There is a group of women in North Central Minnesota, who live "out in the woods" in various rural areas, usually 15 to 30 miles away from pretty much everything, and get together regularly for outdoor activities, friendship, and support. They had a discussion on the question, "Would I stay or would I go." What would you do if your partner was no longer with you. Would you stay up here? What would convince you to stay? What would convince you to go? Here's a portion of the discussion they had.
If you wanted to stay and you didn't have a doting family to support your every need, you have to be self-sufficient, have a boat load of confidence, and have a support network of friends in the area. You have to have a plan in place and understand what it would take to keep the household, outbuildings, woodlands, and machinery running. If you're fortunate enough to have abundant financial resources (none of us do), you can hire it done. Otherwise, you'd better figure out how to do as much of it as you can by yourself.
Several had started a notebook filled with instructions, written in their own terms, on how to start the generator, run the snow blower, run the riding lawn mower, use the plow on the ATV, empty the hot tub, use a drill, use the brush cutter, etc. Inserting pictures to augment the step-by-step instructions would also be helpful. The notebook should also contain the users manuals for the furnace, the septic pump and system, the water pump, and the rest of the mechanicals.
One friend who was over 70 years old shared that when she lost her husband, she'd never filled the car with gas herself. She's come a long way in three years and plans to remain up here, all by herself, even during the winter.
Protecting yourself when you live alone out in the middle of nowhere is a serious issue. Most had firearms and were proficient in their use. Others said they need to get some firearms training. One gal's strategy to protect herself: She sleeps with a fire extinguisher near the bed. It can put out a fire or stop an intruder. There were many other creative solutions.
What if you're on your own and something breaks. Who do you call? That discussion brought us to the realization that we need to put together our own "Angie's List" for local vendors, contractors, and handymen. It's so important to be able to go to someone who you feel you can trust.
We talked about how important it is to understand what your monthly expenses are, and with that, to know how your income might change should you end up alone. Do you know where all your financial accounts are located? Do you know when your real estate taxes are due? Who your insurance carriers are for your home, your car, your boat, your ATV, or medical care, etc?
One girl said if your husband served in the military, it's essential you know where his DD214 (honorable discharge document) is located. You need that to access any Veterans Administration benefits available to your husband, and perhaps to you. She has cataloged their important financial, personal, and health information. She also keeps a small file box with all their important documents: passports, car titles and repair history, wills, etc. Whenever they travel they take the box with them. If something happens and they need medical services or they need to sell their car while on a trip, they've got everything they need.
Availability of in-home nursing care may be based on how far away you live from a provider. In some of our areas, it's not available. Do you know if it's available to you? As a group we may want to pursue getting the service area expanded (look out world, here we come!).
We talked about Living Wills, or Health Care Directives, and preplanned funerals. This is very difficult for some people, especially the ones who think they'll live forever (there are lots of us out there). We all agreed, the more you can do ahead, the better off you and your loved ones will be.
Someone mentioned what would happen if something happened to both of you? What if something happens to you? Again, prior planning and documenting personal information and wishes can be very helpful for those left behind.
The bottom line is, we need to dig in and make the effort to take charge of our own life.
As far as what would convince you to go? There wasn't one gal who, aside of physical or health limitations, would choose to leave. Having a network of like-minded women to fall back on is priceless.
Author: Pat Sievertson, Sand Lake Women of the Woods
Photo Credit: Flickr image from MTSOfan