There's a pair of socks on the floor of the basement. They are my socks, but I don't want them. For the past eight years I have worked from the basement of this house in the suburbs of Philadelphia and in those eight years I have accumulated, well, stuff. I seem to have more socks than I need and one pair has formed the beginnings of a pile on the basement floor. Some of my accumulated stuff needs to go and some of it needs to --
-- wait. Let me stand back and describe the bigger picture. My wife doesn't love me any more. All of my pleadings have been cut short by that statement. She doesn't love me any more. I have to leave. I have to go to some place, any place, that isn't here. So far my attempts to deal with this resemble someone wandering away from a traffic accident. I know I should go somewhere, but I still have a crash ringing in my ears and my legs don't seem to work.
My plans thus far amount to two socks, thrown onto the basement floor.
I am obsessing about accumulated 'stuff' because to put things into piles is easier than thinking about a marriage that simply walked away and won't come back. I say 'put things into piles' but in truth, there are no piles. I have done nothing, if one discounts the socks. I have concentrated on the idea of piling up the material evidence of my past eight years but haven't, as yet, had the strength to move a single thing. The clock is ticking down to the moment when I shan't see her again and to keep the basement intact is almost like this awful event isn't happening. I sit amid my comforting junk. Things that used to get in my way are now propping me up.
Instead of reaching for those black bags that claim to be for contractors but are instead sold to the likes of me, I have chosen to begin my documentation of this phase of my life. I shall try to be me and write with a touch of whimsy, despite all my whimsy having decamped to Sarah's side of the house.
So here's the situation. I am English and I came to America to be with Sarah. Eight years down the line we are friends and not much more. We both knew something had to happen to revive our flagging spirits, and I thought we were going to sell up in a couple of years and move away -- Europe perhaps, or possibly the Pacific North West. It turns out that Sarah wanted something else, and a month ago she broke the news. I have to leave, and there's nothing I can say or do to prevent it. I have never really been happy with the situation here, and I think she's worried that we'll sell up and move, only to find that I'm not happy with the situation there either. I guess she didn't want to risk it. We remain friends. She's picking up pizza and we'll eat it watching My Name is Earl.
So what to do? I have put everything into the past eight years and so I have no money, no car, just a few things I want to keep and a basement full of things I've accumulated over the years. I shall be travelling light -- just me and my faithful dog Tyson -- to pastures new. But where?
For over a month I have been wrestling with that problem. Should I stay in America or return across the pond? I have been working as a pet-sitter here in the Philly suburbs while working on my writing, but I don't want to stay within pet-sitting range. So my immediate problem is no income (apart from you wonderful people who have bought by books). Would I prefer no income in America or no income in Europe?
Europe is a good idea because I want to be close to people who love me and they are 3000 miles away. It's hard (or at least historically it's been hard) to get a dog into the UK, and easier to get one into mainland Europe. My brother lives in Slovenia -- the Alps, no less -- and I wrote to him asking if I could begin my new life at his house. He said yes, of course I could, and I realised that I love my brother like a brother. He's a good man and I miss him.
It's been some weeks since he said that, and while I think it's the right thing to do, my dread of taking my 12-year-old dog on such a trip is overshadowing my relief at having family to run to. Also, the chance of getting work is less in Slovenia than it is in the US, and my writing isn't going to pay for a new life yet. On the other hand, in the US I'd be out all day trying to fund a life that I don't want, and poor Tyson would be alone while I'm cavorting with other people's animals. These things have kept me awake at night, the room spinning.
I have decided that we are going to live in Slovenia, a country neither of us has visited. I would be mad not to try.
To bolster my spirits and maybe drive some traffic to this site, I have decided to document the next 12 months and set myself some goals -- some waypoints, if you will. Concentrating on success will ease my mind. I can get through this if I see it as some abstract game of survival rather than a real-life disaster. I thought you might like to watch it unfold.
The abstract game is this: After 1 year, I want to achieve a lifelong ambition to be a qualified paraglider pilot with my own gear, living within minutes of a good flying site in the fair country of Slovenia, making enough money through writing and illustration work to live in Slovenia indefinitely. That makes this blog project a 12-month experiment. Paragliding is something I have dabbled with over the course of 20 years and never fully embraced. Now I find myself moving to a village only minutes form a prime flying site, so it makes sense to have that as the final 1-year mark of success. It's a clearly defined goal. Here are the waypoints:
Wrap up my American life and get me and Tyson to the plane. New York JFK seems to be the place to go.
Make it to Ljubljana with Tyson, all my worldly belongings (though they are nothing compared to Tyson), and get to know the place. As a sneak peak, he lives in Bohinj. Google it. It's insanely pretty.
See if the Slovenian authorities let me stay for more than a few months, which seems to involve having an income and proving that I'll not be a drain on the country's resources.
Find somewhere to live with an internet connection.
Learn how to paraglide despite my fear of heights (yes, more on that later), buy the gear and end my first year of Sarahlessness as a successful flying single ex-pat.
And after that? Get Sarah back, of course. How could she not be impressed by a man who paraglides and lives in the Alps...
Tomorrow I'll get serious. Today is October 26th. I aim to fly mid November. There is much to do...
[ps...Have you tried the Armchair Detective Challenge yet?]
Slovenia, writing, other things