I am a big “marker of events” – when I recognize they are happening, that is. I say this because it is pretty easy to fail to notice something significant at first. We have to make a commitment to “notice” the important people and things in our lives. Otherwise, it’s just too easy to remain mired in the ordinary details of day to day life, reminding oneself “I will celebrate that victory later.” Sobriety has given me a sense of urgency to recognize who and what matters the most in this moment. It’s a beautiful gift I try to cultivate daily.
Yesterday was not an ordinary day for my husband. Yesterday, he said out loud the words he has quietly prepared for the past 45 years. “I’m planning to retire soon,” he told his colleagues. For this man – once completely blindsided by betrayal and financial disaster – to calmly walk in a decade later and announce his forthcoming retirement – is noteworthy and significant, indeed.
If you only recently met my family, it would be easy to believe we have always been lucky and lived well. Both are true, of course, relative to the rest of the world. Our well-being has not come without a cost, and a hefty one to my husband and our marriage. My husband is a very careful and thoughtful man – he likes to weigh every possible alternative for several months while thinking about any big change or financial decision. Planning and preparing are his superpowers. 17 years ago, several unforeseen circumstances began aligning to set in motion a decade of financial and personal turmoil no planning or preparing could have prevented. That’s why yesterday is one of the sweetest, happiest days we have ever known. We’re happy our misfortune also came with many morsels of wisdom to share with others.
When the recession of 2008 began, our family was nestled into a life we intentionally chose, “untethered” by the headaches of a big city law firm. We were living on 34 acres an hour outside of Wichita, Kansas. We thought we were comfortably situated for the rest of our children’s upbringing (they both had middle and high school in the immediate future). Mike left his big law firm practice and started managing his friend’s medical practice, less than a mile away from our home. Our lives were perfect. Until everything began to unravel.
One by one, each facet of our carefully and intentionally chosen life began to crumble. It felt like Mercury was in Retrograde for 10 years! We promised ourselves to stick together, no matter how hard things got (and they got really, really hard). We also promised to share our story to help others one day. People who know our story marvel over the fact we were able to stay married and raise two exceptional human beings. Honestly, ignorance and the ability to block out most of the terrifying details and just live one day at a time is what saved us. Mike is also a really smart man with a tireless work ethic. That saved us, also! I’m just going to highlight a few of the pressures squeezing the joy out of our lives that we survived. If you are experiencing 1 or more of these, my heart goes out to you. Please remember my family is living proof that things can change and you will ultimately be able to achieve your goals.
Business partnership/friendship When the thing you uprooted your family and moved 200 miles for stops going well and becomes something you did not expect. I watched my husband navigate a deeply painful and uncertain period with dignity and in virtual silence (so contrary to my personal style!). The difficult lessons changed enormously the way we saw the world and trusted in relationships but made yesterday’s retirement announcement much sweeter. Mike would say he got there quietly, working diligently and intentionally. If I’m being truthful, I would say our family got through this with a lot of embracing the unknown. I often asked God for an open heart and mind to allow the lessons and gifts from the pain to reveal themselves. And they did.
Homeowners Association Litigation When the majority of your time in a place is tarnished by ugly feelings between neighbors, it can become hard to live in the moment and enjoy something beautiful while you have it. And we did have something magical, if only for awhile. We wanted to give our children a carefree childhood with lots of land to have adventures on. Our neighbors believed some of that land should belong to them. So they made life uncomfortable for many years. We tried to ignore them, which mostly worked. But there were many times the ugliness bubbled over and I thought our whole lives would forever be consumed by ridiculous fighting. Since that chapter is long closed, I have the happy moments as memories to keep me warm and their petty grievances have faded. That’s a true gift of time. We both agree every time the subject comes up and we ask ourselves, “Would we do it all over again?”. Yes, we both would 100% do it all over. In spite of the horrible neighbors (a story that has been hinted at in the past and I will surely write about again in the future).
Side Business Disaster It wasn’t a great idea to purchase a gas station and hire a virtual stranger to manage it. We had more than enough on our plate raising our children, fighting the neighbors and dealing with a business partnership that was riddled with drama. For some reason, our fate was to deal with this additional stress at a time when we were already beyond our ability to handle the other stressors.
Now, 13 years after all the aforementioned challenges and setbacks, we can both truly say it has been a wondrous journey, filled with unexpected joys, blessings and friendships. We’re proud we didn’t let the myriad little things turn us away from each other or our family. It feels fantastic to have been able to build a life we enjoy from the pieces we picked up that had once been shattered. The double rainbow pictured was only visible for about 5 minutes on a recent trip to the beach. We might have easily missed it, but we did not. And that perfectly encapsulates how I feel about this moment in life: I would have been happy with just one, but upon closer examination, I noticed I was given two! What a blessing it is to notice, isn’t it?