Monday, January 9, 2017

Darkness

Do you believe in seasons of darkness, seasons of light? I once heard spiritual friends talk about seasons of their lives this way but I guess I had never experienced a long season of darkness. At 17, I battled severe depression, but it passed in about 6 months time; I only needed time to process some life changes and redefine myself. It wasn't that the sadnesses didn't return, but they didn't stay or have the same impact. I has hope. I was excited about my life. And I'd say there have been other, brief time periods of darkness spread out over my lifetime.

My husband and I spent about 14 years of marriage together in a period of relative light. It wasn't without issue or strife, don't get me wrong. In that time period, there were three years somewhat consumed by a diagnosis of a brain tumor and potential brain surgery, for example. We had three miscarriages. We took a couple financial risks and lost. One of us hated our work vehemently. Our son was born and refused to sleep. Ever. But this: we were happy. We were together in the hard stuff. We were best friends. We had hope. We had dreams. We lifted each other up; when one was discouraged, the other encouraged. There was a positive life energy around us. I'm aware that sounds cheesy but it's true.

I'd say we've been in a period of darkness since we decided to sell our home and live full-time in an RV. A lot of folks would say, "duh, why'd you do that?!?" Our reasons were many and complicated; suffice it to say that it seemed like the best way out of a financial mistake and we really thought God led us to this decision. So, here we are, with little option out at this point, and over one year to go.

This has been, hands-down, THE most challenging time of my life. I find myself praying desperately every morning on my drive to work with tears in my eyes, and doing the same on my way home. The point I really want to share with you is this: God is with me. He is with you. Always. I never actually knew this before. I knew it in words but not in my heart. He has brought me to my knees in grief and fear and moments of hopelessness, but I have felt His role in all of this without doubt the entire time. I can visibly see His work on my character. He is scraping away my pride, my idols. He is teaching me to depend on Him and to glorify Him. This work hurts and I would love to cry "Mercy", but I know it will be in His time.

 "Never doubt in the darkness what you have seen in the light." I have that quote up on our wall and I look at it on the really rough days, like today. Lord, help me to hold on to the direction you gave us nearly 2 years ago and remain steadfast in this direction, despite the obstacles. You urged us out of  the light and into the darkness. We are afraid of the dark. I am like my little boy who, tonight, whimpered as he walked a few steps in the black night from our car to our home. I took his hand in mine and assured him he was safe, and then we were back inside. Im grasping your hand tightly, Lord, and listening for the comfort of your words.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Adventure Craving

We attend the Banff Film Fesrival every year. If you've never gone, go. You will be impressed. There is something for everyone who thinks nature is amazing. You don't need to be a free solo climber or a kayaker that drops 50 ft waterfalls. You will find some of those high adrenaline films, but you will also find beautiful films about elk migration and informative films about sustaining river health.

But anyway, I promise I'm not a Banff Film Fest employee paid to promote the festival! That wasn't even the point of this post, so allow me to begin.

Every year when I attend the festival, I leave feeling a combination of energized, excited, alive, adventurous, and, disappointed. The last one has been more pronounced since having children. I love my kiddos and am so glad I chose to be a mother. And I have had some funny/horrible parenting adventures, typically involving bodily excrements. Don't you want to be a parent now?!?

Most of parenting is mundane and schedule-focused and ssslllooowww. I love taking adventures with my kids, but, at the end of the hike or climb, they get cranky and I'm responsible for feeding them. And cleaning them up. Oh yeah, and getting them home and in bed. The drudgery of responsibility that never ends.

Let me paint another picture for you. My husband and I would arise at some ridiculously early hour, like 4am, and throw our gear in the truck to go ice climbing. We'd drive icy roads to remote places, and grimace at the cold when we got out of the truck. We'd slip on our boots and the many layers and hit the trail, always with a sense of thrill and wonder at how the climb would go. We'd climb all day, stopping for a cup of hot soup if and when we felt like it. Some days, we'd hike out somewhat early and head to dinner and a hot springs soak in the evening. Other days, it would be a long and quiet haul back to the truck by headlamp, and we'd collapse on the seat inside, exhausted and famished.

I loved it. The adventure. The not knowing. The deciding as you go. The freedom from responsibility other than personal safety (relative). The spontaneity. I even loved the exhaustion: cold and sore,  dirty and cut up,  and bruised and snotty; the sense of having used my body fully. And having used my body fully, I could take a long, hot shower and then fall into bed, again, without other responsibilities.

So, when I felt the disappointment creeping in, this time I decided to instead get excited about adventuring bigger and better than I have in my motherhood this far. I'm going to plan more short outings and some bigger/deeper/further adventures as well. I'm going to take the kids. And I'm going to leave the kids. Lastly, I'm going to remind myself that this beautiful thing of being a parent is finite. There will come a time in the not-so-distant future when I will wish for my son to call me, just to check in once in awhile. I will yearn for just a portion of that sense of responsibility, the one that right now feels like a chain around my neck, because with that great responsibility comes a connection you can never find in any adventure.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Gratitude

At many points in my life, I have felt the need to focus on my blessings and all the goodness in my life. It is very easy to complain. I have been complaining consistently for over a year now. And throughout this time, I keep returning to the call to be more grateful and less selfish. I have not been very successful in that endeavor. It's probably like anything, I'm guessing, in that it's a matter of discipline.

In order to stay in a place of gratitude, I must train my mind to refrain from complaints, particularly those with no solution, and refocus on the positives. I cannot allow my mind to go wherever it wants to go. I must guide my thoughts and intentionally turn away from some of them.

To that end, I'm going to start a "daily gratitude" habit. My morning and night prayers will be focused on giving thanks. And, when I have a moment here and there, I will record my gratitudes. I'm re-training my mind. Here's today's gratitude:

Oct. 23, 2016-
Walking through the woods with my little man on a sunny day...he told me that a bear, skunk, hedgehog, wolf, and sheep all lived together in a small cave that we passed. He then told me stories about their adventures together. He fits perfectly into my world; God made Him so well. At the same time, there are many moments that I'm stretched to fit into his world, which is not always so easy but often very rewarding.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Balance Point

Before kids, Brandon and I got out for some type of outdoor adventure together two times a week, sometimes more. On a mountain bike ride or on a climb, we both felt rejuvenated and full of life. We forgot about our worries and enjoyed the present moment.

Since kids (4+ years), Brandon and I have enjoyed exactly one mountain bike ride and one climbing outing. And these two were so short and required so much effort to coordinate that the "escape" sensation was not achieved. I have spent a ton of mental energy trying to figure out how to get more of that since having kids. And all that thought has led to nothing. So I feel perpetually frustrated and wanting, trying to find a solution to our "problem". 

Maybe the bigger problem is not accepting my present reality. Maybe I should stop looking for ways to get little bits of my old life back and instead fully immerse myself in my new life. I see plenty (read: most) parents do this. They lose themselves entirely in parenthood. They have zero interests outside of raising their kids. They don't even read for pleasure; on their bedside tables, you find books about how to handle tantrums, raise a well-balanced child, and tips for dealing with the troublesome teenage years. Every weekend, the entire weekend, is dedicated to soccer or football or softball. If you try to talk to these parents, they have no conversational material other than the lives of their kids.

So look, I'm not here to judge. It's just that that version of parenthood doesn't fit me. I don't have the ability to give up all of me; I'm too selfish.  I also happen to think its not all that healthy, for the parents or the kiddos. 

I guess I'm trying to find a middle ground. I want to climb and mountain bike and ski tour with my husband. I understand it won't be that often. The "solution" I've been trying for, I believe, is trying to get these moments together more often than never. I want to reach that balance point where what you want and expect is reasonable enough that it occurs most of the time, and you are satisfied because your expectations are met, instead of feeling constantly disappointed. Any tips from parents out there who have found a middle ground? What does it look like and how did you get there?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

So Very Zen

We chose the fulltime RV lifestyle for the ability to travel, to change our scenery and explore cool places easily. Unfortunately, that is not how the last year has worked out, due to various factors not within our control.

However, in the past month, we have enjoyed some small travels. We slow tripped it home from our summer home in CDA, stopping at a fruit ranch for a few days and a mountain pass for a couple days as well. This week, we are back at the pass. The view out our windows has changed, the nearby activities just a bit different. Although these are not necessarily exciting and new locations, we both feel energized by these small travels. This is why we got the Airstream. This was what we intended to do. This was the whole point. 

As Brandon put it once, this past year we have experienced all of the challenges of life in a small traveling home and none of the benefits. Maybe now we will get to experience some of the benefits. Maybe. Knock on wood. Throw salt over your shoulder. Stroke a rabbits foot. I do feel superstitious after this past year, like just when we got hopeful another setback or obstacle popped up.

So I won't be hopeful for the future. Instead, I will simply appreciate the present. Today, I am looking out my "living room" window at mountains shrouded in clouds, the cottonwood leaves wavering in the gentle wind. Tomorrow I will pick berries with my family and my children will be covered in berry juice and dirt. Maybe we will have a campfire in the cool fall evening. The next day I will ride my bike with good friends from the top of one ski area to another. Right this moment, life is good. God is teaching me to be in the moment. I know, so cliche, but also so hard.

Dreams, Failure, and In Between

Many dreams are difficult, and one knows it from the onset. People dream of completing the PCT in one go. It's not impossible, many achieve it. When they return from their journey, they tell of oozing blisters and a monotony of one step forward followed by another that nearly broke them mentally. But as they tell these stories, it's with the gleam of victory. There is nothing like overcoming adversity and it has a life-changing power. You cannot achieve the same spirit vicariously from the comfort of your couch viewing a reality show. You are not alive. You are just breathing and existing.

Some dreams fail, or are so miserable that they should be deemed a failure. Our current dream, of living full time in an Airstream, might be one of those miserable undertakings. It has been sooooo hard. Many people would say this failed dream was predictable, that they tried to warn us. But we are in the middle of the challenges now, so we can't see clearly. We are sitting on the trail with bloody feet, trying to adhere duct tape to our heels and toes and arches. We are sitting on the trail crying because we have hit yet another obstacle, that seems to be a message: "you shouldn't have done this." 

I'm not someone who gives up, and I'm not even sure that's a positive trait. Sometimes, in my life, it would've been wise to "give up". It wouldn't even have been giving up; it would have been admitting I made a poor choice and starting over. I spent three years hating my college, for example. I didn't choose to transfer to a different college partly out of apathy but mainly because I wanted to make my choice right. I did somewhat enjoy my senior year. Does that make it a good decision to stick with it? Or, would it have been wiser to transfer in my freshman year and have three years of a great experience?

So this is where we are right now, decision time. Our original plan when we moved into the AS was to stay in it for two years before breaking ground on our new home. Yet, this past year was not the travel year we had hoped and now Brandon's neck injury has us wondering if we ought to stick it out one more year. I really don't want to. I am ready for a home and a little more space. Why does this feel like giving up when it was the plan from the start? 

The thing about failure is that you often look back on your mistakes fondly. To live full time in a travel trailer with two kids in a rainy environment might have been a mistake, but we've made many beautiful memories along the way. And, I have a feeling that when we tell of it, it will be with that gleam of victory, that sense that we did something a little amazing, that we were alive, and that we made it through together. 

Still though, I'm ready to be at the "looking back" point. Sitting with friends around a dining room table, drinking a glass of wine as we tell of our trials, and thinking "oh man, I'm sooo glad to be done with that dream." 😂

Friday, September 2, 2016

Thwarted

Did you know that a life can unravel from one moment, one decision? We had a home in the mountains, a beautiful and fun toddler, a relatively happy marriage, and time to spend playing in the mountains: hiking, running, skiing, biking.

It was time for a change, we knew it. Not because we wanted to leave our current life. Not because we dreamed of better, really. No, we knew we had to make a change in order to fix a mistake we had made years back, to do the "responsible" thing. So we struck a compromise: we sold our beloved home and purchased an Airstream to live in full-time while we saved some money to build a home on a lot that we purchased at the peak of the market (yep, that was the mistake to be fixed). 

We dreamed that we would travel and live with less stuff. We were excited for adventure. Everyone else we knew, however, thought we were crazy and didn't hesitate to say so. Coworkers had bets for how long we would make it in our new lifestyle, ranging from 2 weeks to 3 months. Oh, and did I mention that at the time we made this decision we were expecting baby #2?

The Airstream life has been stressful and the opposite of freeing. It is hard to link our experience to any one factor because, frankly, this has been a rough year full of issues that would've been difficult even in a normal home lifestyle. 

April-June 2015 moving and more moving, organizing the storage unit, selling possessions
June 2015 one week trip
July 2015 doc orders no travel (baby)
Aug 2015 baby!!! House-sat for a friend
Sept 2015 back in the Airstream, prepping for trip
Oct-Nov big road trip!!!
Dec- two nearby trips
Jan- sick the entire month, plus returned to work after mat leave
Feb- unexpected family member death; memorial planning, estate dealings
March- one nearby trip, discovered leak
April-May displaced for repairs
June- prepping for trip, neck injury
July-August stayed in one spot (it was pretty!), no travel due to injury

During this time, we have fought way more than ever in our marriage. We have developed bad habits of criticism and harsh words. We have taken our stress out on our toddler and put unreasonable expectations on him. He has overhead way too many adult conversations about "what to do next". 

This isn't to say we haven't had good times, or that we won't have fond memories of this time. There will be some, for sure. But the good don't outweigh the bad, and we are tired. We don't have hope that the lifestyle will improve for us. Maybe this next year we won't get seriously ill, incur major injury and lose a loved one. Maybe we will actually be able to travel as we had planned. 

But what if not? What if it's another year of sitting in a confined space while it pours rain day after day, with the same exact view instead of a view that changes as we travel? What if it's another several months of being displaced (ie moving all of our stuff repeatedly) while our AS gets repaired? What if we are thwarted nearly every time we try to enjoy this lifestyle?

My deepest fear is that we sold our happiness with our home. It's not rational but it's real for me. The last time I can remember being happy is in that home. The last chunk of time I remember getting along well with my husband, the last time I felt comfort in my surroundings, the last time I felt at home. The last time life felt easy. What if we can't get it back??? What if it's gone?

I really wanted this dream to work. Wanting something to work isn't enough. I'm reminded of my baby girl trying to force the star shape into the circle hole; it just won't work, no matter how badly she wants it to and no matter her level of determination.

We are faced with some decisions, but again, they are complicated. If it were easy, I'd say we should start building next June, as planned. But now, with my husband's neck injury, we might have to wait one whole more year. If he is injured and cannot start the building process, do we just sell the AS and rent? Do we continue to try to fit the star in the circle and hope the AS lifestyle is finally what we dreamed of? Or, do we move forward with building even if it means paying other people to do the work?