Ode to Asheville

As I prepare to bid adieu to my home for the last 10 years of my life, I find myself becoming a bit sentimental. Asheville hasn’t always been an easy place for me to be, but it has never failed to nurture and comfort me through the growing pains it induced. Only now that I’m leaving do I see the extent of the community I’ve built for myself here, and for a recovering hermit such as myself, that’s been no small feat. I am letting myself grieve for Asheville. I know I will miss it, but I also know it is time to move on. I have learned what I came here to learn.

I came to Asheville alone, with no plan, and not knowing anybody in 2003, following the unexpected death of my brother. With the assistance of my sound healing mentor, I was welcomed by a Nepalese family and given a job in their shop. That year had been a strange series of endings and beginnings. I had gotten divorced, my work contract ended, my lease was up. So I moved temporarily to Garden of the Goddess ranch in Cerrillos, NM and spent my days chanting Ngondro and my nights battling the mice and listening to the coyotes. I didn’t know where or how, but I knew I would be going somewhere else soon. All the signs were pointing to, “Go!” On my cross-country travels which included sound healing studies in Pennsylvania with my mentor, it was recommended to me to pass through Asheville. That pass through has taken me to 2014.

There is a myth about Asheville spitting people out if they aren’t ready for the energy here. I heard story after story about how hard it was to make a living…that people either love it or hate it. Like many others, I knew instantly I had to be here. It was something about the Smoky Mountains. They sang to me when I drove through them. They knew me. Somehow, I always managed to find a decent job, often with pay that exceeded the pathetic minimum. I don’t know why I was so fortunate, but when I needed it, Asheville even coughed up a business grant and eventually, my house.

I think I became an adult in Asheville…a real adult: a person who knew how to be there for herself, take responsibility, and face what needed facing. I went through some serious karmic trials, from a horrible stalking relationship to illness to the death of my Dad, but through it all, I somehow discovered a love for myself. It helped me break many bad habits like hiding and hating life. Asheville drew me out of myself.

It did that by giving me endless opportunity: to dance, to sing, to write, and to make friends. I found here a family that shine brighter than any people I have ever known, genuine people who have been tempered by their own trials without being soured by them. They are artists, musicians, writers, teachers, and creatives of all kinds, gentle and open-hearted, generous souls who appreciate the gift of life.

I am so grateful to this land (this holodeck of jobs, friends, and entertainments) for providing for me these past 10 years. I am so grateful I got to experience one last glorious fall season here. I am so grateful for my dear friends and creative colleagues…several relationships I know will last a lifetime. To a woman such as myself, a Dorothy always looking over the rainbow, Asheville gave me a true experience of “there’s no place like home.”

And perhaps most importantly of all, I know that place is within me.

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A Hard Choice? Selling My Home

One of the big decisions that comes with relocating is whether or not to sell my house. In 2007, right before the plummet of the US housing market, I purchased my first home. Now, several years later, it has lost 16% of its value. It is a common story many people share these days and one complicated by my sudden international marriage. So much for the American Dream!

The fact that I even have a home is somewhat of a miracle to me, one I worked hard for. You see, my home was purchased through Habitat for Humanity. In addition to income qualifications, it took me 200+ volunteer hours of building houses and working in their retail store. I did all this despite 8 weeks of mononucleosis, my father’s death, and then shingles. It was quite a year. Though I’ve often wanted to pull my hair out, homeownership has been an incredible journey of personal growth and inner strength.

I am so grateful to have a mortgage without interest. That’s the Habitat deal. However, if I am ever to leave this house, I have to pay back both the 1st mortgage and the 2nd mortgage… the interest I haven’t been paying. If I were to sell now, the good news is that I might just about break even.

This is yet another big decision in a long list of decisions I now have to make as the new spouse of a nonresident alien.

“So don’t sell. He can move here,” you might say. There’s much more to that decision, such as tax implications and culture shock, which I addressed in another post.

“Then rent it out while you are in Europe,” you might be thinking. “Create an income.”

If only that were an option! You see, under the Habitat agreement, I am bound to live in the house two weeks out of every month or risk default. Renting it out is not allowed. While I understand the importance of having such provisions, it all rather sucks now that my life has taken a totally unexpected twist. I’ve fallen in love with my book designer!

The first hurdle we had to face was me being able to travel to Europe for six weeks in the first place. Fortunately, I suspected I’d be traveling earlier in the year due to the recent publication of my book, so I had already spoken to Habitat about the possibility of traveling. They graciously agreed to make allowances for me to be away longer than two weeks providing I met certain criteria, but I suspect it isn’t an exception they would repeat.

So now we must decide whether keeping the house and all it provides is a good enough reason for Stuart to uproot his entire life to apply for a CR1 Immigration Visa or whether to sell and lose not only my home of 6 years but the nest egg it was supposed to hatch for me.

Certainly the standard of living we’d enjoy here in the US in an interest-free mortgage home would be much better than what we’d have overseas. And in a couple of years, we might even have enough equity in it to actually make a profit if we wanted to sell.

But do I want to be so attached to a house here when my life might actually be waiting for me over there? Do I want to make a decision based solely or mostly on economics? Do I want to subject Stuart to US taxation? Or do I want to dream big and dare to fly? Cautious and smart or carefree and wild? Will I come to regret my decision? I guess that in itself is a choice. So whatever we decide to do, I’m deciding now to be at peace with my choice…today, tomorrow, and forever.

My life has taught me that there are no mistakes. Regret only occurs when we believe our own stories, when we are hooked by the thought that we should have done “it” differently. We fail to embrace the reality of what is and move further from truth as a result. I just need to keep remembering this.

And as for this “decision”, I can spend all the time in the world weighing the pros and cons and get worked up into a mental frenzy, but there is something far more intelligent and peaceful poised to deliver the right choice at the right time if I just get quiet and create space for it. So while I allow my mind to do its protective thinking thing here, grateful for it, now…I think it’s time to enjoy some fresh air and sunlight!