Containers

If you can’t win one way, you look for another path. So the house is available for lease now, as well as for sale…whichever comes first I’ll take. I talked to my realtor about leasing options a couple of weeks ago, but felt I had to wait on the outcome of the offer on the table at the time.

I don’t want to own a house in Alaska forever, but for now, if I lease it that will be sufficient. So another waiting game begins.

I’m ready to take the subject of house off the table for a while and focus on other things. In the long run, as this whole ordeal has reminded me, a house is a thing. It’s a big thing, an expensive thing, as things go. And certainly houses are also homes.

But the real meaning of home travels around in the bodies of the people I love, and isn’t housed within four walls. Any four walls. Walls are just containers, really, like the containers you put your flour or sugar in to store in your pantry. The containers come in different shapes, and are made of different materials. But when I recognize walls of a house for what they really are…just containers for the people who live inside…suddenly, those walls take on their proper perspective.

I’m not going to tell myself I don’t like beautiful homes, and lovely walls. I do. And I’m not going to say that the structure I live in has no meaning. Of course our life experiences are shaped by location and the physical surroundings of our day-to-day.

But those surroundings don’t have to define experience, our very lives. And though I’ve known that, this has reminded me, again: I am not the house I live in. I don’t have to let it control the major decisions of my life.

I’ve found a spark of rebellion, and a healthy one I think. I’m ready to pull out of my slump and come back to the positive side of life. I’ve been trying to do that for a while.

Today it seems doable.

Today I’m reminded there are so many people who have issues larger than mine. It’s not about comparing, but it is about perspective. I want to always, always, come back to recognizing how much I have to be grateful for.

Life, any life, has troubles. I have my share of those, sure enough, and my share of sorrows. But gratitude resets me, grounds me, and oddly enough, allows me to take the focus off myself.

Today I am grateful for the freedom I have to believe as I choose, to express myself, to travel, to live where I want, to make of life what I can. I’m grateful for the people who keep freedom for me, and all who live in this country.

Thank you, thank you, for all you do.

Now that’s the proper perspective.

~ Sheila

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When life knocks you flat…

It’s been a week. Short weeks always work out to be long in the end. I don’t know why or how, I only know it’s true. And this one has been no exception.

I knew it was a long shot. Usually I’m built to be positive. But this house offer…just didn’t feel right from the beginning. On Wednesday the buyers decided to walk away. It was disappointing. And it was a relief, oddly enough. I didn’t feel good about the offer, and the whole thing felt too rushed. Well, I may have time to regret that one if I sit with a house on Water Street for a long time to come. But when it’s right, it will be right…no forcing it. That’s never a good feeling.

So, in the spirit of cheering myself up and putting myself back on track I thought about the steps forward. What do I need to do to right myself? That’s the image I always see in my mind…my body upside down, somehow needing to find the way back up, back to hope, back to future.

It would be a lot easier if I wasn’t sitting surrounded by empty shelves and dreading unpacking a house I just rushed to pack.

When has my efficiency ever backfired so spectacularly?!

But there are silver linings. I got a free inspection and a free appraisal out of the process, thanks to the would-be buyers. And though the appraisal cost me the sale in the end, at least it helps to price more in line with the current market value. I tell myself things work out in the end. Isn’t that what you tell yourself when you’re disappointed?

I am disappointed, but there’s nowhere to go with that. The best cure for disappointment is action. And since I love the word “grace,” for all it’s meanings to my life, I created a little acronym to help me get going:

Grace

Happy weekend! I’ll be unpacking a bit, staging the house for future showings, and finding grace. And if you’re feeling in need of that gift, I hope you’ll find it too.

~ Sheila

 

 

 

 

Hello September!

I know the official start to fall is still ahead of us, but for me, that’s always been the first day of September, so here we are again: in the season of falling leaves and pumpkins and apple crisps and cozy soups. These are a few of my favorite things.

Normally I would be pulling out autumn decor, moving my summer season look to the back of the cupboard and putting out the accents that hint at chill in the air and the smell of wood fires. But at the moment all of that stuff is boxed and I can’t bring myself to unearth it just yet.

I countered the offer I got last week and should have an answer by Wednesday. If the counter offer is rejected, that’ll be soon enough to pull out a few things to bring some fall color to the rooms. After all, the house will still be on the market, and selling is about staging, right? So it will be worth doing a little work to set the right tone. The goal is to have anyone who sees the house imagine themselves living here. And how could anyone do that in September without a little fall foliage to add some color?

In best September form, the sun is warm and strong today, the light lingering and offering hope that the fall rains won’t begin until October. Of course, no month in Ketchikan is free from rainfall. But some years September is an extension of summer, and others it feels like November.

I’m always tempted to look at school supplies in the fall, though I don’t have kids at home now. I look at the school lists in the stores and remember how many years we did that, stocking up and getting ready for the first big day of the new grades. Must run in the family. I know my mom and my daughter are school supply lovers too…just something about a pristine new notebook or box of crayons that have all their tips intact.

I think the calendar year should begin in September instead of January. It would take so much pressure off that month, and the holiday season in general. Maybe we should sign a petition?

Here’s hoping for good weather, a house sold, and the magic of fall, all coming together this week. I could really get excited about that. And it would be a small miracle, especially the house piece. But I’m open to that.

Fall bouquet

Fall bouquet

 

 

Real Estate 101

This has been a week of body blows. I’m lucky to be standing upright.

After I steeled myself to accept a low ball offer on the house, lower than we paid five years ago, because I thought it was worth it to move on to the next chapter, all the pieces began to fall into place. We made it through the inspection and a couple of minor repair issues intact, and I started thinning out, boxing up, and getting excited.

I thought I was going to change paths, go to culinary school in January and take my writing focus from healthcare to something I love, and to an industry that offers endless variety and opportunity. I wanted to experience training in a professional kitchen, work in the food industry, and create legitimacy and credibility for me to transition to that world.

And then the appraisal came in low. I didn’t see that coming.

In all the real estate transactions we’ve had over the years, we never had a property that appraised lower than the agreed on purchase price. To be honest, I guess I thought it was really a formality of the process. Never occurred to me that in one fell swoop, an appraisal could knock $40,000 off the value of my home.

Five  years ago we paid $379,000, and there was never a peep of concern about the house appraising high enough to meet that price. Now when I’ve got an offer of $365,000 on the table the appraisal comes in at $340,000. How is that possible?!

I know there are all sorts of technicalities and variables that appraisers consider, and I know the appraisal has to hold up to the scrutiny of the lender’s underwriters. I understand it’s not personal, or based on subjective impressions about the property. But the thing is, the end result is personal to me. I just got knocked down by $40,000, and that’s before the realtor commission and closing fees.

It’s very personal.

The buyers came back with another offer, the exact amount of the appraisal. So now instead of a sucky $365,000, I’m looking at a horrible $340,000.

But wait, there’s more!

We met with the project consultant for our street replacement this week. The street we live on is built on top of a wooden trestle, and that structure is reaching the end of its safe life. It’s scheduled to be replaced, with the work starting next summer. This is a joint project between the city, state, and the federal government. And of course it’s all done under “eminent domain,” which means that we don’t have any choice in what happens. We take the value that is offered for the easement rights during construction, and for the damages that will occur to our property. The offer on the table is $20,000, most of which will cover the replacement costs for the garden and the planters in front of the house. And guess what? If we sell, that goes to the buyer. So we take a $40,000 hit, from the purchase price we paid to the price we’re offered, we still pay commission and our share of closing costs, and the new buyers would immediately receive $20,000 to compensate for the road project.

And…after we were told a year ago that the utility cables strung in front of our house, and actually all along the street, would be moved under the new bridge as part of the project, we’ve now learned that the move of the cables will end at our house. At. Our. House! Is this a conspiracy? I can’t believe that the view we’ve been looking forward to…ok, the view is great, but it would be much better without cables in the way…has now been cut, due to government budget constraints. But the rest of the street still gets that perk. It’s only the last few homes that will get to keep the street level utilities. What were they thinking when they made that decision?!

Our lovely view and unlovely cables

Our lovely view and unlovely cables

I think my head is going to explode.

I can’t impact the issues of the street construction. But I’m not selling like this. I’m not desperate. I don’t know what the answer is, what it could be. But it’s not going to work like this. I’m already feeling bled out. I can’t take any more.

The other fun fact is that we’ll have approximately 4-6 MONTHS that we won’t be able to drive to our house. We’ll have to park way down the street and walk in. Then we’ll have to hire our own contractor and come up with a design for replacing the structures that will be removed during the road and new sidewalk construction, so we’ll have that to sort out too.

My house is already about two-thirds packed and boxed. I’m in chaos at every level, I’ve neglected a lot of my personal priorities…blog, family, friends, changed travel plans at the last minute… in the past few weeks to make all this happen, and now it’s just a mess. I can’t accept this offer…too wrenching. But I also know that the appraisal is out there, and any other offer I get is going to face the same hurdle. It doesn’t matter what offer I have in hand with this appraisal number, and that’s impacted by recent sales in the area of homes with similar square footage and amenities.

How is it fair that my home’s value is impacted by other sales in the area? I understand there’s a process in place to protect buyers and to look at fair market value. But how is it fair that I’m losing all this equity? Where’s the fairness to me?!

I need to breathe, need to regroup, need to think. And I have to decide if I keep packing boxes or start unpacking.

I don’t have the answers today. I probably won’t have them tomorrow, or even next week. But I need to slow down, make a good decision, and then find my resolve.

And one thing I’ve learned…if I should ever have a house to sell again, I’ll pay for my own appraisal before it goes on the market so I know exactly what I have to work with. I don’t want to go through this cycle ever again. And let me be a cautionary tale to the rest of you. At least someone should benefit from this experience, and it looks like it isn’t going to be me. At least not financially.

But maybe this is giving me other skills, other strengths. I hope so. I surely need to find the silver lining, and the sooner the better.

Strength: a river cuts through rock not because of its power but its persistence.

Digital garage sales and other joys

So I sold the house. Or at least I accepted the offer, which is not necessarily the same thing. We’re through the inspection phase, which went well, but now we wait for the appraisal and the rest of the process to grind through. I’ve already had a few hundred anxious hours over this transaction. I won’t feel entirely at ease until the closing is done. I’ve never had a closing fall through, but I know it happens. I just don’t want it to happen to me.

I’ve had a knot in my stomach pretty much every hour since I got the offer. It was low, much lower than it should have been.

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I countered, and they countered, and I caved. Still too low.

But as a woman who sat with a house listed for eight months and not a single offer a couple of years ago, I just couldn’t let it go. And the rainy season is coming, and sales are slower that time of year. I know, it can happen anytime. But waiting it out becomes a marathon.

You’d think this house is unattractive or something. Instead, everyone who walks in is charmed. The view is amazing. It’s almost maintenance free for yard work, the little front and back flower gardens hardly need attention.

It has dedicated parking, and that, on Water Street, is worth something, let me tell you!

I don’t know…maybe it’s a sign that I wasn’t intended to make my fortune in the real estate market. Our other home purchases and sales have always gone well…no sales that were extraordinary, but at least they were profitable.

I’m sad to say that I’m selling at a loss. On the flip side, I’m selling.

In the meantime, I joined the local Facebook sale site, where you post items and then sell like crazy. Or at least that’s my experience. I’ve got a virtual store going and I’m quickly funding shipping costs to the lower 48. Exciting, and the most fun I’ve had getting ready for a major move. Today I had a little party at my house which happened because several people who were picking up all arrived about the same time, and they all knew each other. So we sat and chatted and they shopped and I sold….very satisfying! Maybe my talent isn’t real estate, but I run a great boutique.

Between sorting everything I own, deciding what to keep, sale, donate, store, discard, etc., etc., etc., I’m spending a lot of time in my basement, packing boxes and trying to guess just what will be useful in the next setting…difficult to accomplish as I don’t exactly have “next” figured out yet.

Shipping rates out of Alaska make it easy to consider redesigning my look. I’m taking plenty with me. But I’m leaving more than I thought I would. Funny how quickly I detach as I estimate the weight of furniture and all the stuff! It’s a tortuous process. Movers pick up your boxes and furniture, then it all goes to a barge, has to be loaded into a container, then barged down to Seattle, then put on a truck, then on to the destination. The more transfers, the more it costs, of course.

Ah, the joys of a move!

I’m looking forward to getting my life back, getting rid of my house anxiety, paring down, making a fresh start.

But first…a little more basement time. :)

Monster in my head

I’m fighting a battle right now, and I don’t know how it will end. It isn’t a battle for health, but it is a battle that rages within me. It’s one of heart, one of spirit.

There are choices I face, struggles I face, that need answers. And I have to do the sort…what is my true nature, and my true desire?

Am I strong, or am I weak? Am I brave, or am I scared?

Yes, I’m scared to death…but can I overcome that?

When life is changing around you, it’s easy to get a little sea-sick with the waves of uncertainty and doubt that wash over every decision. Did I set a good price for the house? What will life look like if I move away? Will I know a good decision when I meet it? I’ve sometimes thought I was getting just what I wanted, only to realize later…uh… that was a mistake.

Though I’ve loved this house, now I think it was a mistake to buy here. And yet, when we bought it, I was so sure. Funny how time has a way of changing your view. And what you want so desperately, so badly, one year…why, a few years later, I would go back and change that if I could. I would actually give a lot to do that.

But mistakes can turn out to be blessings in disguise, if you learn the lessons they teach, and I’ve learned more about life from some of the choices that I deemed “mistakes” than other decisions that looked perfect and seemed to work out just as expected.

I have to admit though…when I hear people say “trust your gut”…well, I must not have a very smart gut. Mine has misguided me on more than a few occasions.

But each time I’ve come to feel that a particular decision was a mistake…you know, the sort of “what was I thinking??!!” variety…just when I’ve reached a point of despair, or disgust, or some feeling of helplessness, suddenly, an amazing thing happens.

The light breaks through, in a way I couldn’t have imagined. Couldn’t have dreamed, or hoped.

I’m not saying I’ve always gotten the answer I wanted. I’m saying I got what I needed.

Is this God working in my life? Is this life just working itself out? To be honest, I don’t know the answer to that question. I am a woman of faith. But I don’t see faith as a magic pass to give me all the things I ask for. Maybe it’s just more complicated than that…I tend to have a simplistic and linear view…”if this, then that.” But there’s always a longer trajectory of events at work in life, and certainly that’s the case with major decisions.

I know there’s no magic formula…and I can’t say that I trust it will always work this way. And there are sorrows in life that can’t be fixed, or reversed. But those are of a different nature anyway…my dad’s death from cancer, for instance. At some point, each of us face things that can’t be solved, or made right, ever again.

But the twists of life I’m talking about…those are not the life and death issues. Though it may feel like it at the moment, they are not of that nature. I’m talking about choices that are in our control. And in an odd way, the decisions that we control…well, don’t they haunt us more than the ones we see as fate? I can mourn the deaths of loved ones, but I couldn’t stop it, and I certainly don’t blame myself for their loss.

But when I choose a path that leads to unhappiness…how can I feel anything but responsible for my predicament?

And so I wonder, and I try to listen to my heart. I’ve given up listening to my gut, that doesn’t work for me.

But my heart….now that’s a different story.

My heart has sometimes led me to make choices that look foolish, seem unwise. But you know, when I’ve listened to my heart, I’m usually rewarded. I’ve learned that just because something seems smart, or obvious, or even right…it may be none of those things. Sometimes the road less taken really is the right one.

I’m mixing metaphors and breaking all sorts of rules of grammar…but you know what I mean. Don’t you?

So this is my monster. It looks like indecision, but that’s just the disguise. What’s underneath is the root of the thing. Fear and uncertainty, paralysis and anxiety…all facets of the monster, the thing that holds me hostage when I need to step up.

I have flashes of brilliance, confidence, even power. But why, oh why, can’t the certainty that I feel at 8:00 in the morning be with me at 3:00 in the morning when I can’t sleep and everything I was sure of a few hours earlier seems foolish, or risky, or just plain wrong?

This is another part of the cycle of life, another pattern that repeats. When you make a decision, whether you believe it is a good one, or you come to feel it was a mistake…give time a chance to work its miracle, let the story write itself. That flies in the face of my instincts. I want to take action if I’ve messed up…and shouldn’t I? Well, it depends on the situation. There are obvious mistakes that are simple, and easily fixed.

But I’m talking about the times when I’m in over my head….can’t rescue myself, can’t be my own knight in shining armor. For those, I’ve learned…sometimes it is best to stand still, and watch, and let events unfold.

If action took me to a bad place, maybe inaction will take me where I want to go. Seems so contradictory, and hard for my impatient spirit.

Await the unfolding of events, breathe. Control what you can manage, but recognize: there are always going to be forces at work in any situation other than ones immediately obvious to you. And often, you have no idea what is happening outside the realm of your own vision.

So the house? In the realtors’ hands, and beyond my control, for today. And the nexts of life? Location, and work, the big questions? Also beyond me for now. But today, I can meet my commitments, go out of my way to do the right thing, look stronger than I am. I can be patient and hold on. The monster hasn’t defeated me yet.

And it won’t. It won’t.

The Valley of Indecision

So I have an offer on the house…lower than I wanted, so I’ve countered. And now I wait to hear. The prospective buyers have until Wednesday at 5:00. I doubt it will take that long to hear the decision, but still, the wait is hard to endure. And will they counter again? I hate these games. I wish we could just sit down and talk to each other. But that’s not the way it’s done.

The hard thing is I’ve loved this house. It’s been a nest I would enjoy anywhere, but unfortunately I can’t barge it down to a new location in the lower 48. So part of the process of resetting life is making the choice to move. It’s the first step of many, and at that, my anxiety may be premature. I may just get a rejection and be back to square one.

What do homes say about us? What do they mean? I’ve been a life-long nester, and my home is my refuge in many ways. But I have to say, the older I get, the more I realize…the physical structure, and the furnishings, while they’re important, only go so far.

When you need a real refuge, you need heart, and soul, love and strength. You need character and integrity, loyalty and grace. And none of these things are dependent on the structure of a home, no matter how beautiful or how comfortable it may be.

I’ve faced some challenging moments in my life, and I’m sure there are more to come…life has a way of doing that, testing you, sending a lot of the same lessons over and over again. And each time I realize I learn something new…insights about what I really value, who I want to be in the good times, but more importantly, in the bad.

I’ve learned to feed myself the messages that I want to live, to project what I want to be until it becomes real. Some of the transformation has been slow, but it is happening. And selling a home is just another filter…another lens to look through, to see what I’m really made of.

There have been plenty of times I’ve been disappointed in myself…haven’t been strong enough, or brave enough, or creative enough. But one thing I do know: I have heart, and I don’t give up. So using the filter, the lens, of the success of selling the house, if it happens, I’m going to be thrilled, and celebrate, and find a way to make it positive.

And if it doesn’t happen this time, I’m still going to find a way to make it positive. That’s my life lesson, to take the experiences that seem like defeats and turn them into victories. And believe me, some of the defeats take a lot of work to reframe. Some of the defeats have nearly killed me. But I think most people have to absorb this teaching if they survive, and thrive, in spite of the darts of life.

Sounds pretty philosophical…maybe I’m taking the whole thing too seriously. But tonight, waiting on a decision that has the power to impact my life in such a big way, it doesn’t feel like I’m blowing it out of proportion.

I’m not in control of life, but I can be in control of myself. So whatever happens, I’ll find my smile, and I’ll put on my heels the next morning and go out and try again. Because anything else is the true defeat, the true loss.

The house will sell when the time is right, and I know that in my heart, even if my head has a hard time believing that.

Wish me luck!

And to my blogging friends out there…I haven’t abandoned you…just a little pre-occupied right now. But soon, I’ll be catching up, and reading about all you’ve been up to this summer.  See you soon!

My house!

~ Sheila

Here I go!

I’ve been in a bit of an upheaval in the past few weeks. My house is once again on the market, which feels good. I’m hopeful, fearful, wondering about next. But this also gives me a lot of motivation and incentive to tackle some chores that I’ve been avoiding for a while now…the dreaded sort, pulling out and evaluating everything with a view to: KEEP / DON’T KEEP and SELL / DONATE. Or worst of all: WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS????

There are a lot of questions to answer, and work that I’m still doing..will be doing until I’m literally heading out of town. And that’s good too. Busy keeps me going, productive, and positive. And who knows how long it will take to sell? I don’t want to jinx myself, but you never know about these things.

I’m trying my hand at a few new things. I decided to use my Alaska experience as a bridge to a new adventure, so I’ve written a short e-book, So, You Want to Move to Alaska? Hot off my keyboard today. I self-published on Amazon’s Kindle site, and whether it sells two copies or two thousand, it was a good experience for me to work through. It takes a day or so to show up on the Kindle site, and I’m excited to see how it looks in final form. I see they offer an option for updating, even after the initial publication, so that reassures me in case I find a typo right away. Even after proofing, it seems like there’s always something missed.

I understand that non-fiction books are a good source of ongoing income…the more you work at putting titles out, the more chance you’ll make sales. The price is low…$2.99, but the idea is to make up in volume what you lose in the per-book sales amount. I’ve got a second title already in the works.

Anyway, the process is free. I wouldn’t say it was painless, but I think I’ll be able to do a second book much more easily now that I’ve been through it once.

My little Kindle book!

I’m also launching a YouTube video channel. Or at least I’m working on doing that. I’ve got a camera in hand, and I’m sorting out the process, and content.

I’m also changing the focus of ReVision Me. I had initially thought I would use that site as a business platform for writing and editing, focusing on healthcare documents…policies, strategic plans, etc. But I find my heart isn’t really in that. I’m still working in that world for my day-to-day income needs. But now I think I’ll focus the concept of ReVision on women my age…maybe men too, eventually, but it seems safe to begin with the gender I know.

In taking stock of where I am in life, I realize, for what it’s worth, that I could be a poster child for AARP. I’m 53, female, vibrant, energetic, looking to renew and extend my working life. I have a multitude of interests outside of work, I have extended family and a wide range of life experiences. I love the digital world, and I think I have something to offer.

I know there are already a lot of sites that cater to women, and even women of my profile. But I have a voice too, and I want to use it. So, I’ll be updating some of the work I had done on ReVision Me to bring it to a new focus. I set it up on the WordPress.org platform and will likely have affiliate advertising to help sponsor the site….another new adventure.

And last, I’m thinking about Etsy. Not sure how I can be part of that marketplace, but I’m intrigued, and I have been for a while now.

My challenge is to focus, and to look toward a new launch. Waiting is always the hardest part, isn’t it? Maybe if I’m busy enough it won’t be too too scary.

Hole in the soul

A few years ago I was struggling. I was going through a difficult time, feeling depressed, sad, empty, not myself at all. For a time I was miserable, but over a period of months I came to terms with some of the issues I’d been struggling with. And eventually life was better again; not perfect, but so much better.

Sometimes I remember those months, and what I learned from the experience.

Depression steals your energy. I remember feeling like I just wanted to sleep, to escape. Simple chores were overwhelming. The only thing that kept me somewhat normal was work. Work helped me put on the façade, gave me a reason to get up and get moving. Because I didn’t want to bring drama to my work place, I tried to minimize what I was going through, tried to hold myself together so I wouldn’t feel embarrassed with my co-workers.

Depression steals your appetite. At least that was what happened to me. I lost interest in cooking. I was alone a lot during those months, and it was easy to ignore meals when I wasn’t hungry, and too disinterested to cook. I lost 20 pounds in a few months. Best and worst diet experience I’ve ever had, the only “diet” that was effortless. In the past I’d put on pants or a favorite skirt and realized it was time to lose a few pounds. I’ve never before had to look through my closet for something to wear that wouldn’t fall off me.

Depression steals your interests. I would try to read to take my mind off the things that were bothering me. I couldn’t read. I would try to watch TV. I couldn’t stay engaged. I couldn’t settle myself long enough to accomplish much. I was restless and yet exhausted.

Depression steals your rest. I slept a lot when I wasn’t working. But often in the middle of the night I would wake up and my mind would race, going over and over the things that were troubling me. I was sleeping all the time, but not resting. My sleep cycle was broken by stress and worry, and somehow, the more I slept, the less I rested.

Once I was in the grocery store, walking around like a ghost, feeling the physical impact of depression. I felt like there was a hole in the middle of my body where my stomach should have been. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself with a gap between chest and hips…a hole that only allowed for the churning engine of stress that took the place of my belly…and even though I knew there was no hole, I remember thinking that the gaping emptiness seemed so real, I was surprised other shoppers weren’t staring at me, stopping to ask if I was alright. Because I had a hole in my middle. It was a surreal experience, and I wasn’t even on any medication. I was just feeling the drowning grip of sadness.

I walked around the store, filling my cart, looking normal on the outside, feeling lost and empty on the inside, and so aware of the gaping hole. As I walked around, I began to wonder who else was walking through the store with their own holes, invisible to me, but so real to them. Holes in souls.

That question took the focus off myself and allowed me to stand back and recognize that I probably pass people all the time who walk around with holes. I just don’t see what’s in front of my eyes. I try always to be kind, to be thoughtful. But even so, there are days that I’m wrapped up in my world. I pass people on automatic pilot: kind but remote, polite but disinterested, because I’m busy, and on the run, and don’t really look close enough to see the hole that’s devouring the person in front of me.

Living for a time with a hole in myself helped me realize, in a way I hadn’t before, that a lot of people walk around like that. Walking wounded. They put on the face, just like I did. They go through the motions of living, just like I did. Some get help, and some get relief from a change in the situation that’s causing the pain. That’s what happened to me. Circumstances changed, the skies cleared, my smile came back.

It wasn’t without some effort on my part. I did a lot of soul-searching, made some changes that were within my power to make.

It was a humbling experience. When you’ve always been hopeful, mostly happy, mostly sunny side up, it’s hard to recognize a self who’s drowning, who can’t snap out of it. You begin to look at people who struggle with depression and other forms of mental illness through a different lens. You find more compassion, more appreciation for the struggles that are invisible to the eye, but so real to the heart.

When I remember that time, now I can feel grateful. It taught me a lot about myself and helped me find strength I didn’t know I had. I learned the value of “wait and see.” I learned that the phrase “trust the process” isn’t just something you hear in corporate settings. I learned that life will often right itself, if you work with it.

I don’t want to tempt fate by thinking I’m invincible. I’m not, and the truth is, no one is. If there is a next time, I think I’ll manage my hole a little better. I think I’ll know to trust, I’ll find my smile a little faster, a little easier. The reward for weathering the hard times is being better prepared to face whatever comes, and knowing, knowing, that you’ll survive, and thrive, and grow above. Eventually, assuredly.

Once you’ve worked through a hole in your life, you’re never quite the same. You’re scarred, but you’re wiser.

I no longer have an engine of stress running in my stomach, or feel like there’s a hole in my body. But I can empathize with those who do. I don’t talk a lot about this experience…just doesn’t come up in normal conversation. But now and then I see an opportunity to speak up, to share, to encourage, to say, “I’ve been there.” It’s a powerful thing to look back at a challenge and know you’ve overcome. And it’s a powerful encouragement to someone else to hear a first-person story, to know someone else really gets it.

I don’t claim to have it all figured out now. I’m not even sure why I’m sharing this, except that I suddenly wanted to.

I’m not sharing to get sympathy. I’m sharing to give hope.

I started my blog during those months, started it to stake a claim to the positive person I knew was somewhere inside. I was determined to find my way to that self again. And I did. I had help from a few significant people who knew what was going on, and some of the conflict in my life subsided.

After the worst of it was behind me, I noticed I was singing again. I noticed I was interested in food again. I noticed I had a renewed sense of grace, of redemption, found a new sweetness to life that stays with me. I sometimes have small setbacks, and I sometimes feel discouraged. But I’ve never gone to the depths again. I’ve learned the signs to watch for, and the steps toward healing.

I think I’m a better person than I was, in part because of what I went through. It changed me, grew me. And though the details are not important now, I can share this much: to anyone reading this who is lost and despairing, don’t give up hope.

Do something to get yourself moving, literally. Get off the couch, do the smallest thing, and let that lead you to the next thing, and the next. Action inspires hope, and hope is the lifeline to healing. Reach out; there are probably more people than you could guess who understand at least some of what you’re experiencing. And give yourself time. Time can be your ally, and in time, you can look back and see that you’ve come a long way from your lowest point.

You’ll find your smile again. You’ll hear yourself singing again. You’ll sleep through the night again. And you’ll know you’re healed.

 

Wounds

 

Happy Birthday Mom!

Well, I’m breaking one of my blogging rules. I like to spend some time catching up, reading favorite blogs, answering comments, posting a few of my own, before I launch a new post. But with a week of little ones and work to fill my time, blogging has been on the back burner. I’m still recovering from having an 18 month old running around my house, and a four-year old that has a million questions and opinions. It was a joy, every minute of it, but not conducive to writing.

Yesterday was my mom’s birthday, and I’ve done the standard things. I wished her happy birthday by phone, and with a Facebook post, and sent a gift, and we’re planning a girls’ night out in August when we’ll have a little visit in Seattle. But I wanted to do it one more way, marking the moment here, putting it in writing because I’m not there to say it in person.

It’s not a momentous birthday, 74, although really they all are, whether it’s a decade milestone or just a somewhere-in-the-middle number. We are 20 years apart, she and I, my big day lagging a few months behind hers.

Marking the moment

Marking the moment

This photo was made a few birthdays ago when she was up for a visit. She’s a traveler, that being part of her life’s work as a Christian missionary, along with my dad, to many locations, most in Asia. So a little trip to Ketchikan is just opportunity to see another part of the world. And when she’s visited, we’ve seen bears, and eagles, and done a little cooking and a little sampling of the local fare. She’s sat in my living room and seen the float planes and the cruise ships that dock just beneath my windows.

But mostly, visits are about connecting, whether in Alaska or her home in Mississippi.

My mom is one of a kind, an amazing woman in so many ways. This was my tribute to her a couple of years ago, and it sums up perfectly the mom I know, who has been dear to so many, and made a difference with her life.

Happy Birthday to my mom, the one and only Betty.

~ Sheila