Castle in the Sky
Over the last few days, I wrote about my family history in Ancestral Call, my youth in Community of Elders, my teenage years in Coming of Age, and today I conclude with a little perspective on life and an expression of one of my deepest desires. You never know what will happen when you put something out in the Universe. Maybe my dream will come true.
Chasing my entitlements
When I was thirty years old, I found myself repeating mistakes and causing myself more unhappiness. I met some people who were happy and showed freedom of heart in the midst of the pressures of daily life. I wanted that for myself, so I joined their group and spent eighteen months learning what really drove my behavior and how I could get control of it.
The men in the group had several characteristics in common. They all sought help in their late forties because they woke up one day and realized they spent all their time and effort chasing money, and they didn’t know their families. What was the point of making lots of money? They weren’t enjoying it, and their families didn’t appreciate the results as the family entitlements were taken for granted. The worst part was that these guys missed out on family life. They didn’t know their children and many were in rocky marriages. All this for the sake of a few entitlements.
I remember a few of these guys telling me they were so happy for me. I was awakening twenty years early. At the time, I believed them. I was very happy, I had no stress, and I believed I would avoid the mistakes that caused these men to regret how they spent years of their lives. It’s been nearly fifteen years since then, and I find myself repeating many of the errors these guys made.
There is a simple truth in life it has taken me a long time to fully appreciate: the financial stress in life is directly related to the level of lifestyle spending needed to provide your family’s entitlements.
I suppose some of this is merely mid-life for wage earners. When I was thirty, I didn’t have a family, and I was not concerned with the opulence of my surroundings or partaking in costly activities. If it were just me, I could live on very little. But it’s not just me anymore, so I struggle like everyone else to provide a good life for my family. Unfortunately, at times this leaves me feeling so stressed I can’t enjoy the fruits of my labor. But when I think about giving up Irvine schools, Disney passes, or living in Orange County, I go back to work and try to make more. When will the struggles end?
Perhaps when the recession in real estate ends, my struggles may lessen, but if I’m not careful, my entitlements may grow further, and the stress will stay with me. I hope not. I grow weary of running against the wind.
And the years rolled slowly past And I found myself alone Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends I found myself further and further from my home And I guess I lost my way There were oh so many roads I was living to run and running to live
Since I left Wisconsin in 1992, I have lived in many places, but I never really found a new home. I moved from place to place looking for financial opportunity, career advancement, and a set of living circumstances I wanted to sustain. Each place I landed left we wanting.
When my wife and I came to California in 2001, we didn’t know what to expect, but I wanted to live where I could enjoy yearlong outdoor activities and the amenities of a large population center. I wanted to make a home. Getting established took time, and when I was ready to buy a home and put down roots, the housing bubble had pushed prices out of reach. I was forced to rent and wait out the crazy market.
When I began writing for the Irvine Housing Blog in early 2007, I had no idea I had found a way to become part of a community. I wrote because I wanted to save people from financial ruin, but why? Why should I care? I knew I was making the right decision for me and my family. Why did it matter what happened to everyone else?
It was through writing about the housing market that I found a way to give to the community. I made a difference in the lives of thousands of people. I found a way to matter to people outside my immediate family. I found a way to become part of a community again.
Now that the housing market is closer to the bottom than to the top, I need to find a new way to contribute. I still want to help people. If I didn’t feel I had anything to offer, I would stop writing. Over the last few months, I have developed a detailed report on the activities in the Orange County housing market, and I have created a network of housing news sites to put out the word. If my work has value, I will have found the new way to contribute I seek. I don’t know if my new blog will generate a sense of community like the Irvine Housing Blog did. Perhaps that time is past. I only know I will continue to write, provide useful information, and be myself as long as someone finds value in it.
Providing for James
Have you ever contemplated what you will be thinking about on your deathbed? What worries or satisfactions will you carry with you to the end? Something will be there for you. Will you be full of regrets? Did you leave your family in good circumstances? Will you be full of peace knowing your loved ones will live out their days in comfort, love, and safety? I live my life as a dress rehearsal for the final play. I want peace of mind at the end, and I am willing to work to achieve it.
My strongest dreams and aspirations still focus on my family. As many of you know, I have a child with special needs. Having a special needs child creates a different set of challenges for a parent. In all likelihood, James will never work or participate in the many activities we consider part of a “normal” life. This creates two problems: (1) providing enough income to establish and maintain a degree of material comfort, and (2) caring for him once my wife and I are gone. These worries drive at the root of what it is to be a parent. Parents of typical children know their offspring will develop skills to take care of themselves. Parent’s of special needs children know their offspring will never take care of themselves.
Love is here for you, Strength is deep in you Help is here for you, Teachers near for you Gifts are rich in you, There is time for you Teach us well as you Walk your way as you All is well for you I can tell for you You are welcome and wanted There’s a place for you here…
Meeting the challenge of providing a lifetime of income for my son James has been the focus of the last few years of my life. When I formed a fund to flip Las Vegas properties, I knew it would afford me an opportunity to acquire action properties for myself. Since prices are so low in Las Vegas, all of these properties are cashflow positive. I convinced my parents to help out, and now we are all buying properties that will end up as James’s inheritance. At some point, I will pay off the debt and the other investors, and my family will own a large number of rental properties. I am an only child, and so is my son. He will end up with everything. If I am successful at acquiring the properties I want over the next two years, I will supplement my parents retirement, I will provide for my own retirement, and I will secure a lifetime of earnings for my son. Needless to say, I am very motivated.
Based on his current trajectory of development, James will probably never live independently. My wife and I hope he achieves some degree of independence, and we work to encourage that, but realistically, he will always need some help. James will likely live with us for the rest of our lives. Surprisingly enough, we are both okay with that. As you probably surmised by this point, family is central to my life. My wife and I were never counting the days until James was out of the house so we could enjoy the rest of our lives without him. The majority of our activities involve the three of us, and although there are some things my wife and I do as a couple, the idea of having James around for his adult life is something we look forward to.
After my son was diagnosed with autism, I wanted to have another child. I wanted to know there was a blood relative who would be around after my wife and I were gone who could look out for an older brother. Some people told me this was unfair to the younger sibling to leave them with that responsibility. The people I have spoken with who grew up in those circumstances have told me it’s a labor of love, a burden they gladly take on. I don’t know what the right answer is, but we didn’t have another child. We decided against it. Given how much stress and worry my wife would have gone through worrying about having a second special needs child, I’m glad it turned out the way it did. When we gave up trying to have a second child, the fears of what will happen to James immediately resurfaced.
Castle in the Sky
What happens to people who die without family? Have you ever wondered? Fortunately, the world has many caring people who will give love and comfort even to strangers. Many healthcare and hospice workers are wonderful people who selflessly give. I hope the caregivers for James are caring and loving people when that time comes. Mother Theresa asked herself where she could find a group of people least likely to receive any love or comfort as they lived and died, and she sought them out to give them what nobody else would provide. It’s an amazing act of love and kindness to look into the eyes of a perfect stranger and treat them with the same compassion reserved for the most revered.
What the world needs is a Mother Theresa championing those with special needs. People with special needs like autism often don’t have the best social skills. Giving love to special needs people often requires tremendous patience and selflessness because the special person may not reciprocate in a way the giver may understand. Mother Theresa created a center which attracts the most caring and giving to continue her work. A religious order is ideal for the work of providing love and comfort to people with special needs.
As I contemplated what would happen to James after my wife and I are gone, I fantasized about what would be the perfect situation for James. Whose care would I like to leave him in? What kind of experiences would I want him to have in his final years? I kept coming back to the same thing: I would like him to live in the care of an order of Buddhist monks or nuns. What? Am I crazy? Perhaps. My wife thinks so. Can you think of a more peaceful and caring group of people? I can’t.
If I had the money to make it happen, I would buy the Friendship Mound and build a monastery on top. I would bequeath it to an order of Buddhist monks committed to care for my son James through his final days. It’s the finest destiny I can imagine, his own castle in the sky.
I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s gone All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind Don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky It slips away, all your money won’t another minute buy Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind