Crossroads Blues

These days, everyone seems to be in a crisis when dealing with their work-life balance, with satisfaction in their life, and with defining their purpose. Everyone is looking for answers.

Well, that’s not exactly true, those who aren’t in this conundrum seem to be in total denial. They are “escape artists” that live their lives at work as an alter-reality and then come home, grab something unhealthy for dinner and eat it in front of a cable program, coincidentally called “reality TV” – which, by the way, is an oxymoron. They aren’t real people, but are played by some on TV… or some such rot.

Although that life may be easier than the one I have, I’ll pass. I consider this just another reason I don’t have (or want) TV broadcasts coming into my living space.So there are those who avoid asking the tough questions by escaping their life altogether, those (like me) that constantly struggle to define and understand and hone their life from what it is into something more likened to what it should be, and I’m sure there must be those out there who have it all figured out to their satisfaction. My father seems to be one of those. They are a rare breed. Some days I despise those types. I’m jealous. Of course, I always over-think everything. It’s a curse.

I tend to take my habits more after my mother in this arena. I sometimes really believe that I can organize my way out of this. When that didn’t work, I took another path – starting over a decade ago. At that time, I decided that I needed to SIMPLIFY things. Because (obviously) when you have more stuff and more to fret over, it takes longer to organize it all, clean, care for and tend (not to mention house and insure) it all. So I felt that paring down was the answer. So I began tossing things like a fiend. My family and friends still talk about that stage. I did retain quite a bit of that no clutter mentality – which only served to make me nuts when I moved into the trailer where there WAS no storage and no space to really create any.

In my vigorous attempt to pare down, I went in the opposite direction. I took it to extremes (which will surprise none of you who really know me) and decided to re-evaluate my whole life. Then I made this tremendous jump and moved to the farm, to get back to the basics and simplify my life all to heck and back.

By doing so, I have spent the last five years fighting to keep my head above water. The first three years were spent trying not to starve while I got the business up and profitable. And the last year and a half, I have grown the business, learned to release all the volunteer positions I have held with my professional organizations and community involvements (which took dozens of hours every week), and grew a relationship with the man of my dreams (and we got married).

I’ve been quite busy.

So busy, in fact, that I seem to have lost sight of the original goal – even though I’ve now accomplished (or nearly accomplished) all of the supporting goals. So here I am now, wondering if I took a wrong turn – if I’ve taken the long way around – and if, indeed, I’ll have to retrace my steps and begin again to accomplish the original goals.

Just for the record – the original goal was to live in a cabin in the woods, raise good kids and write. I intended to enjoy my life. Period. That was the original goal-set.

What I’ve accomplished is a very complicated and exhausting version of that which involved many “sub-goals” including launching the business on the Internet, building that cabin by hand – and with cash, it involved getting involved in my online and local community and volunteering a lot of time, it involved trying my hand at home schooling when I discovered that the public system was so sadly lacking in even the basics, it involved shopping at the Mennonite store and cooking everything from scratch to help nourish the children while feeding them without the aid of food-stamps or other forms of welfare, while I lived on nearly nothing to get my business going. It involved many mini-tangents within each of these subgoals as well.

Overall, the main goal-set had been obscured. I was at wits end, exhausted, over-extended, stressed out and sleep-deprived and wondering why life wasn’t a bowl of cherries.

The cabin is nearly finished. But doing it by hand, with cash while raising kids, nurturing a new marriage, building a business and trying to carve out some personal development time while accomplishing all these things…

Well, let’s just say it left me a mess.

Two of the three children are no longer at home. Although I feel that I’ve done a good job raising them, I still count this (at least today) as a failure overall. They should still be at home with me. Period.

The temporary housing I was using (and have been using for several years now) lost a furnace and it’s COLD in Kentucky this time of the year. Failure again.

The living conditions depressed me beyond all measure. It’s not just that I considered them substandard, it’s also that I could look across the yard at the cabin that was ALMOST a reality and instead of seeing my dreams materializing, all I have seen for the last few months was a whole lot of money in a half-built albatross that STILL would not keep my family warm and safe this winter. Another failure.

My office also glared back at me, taunting me that I had to continue working at a desk that was so far from ideal, while it was just a few days worth of work from being complete. And yet I had neither the time, nor the cash, to put into it when I needed it most. FAILURE!

It seemed that as I woke up each morning for the last couple of months, I’ve not been able to see what I’ve accomplished or how far I’ve come. I’ve only seen how far I have yet to go. And, even with that being a short distance comparatively speaking, it was insurmountable given my current state of mind. I’ve been fairly depressed, and Derrick’s move only increased this status. Nothing quite like a child moving out to live with an ex to make you feel like a total failure as a mother, a woman and as a human being.

I know, illogical. It’s not true … blah, blah, blah. But that doesn’t change the way it feels. If it smells like failure, tastes like failure and FEELS like failure… ya can’t argue the particulars.

I did know that something had to give. I didn’t know WHAT that something was, but the day it wouldn’t get above 50 degrees in the house, despite the use of auxiliary heat, I went to my husband and we decided to take my parents up on a long-standing (and recently re-issued) offer to use their little cabin by the lake.

So, the week after Christmas, with only Alex living with us now, we moved.

Temporarily it put even more strain on me. I felt like a walking zombie. Insomnia and pity parties were my two favorite past-times. I shut down the office for the holidays to accomplish our Herculean feat in five days – two days packing and sorting on that end, two days of moving stuff in and finding a place for everything to be, and a day to clean and organize the trail of chaos left by our move. My clients should never have felt a “burp” – and I’m now back to work.

I do believe this was the right move. I just couldn’t stay there anymore – not with the situation, not with the heat problem, not with Derrick gone. I could have had the heat fixed – a friend offered to fix it for us as a favor (her dad’s in the business). But that wouldn’t change the fact that I hated living in that place. I hated the fact that my dream of the cabin seemed more to haunt me and taunt me than to warm my heart lately.

Everything seemed to be yet another responsibility for me to handle. I know much of it was self-induced – most of the bad stuff in life usually is – but it didn’t change the way I felt.

The trip to China was expensive – not just in money spent there, but also in the time away from clients and work – the unbillable time while I was planning and packing, while I was gone, and while I recovered from the jetlag. With my billing cycle, that put me out of ready cash for over a month. At that time, was not employed and we couldn’t afford to not have any income for nearly 45 days, especially not with the spending that was required for supplies to keep the progress on the cabin going.

So that added more stress – even though we were doing fine financially prior to the trip.

My office space called my name (and tugged at my purse strings) at the same time as the cabin did. I wanted it finished – yesterday, if not sooner. Having it there unfinished made me crazy. It was supposed to be finished by Christmas. I even won a bet and Wayne was working on it, but then tragedy hit the family. After the funeral, when we returned to the farm, my husband got a job with Amazon.com through the Christmas rush.

That was good and bad – good because it helped ease the financial burden, but bad because it guaranteed that we would not be in the cabin before winter hit, and my office would not be finished. It sentenced me to another winter of working in the temporary house. It was nearly more than I could bear.

But, we struggled through that, looking at the fact that both of us working would help ease the financial load. But, he worked so many hours, and had to drive so far, that I seldom saw him and I felt that all the pressure for doing Christmas fell on me alone again this year. Somehow, I felt that being married to someone as involved and family-oriented as he is, would mean that I’d have help with that. But, it didn’t work out that way this year. I was not a good Santa this year, I was a Scrooge – but Alex would never know it, and the boys seemed quite pleased with our holiday.

And then Derrick announced that he was going to move – and he and the ex decided he would do so on Christmas Day.

So, I hit a pretty rocky bottom for a few days.

Honestly, I’m just now beginning to bounce back a bit. The magical date of January 1st for things to change did happen. But, this was not exactly what I meant – again. Everyone tells me that this isn’t a step backward, that I’m NOT giving up my dreams and that I’m just recognizing that I need a break for awhile to be able to finish up the cabin and achieve those dreams.

I’d like to say “Yeah, that’s right!” but my heart is saying “Bull!” My heart is saying “You are a loser, you failed – your grand experiment flopped.” It taunts me that I’ve wasted five years of my life – the TOUGHEST years I’ve ever endured and that I did it for nothing. My heart is my enemy these days.

Now, I know that’s just me feeling sorry for myself, but it’s still quite real. And there’s a part of me that can’t help but feel that I’ve not made any progress at all since I lived here in my parent’s cabin for a few months right after Nicholas was born – when his father said he would move us to be with him in 30 days, that that became 60, then four months, then six, and finally eight. At that point, I had one child and I live here. Now, here I am back right here – with only one child at home and a promise that it’s only temporary.

I’m thinking right now that I need a bit of permanence in my life. NOW.

Mom says that I’m wrong, that this IS different – that back then I didn’t have a husband that adored me (true), back then I didn’t own a farm (also true), back then I didn’t own and operate my own business (true again), and back then I didn’t have a cabin sooooo close to being completed.

Everyone urges me to look at this as a much needed vacation, not an admission of failure. But, I dunno. It still feels like failure.

I love the cabin here. I always have – but I have to really concentrate to enjoy it. I have to try hard to not be sad that I’ve failed because I had to leave the farm. It’s like admitting defeat. And yet, I know that in my current frame of mind, with all the challenges facing me there every day – I couldn’t stay and keep my sanity at the same time. I had no other real choice but to leave for a bit and let the dust settle there. I needed a break – any break. And, I got it.

But this brings me to the point that I wonder if I’ve not been looking at life all wrong. I know I can’t “organize” my way to happiness, nor can I simplify it into bliss. I know that I’m at another of the infamous life “cross-roads and I’m sitting here on my suitcase, dumbfounded.

Lets see – the original goal set:

To live in a cabin in the woods, raise good kids and write – while enjoying life.

Looking around right now, I’m actually LIVING in a cabin in the woods. It’s not my cabin and these aren’t my woods, but although that was “understood” – I didn’t specify that portion. Given the fact that I’ll take any success and claim it as the right one today. Let’s call that “done” – at least temporarily.

Raise good kids – well I have good kids, even if they don’t live here. So, in the same spirit as the above, I’ll call that one a winner as well.

Write. Hmmm – I defined that one and worked it to death and made a business of it eventually to be able to give myself permission to write now, instead of needing to wait for this whole cabin in the woods and writing dream for my retirement years.

Although I’m writing, I don’t think it’s exactly the right KIND of writing. I think it may be time to re-evaluate my business and try to bring the reality of what it is closer to the vision of what I wanted it to be. Right now, I love what I do, but it still seems like a bit of a “sell out” when I compare it to the goal of “writing.” My goal was to write literature and other more “lofty” things – not merely articles for newsletters, magazines and websites, and not marketing plans and coaching for clients. But, given the tone of the two items above, I am writing. That was the goal and it’s accomplished – at least in part.

The last part – the “enjoy life” – well, at the moment I’m failing that one.

Even with all the good spins I can put on life and on all these particulars, the fact remains I’m still in the doldrums. I’m still blue. Hmm. Now maybe I’ve finally discovered why I hate that color. It’s associated with feeling like THIS. Bluck!

And there’s a part of me that wonders if all this stress comes because I AM so close to achieving all my life goals. Every goal I set out to accomplish in the last five years has either been achieved, or could be in short order. I wonder, at times, if I’m depressed and incapacitated because … oh my goodness… I’m about to achieve every goal I’ve ever had. And, as a goal-oriented person, that’s terrifying. Weird, but true.

So I need to study this crossroad a bit longer, perched on my proverbial suitcase, and determine which path my life needs to take now. I wonder if I’m brave enough to take a completely new path if that’s what I determine that I need to do. I wonder if I’ll be able to be that strong – to start completely all over again. And then, exhausted, I wonder why I would even consider that. I review my original goals and they are still sound. They are nice, solid, tangible goals – even with the changes in my life and even with one less child and a great spouse. Still good goals. Still worthy of my work and sacrifices. And now, it’s not just MY goals, now the goals include another adult – that’s new too.

But, as I sit here, it is obvious to me that none of these are “Easy St.” – even though the street signs are missing. But I also notice that where I currently sit is at the peak of a mountain, and that no matter which direction I select, it will be an easy downhill stroll from where I am. Any direction will be an easier one than the uphill haul that brought me to this point.

And, after all this work, after all the struggling, I know that this decision is so very important. It’s so important that I’m posed like “the Thinker” afraid to move at all until my emotions and inner turmoil still. Until I can see clearly… until I can feel human again. I will continue to just sit and look at all four directions. Consider all the roads and what they may offer.

I may have to sit here for quite awhile.

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