A Year of Healing

2010 was a difficult year for our family. We started the year off by closing our children's store, after only 2 years of business...a decision that required lawyers and letters and high levels of stress and defeat. And for someone as competitive as I am, defeat is something I'm only recently coming to terms with. We still drive by the shopping center from time to time and there's a collective 'sigh' while we're passing it. While we don't miss the seven day work week, we do miss the community of shopowners and customers. We miss our employees. We miss what it was and meant to us.

And with the closing of the store came the huge loss of savings and all financial lifelines.

Sigh. We miss that, too.

But during, and because of, that dark time, the ex and I were able to see each other on a different level. The store was something that meant alot to both of us, and we managed to stay friends despite it all. Hard times bring people together, and that's exactly what happened for our family - we licked our wounds and hunkered down together - after three years of separation/divorce.

Hunkering down was definitely a highlight of the year. However, reconnecting as a family after so many years apart brings with it a whole host of other complications. It was awkward at best. And all those issues that were fuel for the divorce, that you think are no longer issues because you're no longer married, are now once again issues. We started seeing a counselor, and she helped us worked thru some of the larger hurdles - but even she, at some point, wasn't so sure a reconciliation would work for us. So much for clicking our heels three times.

On top of all that, and more importantly, around the holidays we lost two dear family members, a grandmother and an uncle, to cancer - after years of watching them struggle - both within 6 weeks of each other.

It comes in waves, doesn't it?

When I look back on it all, one thing that comes to mind is when you have so many stressors stacked up on top of each other it's almost impossible to fully deal with them. We went thru it, we survived it, but I'm not sure we fully understood each lesson, or fully processed the losses as they came up. Much of it was a blur. Standing now on the other side, with a big move coming up, and with a new year underway, I've decided to dedicate this next year as one of healing. Processing and healing. Recovery, survival, relaxing, breathing...being. All versions of it. It doesn't surprise me that my new favorite cable show over this past year (and one my kids are now obssessed with as well) is "I Shouldn't Be Alive"...a show about survival and healing. I don't think it's coincidence. It reflects where we are, and reminds us to keep fighting and not give up, no matter how much bad news comes our way. And I'm OK with that.

We don't live charmed lives. Maybe it's because of the choices we make. Maybe our risks aren't calculated enough. Maybe we just have bad luck. Maybe we just have bad genes. We obviously have quantitatively more lessons to learn in this lifetime that others seem to have. At least that's how it seems. I wonder about that sometimes...are others just better at hiding it? or living in denial? or simply don't see some of the same things as worth fussing over? Maybe I tell myself these things to make myself feel better...maybe that's my own version of denial. Often when I find myself envious of another's wealth or travel luxuries or house or clothes, I do eventually discover that they, too, have struggles. They may have different struggles, on a whole different level, but if you dig deep enough you'll usually find them. We each have our own individual perception of what we consider to be a struggle...or a luxury.

For example, I haven't had a dishwasher in almost 4 years....is that a struggle? Maybe to some a dishwasher is a luxury...to some it's a given. I'm so used to living without it now, I'm not sure I see it as important anymore.

But I refuse to be one of those bloggers who paints a charming perfect illusion of what our life is. Our life is warty and chaotic, at best. And I'm starting to think that's how life is actually supposed to be. OK, maybe not a constant warty struggle, but a path of choices, some painful and some joyful - and it's that combination that makes us who we are. I don't think we're supposed to stay in a continuous state of happiness and bliss, surrounded by luxuries, getting whatever we want, having all our wishes granted. But doesn't it seem like that's what we expect? Only to then be disappointed and stressed when it doesn't stay that way? What do we actually learn from that?

So, for our year of healing we've decided to get out of the city. We lost our dreamhouse in the country in early December, after our current house was already half packed and within just a few weeks of the close date. That too, was a hard conversation to have with the kids. But we've decided maybe that's one of those 'thank God for unanswered prayers' moments. Because as it turns out, deep down we don't want need to be isolated...we want to be away from the city, someplace beautiful and peaceful, with room to stretch our minds and our legs, but not so far out that it's a half-hour drive just to get to a gas station. We got so distracted by what we thought we wanted, we didn't stop to think about what we really needed.

And what we need is to heal and relax and take deep breaths, rebuild our savings, live within our means, turn off the cable, read up on farming, unplug from mainstream ideologies and expectations, learn some lessons, and really focus on coming back together as a family.

We need to babystep our way off the grid; and to rediscover who we are as a family. To explore other communities and areas around us to decide what truly suits us. We want to be a part of a community - a town where you know your neighbors and drink coffee from a small locally owned coffee shop, and buy clothes and furniture from the local thrift store. Where Target and Walmart are thirty minutes away, not the gas station. A small town, but not just any small town; we want one that reflects who we are and embraces us just as we are. We've adapted to the suburbs we've been living in for most of the past 11 years - but it doesn't reflect who we are. If anything, we've gotten more lost. It's easy to lose your identity when you mold yourself to live the way the others around you are living. The way you think you're supposed to be living. And sometimes that happens whether you intend it to or not. Maybe it hasn't happened to you, but it certainly happened to us.

So, we've decided to move to a lake surrounded by hills, about an hour from the city. 'Cause I mean really, what's more soothing than seeing water and hilly canyons everyday? And we aren't thinking ski boats and jet skis - we're thinking sailboats and canoes. Something that glides, floats...something that relaxes on the water and requires something other than gas power to be moved. There's a river near the lake that is popular for tubing. After many conversations about it we're all in agreement that a year of quietly floating down the river, or gliding around on the lake, in the warm sun - well, is there better therapy than that?

At first I was scared. Gah! So many changes! Out of our comfort zones! But now I'm actually looking forward to a year on the lake. It may not be all we had hoped for in this next move. It isn't the land we were hoping for. It's yet another year of renting, which is the opposite of what we all want...but perhaps, as the Rolling Stones like to say, it's exactly what we need. With a deeeeeeep heavy sigh, as we relax into these new ideas and a whole new town, I say BRING IT!

Because let's face it, we are all capable of handling so much more than we think we are.

Disappointments are tied to expectations. If we give up our expectations and just breathe and go with what is put in front of us, whether we like it or not, our disappointments are lessened. We'll get to our goal eventually. Stress is a part of life, yes, but letting it consume you is a choice. It's tied in with what we want and what we think it's all supposed to look and feel like. The older I get the more I realize that's just a fantasy that doesn't exit. Yes, we can have dreams and hopes. But life rarely looks like it sounds on paper. People get sick, life savings are lost, businesses crumble, cars break down, kids are constant, travel is postponed, we don't always get what we want. Life is messy and difficult and unpredictable. We never know when something will come along and try to take us out at the knees. Our strength and faith are constantly tested. And that's OK, because if you go thru life thinking those things won't happen, you'll surely set yourself up for disappointment.

My sister-n-law's brother was called one day while he was out of town and was told his wife and daughter were in a serious car accident and were being life-lighted to different hospitals. They weren't sure if his teenage daughter, who was driving, was still alive. He was pulled over on his way to the hospital and explained to the policeman why he was speeding. He asked the officer to pray with him and was given an escort. Before he even knew the extent of their injuries he told his father, "If they're still alive, we'll get thru it - no matter what, we'll get thru it." I see that kind of strength in others and it breaks me down. If there's anything in this life worth striving for, it's not luxuries or successful businesses or dream houses or granite countertops or traveling or fancy cars or anything else money can buy...it's having the strength of character to know that we can survive whatever comes along in our lives. Because truly, what doesn't break us, makes us stronger. And its at that moment, that we're really living.

So here's to a year of healing...and renewed hope...to rebooting and reconnecting...to processing, remembering, grieving and celebrating, to feeding deer in the front yard and sailing away on a windy lake...to taking deeeeeep breaths, and letting it all go.


  1. You have a share button, so I did.... hope you don't mind. I find your writing utterly inspiring, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  2. Stacey, you are the most amazing writer and I absolutely love to read your blog. You are so gifted with words and you inspire me everytime I read what you have written or even in our conversations. I love you sister!

  3. Thank you for the sweet responses, ladies! I'm so glad to know others find inspiration or comfort here.

    I love you, too, sister! We have always been good at inspiring each other! Perhaps we need another Barnes & Nobles nite out :)

  4. Ok, you left me teared up Stacey! Wonderful -Dana Bates

  5. Great honest writing. You have talent and strength. You will definitely be standing tall with a smile on your face when you make it to the other side of these current hurdles. "We've got miles to go before we sleep"

  6. Thanks, Curt, that means a lot to me. And I hope you're right! :)