how they are handling the situation and hope that I present myself in a similar fashion.  I have mentioned before, and will mention again – Steve Barnes – a fellow Sea King aviator who was diagnosed 2 years ago.  His current big picture project right now, made me reflect on my past.  He talks about adjusting to a simpler lifestyle by spending more time off the grid, which brings me back to my childhood – off the grid.  Funny coincidence is that my parents came to visit me this week.

I have joked many times, that I likely won’t retire that way, because I grew up that way… my parent still love their lifestyle, in a mountain valley, not far from civilization, without cell phone service, electric bills, but solar panels that power a satellite internet modem so that their cabin in the woods has wifi.

Recent reflections have caused a substantial shift in perceptions, and also priorities.  That is what happens when you have a life altering statement enter your life.  I am sure Steve always had the cottage plan in his future, but I am willing to bet that many facets of it have changed. His most notable change was probably in the timeline to achieve it, or probably how much he will use it will be different than the “plan A” dream of a few years ago.  This is a bit of speculation on my part.  As I watch him forge ahead, combining his planned cabin with his new situation that I term “growing up and getting a real job” now that flying is likely taken off the table for him, as it will for me.

Steve has started a website and a blog to talk about his new project.  Just as much the factor of what the cabin in the woods has, is that he needs it to be able to function for him in his new employment lifestyle.  That is why the name of the website is very tongue in cheek about his intended lifestyle of “income off the grid”.

Back to the reality of what I wanted to talk about…. Shift in priorities, perceptions and goals.  The off the grid lifestyle has some really big advantages.  Not the least of which is that you have to be more careful with your energy expenditures.  As a cancer patient, a person will become very in-tune with only having a finite amount of energy available.  I expect that many other people have the same issues –cancer is what brought it to my attention in great big flashing neon lights. Living off the grid is the exact same method of thinking.  When you can’t just flip a switch and know that the electrons are available to flow down the wire to make something function, you need to consider what energy is used for.

Off grid energy is of limited supply, and the great thing about this is that it helps unplug a person from the “busy”.  Just like a person with cancer has a limited amount of energy that can be used in the run of a day.  Running a TV, game console or other luxury convenience will have a price to pay.  Like many budgets, the luxury items need to be the first things that get cut when demand exceeds supply.  If I spend too much time and effort doing something, I have to stop doing things.  In an off grid lifestyle, this forces people to unplug and do more things that don’t involve the luxury items, cable TV or the ability to always just nuke something to eat.  You get to slow down, talk to others, and cook that item on a stove in 10 minutes, not the 1 minute 30 second microwave setting.  

Going out to a cottage also has the benefit of the outdoors.  Sitting in suburbia watching the sun rise or set over your neighbour’s garage just doesn’t have the same value.  Have you considered that?  How about the ability to have a fire in your backyard – with more and more bylaw enforcers running around telling you what you can’t do in the city – where can you enjoy those things?  I would rather sit around a campfire than a TV.  Always have, always will – call that a perk of growing up off the grid……

I know that I am rambling a bit, but I think my point is about how to re-evaluate what is going on in life, and what to do next.  I sit back and envy Steve, he has a plan, and he made a scale model of his cabin (really – not kidding) to make sure that it met his needs.  I look forward to sitting back and starting to “plan my cabin”.  Many debate the definition of “off the grid”, and I describe is as “a lifestyle that makes you self-reliant on necessary utilities”.  I am sure people will disagree with this, as people have satellite dishes – but those are luxury items.  You don’t need them to continue.  A good test of “off the grid” living is that you need to imagine that your power has gone out at your house for 72 hours or more.  You are no longer receiving things from “the grid” – now continue your life. 

This all reflects to the concepts of what is really important and needed in a persons life.  Cancer will help you re-define what is necessary, and what is a luxury.  This makes a connection between cancer and off-grid living in probably a very round-about way.  I expect to get better at this blogging thing as I work on getting my mind back on track, and group my thoughts a little better.

A true benefit of an off the grid cabin is it will also will allow people to learn to enjoy the wait for a quality cup of good perked coffee…. because electric coffee pots are so power hungry…..