My life changed forever in March 2020. as a result of seven individual stressors over a 12 day period. While I am, generally, very good at managing stress, the cumulative effect of all of these was to quite simply stress me out. I couldn’t think straight or clearly, and I was chronically depressed, more so than in my entire life. I seriously contemplated suicide.
Stressor # 1 was that my flow of work, and income, had dropped significantly. As somebody who works for themselves, that was not an unusual situation, but this one was proving hard to deal with because it was affecting a long term relationship and not in a good way.
On March 1, 2020, Karen, the love of my life, told me she was leaving to get her own place. It wasn’t that she had fallen out of love with me, but the stress was making living together hard to cope with. In my heart, I had known it was coming, but it came as a shock nevertheless. This was stressor # 2
I decided that I would go back to England and settle there so bought a one-way ticket and flew to London on March 6th. I was going to stay with my brother and sister-in-law for a few days while I decided where I was going to relocate to. My brother was, for some reason, very bad-tempered that week and I didn’t feel at all welcome. That was stressor # 3.
Stressor # 4 was that I immediately realized that I didn’t like England anymore. I hadn’t lived there for a long time, so it could have just been reentry but I didn’t think it was that. I think it was the weather (dreary beyond belief), the cost of living (astronomical) and the general atmosphere (tense). All of this was pre-pandemic which was about to become the fifth stressor. However before that happened, an old friend invited me to Spain for a vacation. I definitely needed one and booked a flight for the following day.
On the 15th March, Spain and most of the world went into lockdown so I was stranded. I couldn’t see myself staying with my friend. He didn’t really want anybody staying there on an extended basis, as his house wasn’t that big. I also needed a place to set up my computers and work, which was disruptive for him. So stressor # 5 was the pandemic; stressor # 6 was finding somewhere to stay for an extended period. Stressor # 7 was that I was quite short of money. I didn’t quite know what to do, so I checked my bank account to see exactly how much money I had, knowing that my work flow had just come to an absolute standstill.
Stressor # 7, the lack of money, suddenly evaporated. Social security had just deposited $8,000 in my account. Stressor # 6 was about to disappear. My friend’s cleaner had called her other clients to see if any of them wanted to rent their apartment out for 3 months. One of them had said yes. We had a get-to-know-one-another conversation and, at the end of it she agreed to rent the apartment to me for 3 months with the possibility of extending it. That same afternoon, I wire transferred 3 months of rent to her account.
The next day I moved in to a very nice, albeit small, fully furnished two bedrooms, one-bath apartment where I set up my office and prepared to hunker down for the next few months. The only stressor left at that point was really the pandemic, and there was nothing that could be done about that, other than wait it out.
Within 2 weeks I had completely settled in, was teaching myself to cook, enjoying the peace and quiet and getting on with my life. Unlike the majority of people, I am very comfortable with my own company, and have always got something to do so boredom doesn’t enter into the equation. In fact, I was so settled I extended my lease from three to six months and paid for the entire stay. This reduced my cost of living to mainly just buying groceries. A month later, I extended the lease to the end of the year.
After three months, the lockdown eased and life started to get back to normal except that it hasn’t and probably never will. For me though, there was a new normal which I have embraced wholeheartedly. I had made the decision to stay in Spain permanently and applied for residency, which was granted on December 27th.
Spain had never been on my radar before. I’d visited a few times and had liked it, but not enough to move there. The pandemic gave me a chance to rejuvenate. It gave me time to breathe, which is somewhat ironic as the main symptom of Covid-19 is difficulty in breathing. Irony aside, the lockdown had forced me to relax and regroup.
In November, I started to look for a permanent place to stay and discovered a small fishing town just south of Alicante, called Santa Pola which I immediately fell in love with. It has something special. I can’t define it or explain it, but it definitely has something. Almost everybody who comes here feels the same way. My apartment is literally steps from the beach. Every day I sit on my balcony, drinking coffee or a glass of wine, watching the waves crash on the shore less than 300 yards away, thinking how lucky I am and how much my life has changed.
The cost of living in this part of Spain is incredibly low. My apartment is less than $700 a month and is fully furnished. A nice bottle of wine is under $3 and a 5 course meal at restaurant in the marina is around $13. It might not be paradise but paradise is just around the corner.
Reentry for me isn’t about returning to my old life, where I was working 60-hour weeks and was constantly stressed. I still work and I’m pretty busy. But the dynamic has changed and I now have a very nice work-life balance. For the first time that I can remember, I am relaxed. Even though I am still working, I feel like I’ve retired and that the things I do now are because I want to do them and have the time to do so.
Reentry is leaving my old life behind and being able to enjoy the time I have left. It’s about having the time and interest to learn new things; to read more and work less. My creative juices are flowing and I am writing a lot. I’ve got rid of all the stressors, the daily grind, the constant battles (internal and external) and not needing all that much money to live a comfortable life.
I know how lucky I am, and I thank the universe every day. As a lifelong atheist, I don’t believe in God, but I do believe that the universe is much more than a collection of stars, planets, asteroids, etc. I believe that it is an energy source that all of us can open a connection to. When there are things we want badly enough that our desire becomes incredibly focused; a connection opens, the universe hears you, and those things appear.
I wanted to stop the world and get off. The universe delivered.
P.S. Karen and I talk every single day and we are making plans for her to join me here in Spain. There are lots of obstacles to overcome but we will get there. Even if all we can do is for her to come and vacation for a month each year, that will be enough.
Thanks again, universe. I appreciate you.