'Peace Comes Dropping Slowly'; Senior Lives (Nearly) Off The Grid

When I saw divorce looming in my near future last year, I evaluated my life choices, realizing that my income would be reduced by 58 percent. Friends and family members assumed I would get a job to supplement my meager Social Security income, and they urged me to do so. But, as usual, I took the path of independence, carefully thinking over my needs and options.

With an unexpected inheritance, and knowing my ex would not be interested in sharing taxes and home maintenance with me, I invested in paying off the mortgage when my home was under water. It is now appreciating nicely.

I also bought a new Prius-C (for city driving), and set up two container gardens, each 4-feet-by-4-feet. With a new Mac computer, Kindle and a cell phone, I have my basic needs. Perhaps the biggest decision I made was to live out my remaining years debt free. If I can't afford something, I just don't get it and so far I'm enjoying tremendous peace of mind.

Here's how I manage, drawing on the wisdom of various sages who say, "reduce your wants for peace of mind," and the experience of nine years' living in rural Ireland where my water supply was jerry-rigged, and heating and cooking were by solid fuel (turf).

Over there, living in a community of some seven farming families, most of whom had little discretionary income, I learned from them and we depended on each other. Those wonderful years were among the emotionally richest of my life because I felt I was living, to a degree, as my ancestors had done in the same area of Ireland. The idea that I had to impress no one by living beyond my means became ingrained.

Today, though, I do have the luxuries of running water and central heat and air conditioning.

In my gardens here in suburban Atlanta, I planted a variety of vegetables and herbs last summer, enjoying wonderful meals of fresh, organic foods. Of course, I do purchase dairy products, meats and my three luxuries -- Weight Watchers ice cream bars, popcorn and Dove dark chocolate, which I carefully ration.

The garden continues and grows despite some freezing winter temperatures, because I cover it whenever temps go too low, and open it to the sun as the days warm up.

With the guideline of a serving portion equalling the palm of a hand, my portions are generally no bigger than approximately 2-3/4 by 3-1/4 inches, and that certainly satisfies me. One of my favorite dinners is a handful of turnip greens, cherry tomatoes and sage or basil (from the garden) sauteed with garlic and walnuts in olive oil, and crowned with an egg. No wastage, no spoilage. Just right.

I was able to reduce my electricity bills by $400 last year simply by hanging my laundry outside to dry, or draping it across a drying rack. And I love the feeling of going in the fresh air (even in the winter, though I love it less then), and the wonderful fresh fragrance of the clothing. And, of course, I turn out lights when I leave the room. With my most recent assessment from the Power Company, they say I've reduced my use of electricity this year by 31 percent over last year, already!

For telephone service, I use my cell phone and, when that's down (rarely), I use Google Phone; I video-chat with my daughter-in-law in Dubai free of charge via Google+ hangout or (audio only) Google phone. I get free books from Kindle, read magazines at the library and enjoy one movie per month on XFinity. "Argo" will probably be my next one.

Although my savings are quite reduced after all the big initial expenditures, they are again climbing slowly and steadily. But I believe my greatest benefit from this independent lifestyle is that, despite being well hooked into modern technology, I am grounded in simple pleasures and values. I feel a spiritual and emotional connection to the Almighty and to my ancestors so that, for me, Yeats' words ring true: "Peace comes dropping slowly."