This summer was a doozy! I have been repeating and resonating with the quote from Richard Rohr that notes, “Suffering comes from unmet expectations.” These words bring clarity to what is really going on when I find myself feeling frustrated, angry, or disappointed. I had envisioned this summer being a moment to pause, a time to both slow down and to catch up on research and writing while still creating a space for our kids to have a lazy, old-fashioned summer. I had envisioned taking the term off from school, cutting back a bit on work, being able to do some research and writing in preparation for the fall term continuation of my PhD dissertation work, while also being more present with my kids. I had envisioned my husband taking the summer off for paternity leave and assuming my usual role in managing the kids’ day-to-day activities. I had envisioned thoughtful trips to our favorite places in Oregon to spend a little more time than usual to explore and relax and slow down and just be.
Instead, in June we unexpectedly fell in love with a house that came on the market with a great big yard, just up the street where our kids could still play with all their neighborhood friends. We could see this place in our future and our future in this place. With three kids and a dog now, we’d been dreaming of a yard. We decided to sell our house to buy our next home and to welcome in this next stage of life. What was supposed to be a peaceful, languid, quiet, relaxing, and restorative summer became a roller coaster of negotiations, emotions, uncertainty, a juggling act of these moments of chaos and stress with moments of rest and renewal.
Bittersweet is the word that most resonated with me as we prepared to say good-bye to our home of nine years, the home we’d brought all three of our babies home to and had even moved back from LA to inhabit, and at the same time we dreamed of the memories we’d create in our new space. There were moments of tears and grief, only exacerbated by the stress and exhaustion of going through this buying and selling process in a hot market, juggling finances and mortgages, with three kids and a dog, jobs, and little support. We still went on our two road trip vacations, one in June as our house was prepped to go on the market and our accepted offer on the new house went through the process, and one the end of July just as we accepted an offer on our house and began the real process of selling and moving. The peaceful summer I’d imagined became a summer of displacement as we lived like gypsies, our most necessary and our most important possessions being hauled around in the car with the five of us and our dog, unable to go home, as we tried to find respite from the chaos.
On the other side of the discomfort, displacement, sadness and loss was the excitement and joy of what this new house and yard would offer both our family and my business, and how we planned to make this new house a home. Of course, the excitement was often fleeting as the waves of uncertainty washed over us. The market in Seattle has been intense, fraught with bidding wars and exorbitant prices and we were playing both sides. When our house didn’t sell the first weekend up for sale, we weren’t the only ones who began to panic. We began to fear our excitement and visions of playing baseball with our kids in the yard, and the stress and anxiety fully consumed me.
By the time we accepted an offer on our house (9 days on the market) we were on the road again, driving down to Newport, Oregon. I had packed my books and laptop thinking this was finally my chance to buckle down and get some writing done. I woke up the morning after we arrived unable to focus my eyes, unable to read a page in a book or the screen of my laptop. I woke with eyes that felt dehydrated as if I’d been wandering in the desert. My glasses or contacts made no difference. In fact, I felt better going without either. I was forced to let go of my plans to take this time to accomplish and work as day after day there were no improvements. I called the eye doctor who gave me a prescription for eye drops thinking it was likely an infection. I faithfully applied the drops, washed my hands even more than our COVID-world already had me washing, and did my best to be patient. I succumbed to my near-sighted blindness and instead of reading and writing, I took the dog for walks and watched my kids play in the sand.
I will admit, having had a stroke three years ago, and at first, I panicked, but I also leaned into the lessons I’d personally taken forward from my stroke. I closely monitored my vision and there were changes in neither a positive nor negative direction. When we returned home two weeks later, I went straight to the eye doctor who could only determine I had a condition called “dry eyes” and gave me some tips. He also recommended I see my primary care doctor for blood work as he was unable to adjust my prescription to any better than 20/40. The blood work showed nothing significant, no obvious answers. By now, my vision had also improved as we finished up the selling and buying process and moved into our new home.
I had lost sight, both literally and figuratively. Likely the literal loss of sight was due to stress, but this was more significant for me than simply being unable to read a book or write a paper. Three and a half years ago, I had a stroke and have often looked back at that experience as pivotal in choosing to reevaluate my life and begin living the life I’d envisioned, the life I was meant to live, to live into my fullest potential. I stopped making excuses, stopped waiting, stopped complaining, and holding both fear and courage, I started my own business. I found my voice and I began creating the life I wanted to live. I saw how all the pieces, all the challenges from my past suddenly made sense and fit together to create this person I was destined to become, and realized the person I wanted to be was already mostly there in me if I just had the courage to see.
I began my consulting and coaching practice to support others in taking creative direction of their own lives, too. As I leaned into my authenticity and owned my worthiness, opportunities came my way that lit my path forward. I heard myself say to clients more than once, “what would it be like to pause, get off the hamster wheel and do something differently?” The stroke had indeed been the impetus to get off the hamster wheel and consider other ways. Just this summer, here I was again, on the hamster wheel, running as fast as I could, too terrified that things would fall apart if I stepped off. I’d lost sight of the life I’d envisioned, of my reasons for becoming a coach, of my purpose in pursuing a PhD to help support EI in schools, of being the mom who took time to play with her kids. Losing sight in the literal sense was the impetus to step back, close my eyes, and stop straining to see too far ahead in order to regain sight of my path forward.
As I paused and let myself sit in blindness, I was able to see again. I decided to take another term off from school as I saw I wasn’t living my values working on a PhD to support efforts to raise kids with emotional intelligence through social and emotional learning programs, meanwhile while failing to be fully present and emotionally available at the level I wanted with my own family, my own children. While I strive to make space for my clients to reflect and stumble with empathy and respect for the journey, I realized I also need to be kinder and more empathetic, more respectful of myself and my journey. I have learned throughout my life, and again in the last several years, that I have permission to stop chasing perfection and simply focus on doing my best; and in doing so, opportunities and timing will take care of themselves. I hope one day I won’t need to be handed such obvious signs as a stroke or temporary loss of sight in order to pause and revisit my vision and path. I hope that I will continue to give myself the time, grace and empathy to pause to make sure I am staying on course and to trust I am who I am meant to be in this moment, and I am becoming the person I am meant to be, little by little, moment by moment, choice by choice.
What are the moments in your life that have forced you to pause and refocus? When have you found yourself losing sight? What has helped you to see your way forward? What lessons have you collected that allow you to see more clearly going forward?