riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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The Solitary Life

It’s been thirty-eight days since I arrived in upstate New York, and so far it’s exactly how I imagined it would be: gorgeous, quiet, clean and solitary. Several people have asked how I can possibly like being alone all the time. “I would go insane,” they tell me. “How do you manage not to?” (some visual clues at the bottom of this post)

First of all, I am not entirely alone because I have a dog.

Secondly, I’m not entirely alone because I take walks and pass by neighbors (everyone waves to each other up here), and sometimes we even strike up conversations. I also get out of the house for errands, events, meetings and socializing with new and old friends in the area. So far, I’ve been to a brunch, an Oktoberfest party, a lecture, a business meeting, two book club gatherings and an afternoon of apple picking, which was a lot of fun.

Thirdly, I’m not entirely alone because I go to New York City (aka “the city”) every few weeks to be with family, friends and colleagues. Soon, I’ll be venturing to New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. to see more people. These weekend trips are wonderful for many reasons, not the least of which is they keep me on my toes. Driving in New York City is no joke.

All that said… I am definitely alone most of the time. Here are a few reasons why it doesn’t bother me.

I’m writing. When I’m not writing, I’m reading. When I’m not writing or reading, I’m checking social media, riding my motorcycle, cooking, walking, watching television, sleeping or, like previously mentioned out and about, in and out of the city and so on.

My daily schedule is broken down into blocks of time that start at 4:30 a.m. and end around 9:00 p.m. The 4:30-7:30 a.m. block is what a friend and I have dubbed the Plath Hours, after Sylvia Plath’s habit of working between four and eight in the morning, before her children woke up. We actually check in with each other via Twitter with the hashtag #plathhours. Feel free to join us if you’re interested. We don’t do it every day. Actually, the past few days, I’ve been writing at night instead of the morning. We dubbed the night writing hours #poehours.

My schedule includes a total of nine hours of writing time every week day, but I’m not writing the entire nine hours. I’m also checking email, social media, doing research, keeping up with my Modern Loss editing, and reading online journals. The point is, I’m at my computer working, with little to no distractions.

The rest of the day is broken up between playing with Ruby and regular day-to-day activities. We spend roughly three-four hours per day outside – rain or shine. I use this time to read and exercise (I’ve done both in the rain). Ruby plays fetch, chews her sticks, and explores the vast and many mysteries in the backyard. Afterwards, she sleeps under my writing desk on a bunch of pillows (rough life, I know.)

At 4:30 p.m., if I have errands to run, this is when I ride the motorcycle. Luckily, it’s still warm enough to ride. If I don’t have errands, Ruby and I walk to a nearby creek. She’s recently befriended a beautiful Doberman who lives at a farm along the way, and now he follows us to the creek. The dogs end up swimming, wrestling over sticks, and chasing squirrels and chipmunks. I’m not sure how we’ll keep up this routine when it gets cold, but I’ve thought about taking up cross-country skiing as a way to stay warm and still be outside.

A friend recently teased me that I’m living “a monk’s life.” It’s not as severe as that, but he has a point. It would definitely be nice to balance this solitary life with human company at the end of the day. I sometimes wonder what life would be like if/when I live with someone again. I’m pretty sure I will still spend a lot of time alone, in my office, with the dog at my feet.

I guess what I’m saying is that I see this lifestyle continuing on some level. Maybe I won’t live in the countryside, or maybe I’ll live part-time in the countryside. Either way, I plan to always have a place where I can be alone in a quiet, private atmosphere, and hopefully a fireplace or wood burning stove.

For now, I’m okay with things the way they are. Most of my energy is going into my work, which fulfills me in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time.

When people ask me how I like this new solitary, country life, I just smile. “It’s good for the soul.” It’s also producing results. More on that later.

woods Ruby on road to creek Ruby and Bronson2 ruby and bronson moto vista creek4 creek3 creek 2 creek happy me


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My Rural Fantasy

When I first arrived in Los Angeles, an eager 24 year old film student, my life fantasy was to make meaningful, financially successful movies that would be nominated for awards and win little gold statues. (Yes, I used to fantasize about my acceptance speech. Every film student does.) These days I have a different fantasy.

I yearn for a life with fewer distractions and more opportunities to dig deep into the things most important to me, and I also yearn for a life with a lower cost of living and a lower need to earn a mountain of money. A rural environment provides all of these things. – http://www.thesimpledollar.com/why-i-prefer-living-rural/

Catskills roadEver since living/writing in Vermont in January of this year, I have fantasized about moving there. If not Vermont, then some other rural environment where there are seasons, real people, animals, open skies, long stretches of road without stop signs or lights, less traffic, and less noise. And not forever, for a year or so. Enough time to detox from 18+ years of living/working in Hollywood, finish writing my memoir (and a couple of other projects), and reacquaint myself with Me.

It could actually happen.

A friend has a spacious, sun-filled, second floor apartment for rent in a big, old house located in the Catskills area of New York State. Two bedrooms, large eat-in kitchen, plus a living room. There’s so much space, I could rollerblade from room to room. There’s so much light, there might be too much light (a problem I’d love to have). It’s 30 minutes from Albany, and 2.5 hours from New York City.

[breezyhillinn.com]

[breezyhillinn.com]

The rent is cheaper than what I pay now and includes utilities. Forget about the cost of moving there for a moment. The cost of living there would be far cheaper than living in Los Angeles. Plus my friend/possible  landlord lives in NYC and only comes to the house every other weekend. So most of the time I would be alone (with my dog), ideal for someone who wants to write all day.

So what’s stopping me? Well, money and fear.

The whole point of the move would be to focus on writing, not to spend ten hours of my day in some office, or in my car commuting to work. If I were to take a year off to go live in a small town, I would live off savings for a few months, then look for part-time work. How realistic this is, I’m not sure. When I was young, I used to do all kinds of work – shovel snow, clean yards, babysit. I even worked as a horse carriage driver, where I had to clean and tack up my horse and carriage before and after a 10-hour shift. (You know you’ve been working an office job for too long when you start reminiscing about shovelling horse manure.)

Horse and Carriage [queenvictoria.com]

Horse and Carriage [queenvictoria.com]

But I wouldn’t mind doing something completely different than what I do now (executive legal assistant), or what I’ve done in the past (production manager, assistant editor, writer/director/producer). Maybe I could be a part-time farmhand, helping to pick crops and/or take care of animals. Or I could run the cash register at a local coffee shop. Or help paint a barn. Or find a way to make money writing (gasp!).

Then there is Fear. What if I get there and hate it? What if I get cabin fever and go crazy? What if the house is haunted? What if I don’t like being alone all the time? What if I still find it hard to concentrate because now it’s too quiet? What if I can’t find any work anywhere, use up all my savings and end up homeless in the Catskills?!

I recently shared my rural fantasy with a friend who’s leaving Los Angeles soon for her hometown of Pittsburgh (for the much more noble reason of being closer to her ailing parents). She thought it sounded like a great idea, “As long as you’re not running away from something. Because if you are, whatever it is will be coming with you.”

Wise words. Obviously, if I were to really do this, I would have to think it through very carefully and come up with a ship-tight plan. Right now I’m still in fantasy mode.

For more insight into the city vs rural debate, click on this cheeky yet informative article by Heather Long and Jessica Reed at theguardian.com.

Heather’s reason #5 to move to the country:

You don’t get suspicious when people are nice to you. People say hello and “how are you” and generally mean it. You go to the grocery store and have a decent chance of seeing at least someone you know. Your doctor actually calls you back the same day you call with a concern. People don’t size you up constantly based upon your job, social status or income. Volunteer work isn’t something you do for your resume. You feel a part of a genuine community, not just one peon out of millions.

Jessica’s reason #3 to move to the city:

The entire world is (almost) on your doorstep. I don’t know about you, but it would be a shame to die on the way to the hospital – or give birth on the side of a road. Which probably won’t happen in the city. You can order anything from online stores and – miracle! – receive it the next day. Museums, galleries, libraries are easily accessible, a lot of them free. And food: enough said. Who likes to have the choice only between a grim pub serving dismal burgers or fish-and-chips and the local Subway branch at the back of a derelict mall?

Have you ever moved from city to country or vice-versa?

[apartmenttherapy.com]

[apartmenttherapy.com]