Checkpoint 1: Back to School. In the spring, before this blog was born, I was searching. Searching for the path that would lead us back toward our family principles, reel in the children, and bring peace to our daily lives. The variable wreaking the most havoc on me personally and by extension, my family, was my job. I have come to regard my entire experience in that full time office roll as a “teachable moment.” A long, arduous, limit stretching teachable moment. I took the post with a hope and a prayer of improving the financial mess we have been mired in. I went in eyes wide open, knowing the potential cost to family, home, and relationships. This wasn’t my first rescue mission. I went in armed with knowledge gained throughout my lifetime as mother and breadwinner. I had parameters. I knew my make it or break it points. And I consciously allowed each of them to be shattered. People worked for me. I worked for them and our clients. My roll required me to know the deepest needs of these people. This was more than a job. Lives and livelihoods hung in the balance. It was pressed upon me, at times, to put the job (read: clients, staff, and department operations) first. Eventually, my phone/job became a member of the family. It joined us for mealtimes, showers, sleepovers, vacation days, holidays and special events. To separate it from my family very often meant someone suffered. To service the job fully and then go home to family, meant I did not see my family those days. My house and family steadily suffered neglect. My only defense became exhaustion.
You see, I didn’t miss the signs along the trail. I cannot say I didn’t know. And every day I fell into a black, restless sleep as I struggled to find a way to maintain my core priorities: My family: husband and children come first. Income: in a perfect world, we could survive on one income. 2008 taught me otherwise, but that is a story for another day. So I was back to searching. Searching for anything, everything, THE thing, that I was led to, willing and able to do. The thought of changing jobs led to an investigation of schools. College (again) for me and different schooling options for the kids. One cold day in February, this journey began as I sat in the university counseling office. The seed of this journey, planted itself in a tiny, warmly bright spot of hope in my heart. I could feel it. Fragile and surrounded by ominous, billowing fears. Rooting itself in my heart the moment I heard I could finish my degree. The credits were there, and they count! With a part time schedule, I could earn my degree within 1 year. For the first time in 20 years, I could see the finish line. I could Do this.
Checkpoint 2: Reduced full time job to part time. Scary. Good. Bad? Financially terrifying. Mildly anxiety reducing. Exciting. Completed.
Checkpoint 3: 1st Semester back in college: Done. While spending the summer adjusting to my new roll in a flexible, part time post at the office, I spent as much time as possible with the kids, with positive results for all of us. (Check out The Adventures of Benny, Izzy, & Squirpy page for details) My husband changed jobs twice. I began the Everest-like challenge of gaining control of the house. And I managed to add an A and a B to my transcript.
Check back for more postcards from trail. Thanks for joining me!
Armed with the knowledge of self discovery and a burning desire for a life of purpose, I seek the signpost. It feels good to be doing something. I have a pep in my step and the tunes are blasting. Like the first moves of a new workout, I am energized and fearless. I am taking steps to break the jar that has captured my life. This is it!
And then I was again. I was excited. I was fearless. There I was, at the crossroads, and instead of sign post pointing toward various paths of purpose, the reality signpost I faced looked like a stressed out porcupine ready to defend itself. Each arrow thrusting toward a path. Each path looks different and appears to have merit.
Some look to easy….you can’t trust those.
Some look like the path to Mount Everest…even if I thought for a moment how exciting that would be, my body reminds me of its limits, which include a healthy fear of heights and a true aversion to the bitter cold.
And then there are the paths that look as though they were heaven sent; hand created just for me. But wouldn’t those paths be self serving? Can I justify walking one of those paths? Will choosing such a tempting path diminish my primary loves and responsibilities? Can I choose one of those paths and still be a dedicated wife and mother?
Maybe this is where I was captured. Paralyzed by the fear of every what if racing around my mind, each chasing the other, a cacophony voices and heart beats. Paralyzed and deafened just long enough to miss the jar surrounding me and the sealing of the lid.
How long have I truly been in the jar?
What woke me from my fear induced coma? Perhaps the crushing pressure of loss as the possibility rich air was slowly vacuumed away.
Perhaps I was comforted for a time, cocooned in peaceful silence, giving in to the fear, and staying still. That stillness can be viewed as a victory of sorts. Choosing to be still. Refusing to be prodded toward any path. Taking the time to see through the glass without distraction. Time to slow my racing heart and calm the frenetic thoughts in my mind. Moments my mind used to remember the joy of anticipation and the rush I feel striking out on a new path with fresh air and heightened senses. Memories triggering feelings. Feelings awakening need. Need forcing my eyes, heart, and soul to wake, look around me, and catch that fleeting reflection in the glass. To truly see the flickering and wilted fairy. And the spell was broken. The stillness shattered, revealing the spoils of my stillness like the unveiling of a bride. But where my eyes had seen solutions that blinded my heart, my soul saw the inconspicuous curved walls of my prison and the wilting of the precious family I hold above all.
When I am feeling confined and the bone deep longing for change is crushing me, I search for guidance and inspiration all around me. I listen even more carefully to my family, radio and news. Straining for a sign to justify the intense and sometimes overwhelming need to find a path home. What would really be lovely and heaven sent? A sign. Literally. A sign from God that says: Go this way =>. I imagine it to be something like a scene from a movie. Golden paths stretching endlessly in many directions. Some paths look simple and flat. Tempting. Some paths roll gently before me, undulating forward, no major climb for as far as the eye can see. Doable. Then there are the paths in shadow. Rocky, nettle laced paths that scream danger. Easily weeded out. And there, before me, a path with my name on it. It calls to me, enticing me to follow the smooth stones. Come, walk along my tree lined path where flowers bloom in clusters at the base of each tree and berry bushes dot the path. Everything about this path speaks to me and my heart aches with wanting to step toward the coming adventure.
And here I stand, frozen. Which path to take? Am I selfish or actively reaching the solution or goal? Each day, every moment, I am listening. Searching for the sign or key. Searching for permission. Searching for absolution.
Searching for signs and that still small voice takes me many places. Every interaction an opportunity to glean meaning or direction. Every drive a chance to filter through the ideas and knowledge. Moments not occupied by work or responsibility are chances to ask myself: “Where do I go? What am I meant to do? How can I make that happen?”
I listen to my favorite radio station hoping and praying to discern God’s will in my life and find the courage to do something about it. The day my heart, mind and soul found the same page, I heard “Day One.” My own personal epiphany. I had discovered the answer to a critical question. With solid confidence, the answer was the same for the family of questions related to the life shaping question: “What is my purpose in this life? What is my most vital work? Is what I am spending my time on supporting that purpose, enriching my family, and laying a strong foundation?’ On this day, the ‘coulds & ‘shoulds were quiet. Knowledge, courage and bone deep certainty welled up and flowed. The time had come to stop making excuses and take control of life’s rudder. It is time to open my eyes and See. See the paths, the jar, the lid. “Day One,” an anthem to my soul. I am starting over. My future has begun.