Some people think those choices happen randomly in some willy-nilly hap-hazardly kind of way.
I think those choices are the ones we’re supposed to make, and everything happens for a reason.
I don’t believe there is some alternate universe where our other selves are living with the other choices we could’ve made like some janky version of the Butterfly Effect.
I don’t believe in thinking about the choices I should’ve or could’ve made because the choices I made were the ones I was supposed to make.
Obviously it’s not always clear why the choices were meant to be until time works everything out for the better.
And even things we have no control over happen just the way they should, although it’s often hard to deal with the agony of waiting for the lesson to become clear.
Five years ago we were living in a severely declining neighborhood. We felt trapped and feared for our safety and for our children’s future. We desperately wanted to move back to our small town and decided it was now or never. As the housing market plummeted, we realized two things: We needed to take advantage of the low price of a new house for our family, and we needed to be willing to give up everything to make it happen.
With an outstanding credit score and our entire life savings in hand, we bought a house in the small town we grew up loving. Out past the corn fields where the woods got heavy…
It was agonizing, and terrifying….but we escaped.
Paying two mortgages was a daunting outlook, especially as we watched the value of our first house continue to decline. We realized we would never sell the house anywhere near the price we needed just to break even and it was heartbreaking. As we started making minor repairs and discussed becoming landlords my husband got laid off.
So there we were. Standing in the house of our dreams, still paying for the house we emotionally lost and knowing we were most likely going to financially lose one of them.
The silver lining, if it can at all be viewed as one, is that the bank recognized my husband’s work status as a hardship and agreed to sell the old house for less than what we owed in what’s called a short sale. Basically the bank appraises the house, determines what it’s worth and agrees to accept that amount for the house. We had five months to sell the house for half of what we owed. A date was set for foreclosure, notarized court documents were sent and all that was left to do was wait. And hope.
We got an offer, the bank accepted, financial drama and bullshit ensued but in the end we found ourselves at the closing table. In exchange for our fantastic credit, a signature here and there and a small bit of our dignity we sold the house.
We were lucky, and the things that happened throughout the ordeal were not exactly typical but for those of you questioning how we got through something like that unscathed, please know that we did not. Without spilling too many details, I can tell you we are still financially affected by the decisions we made. I can tell you we were willing to do much worse than we had to. And I can also tell you I am grateful every day that we're raising our kids where we are and not where we were.
Many times I suppressed my feelings of joy for buying our new house with the feelings of regret and shame for the way we had to sell our old one. I remember feeling like I didn’t deserve to feel happiness, and instead chose to feel only gratitude instead.
Many times I thought quietly to myself that my husband’s lay off was meant to be, because clearly we needed him to travel that path in order to sell the old house and move on.
So I chose to be grateful for his lay off, and grateful to suffer the burden of financial hardship because it was worth it to live here, and the reasons for his lay off seemed so perfectly clear.
Then we got word that my 52 year old brother-in-law, my husband’s only brother, had stage 4 esophageal cancer. He’d never been married, and had no children. My husband was his only family close enough to care for him. Fortunately he was laid off and was able to care for him. For what seemed to be the longest and shortest month and a half we’d ever lived, my husband was his chauffeur, his prescription filler, his grocery getter, his sandwich maker, his shoulder, his brother to lean on both figuratively and physically through his last days.
I stood there in disbelief looking at his feet. His bare feet were sticking out of the end of the hospital bed sheet that was haphazardly thrown over his body, tubes coming out of his mouth, wires and IVs connected to his lifeless body-all left over from failed attempts to revive him.
He’d called the ambulance himself. He couldn’t breathe. By the time they reached him he was unresponsive and wasn’t breathing on his own.
Heart attacks are common with chemo. It thickens the blood.
When the nurses and doctors met us in the hallway and took us into a small room with a vase full of fake flowers and asked us to sit down, and started talking to us in an apologetic tone, I felt like telling them to shut up. I felt like telling them to spare the drama and the desensitized version of sympathy and just let us in to see him. But I didn’t. And if you’re ever faced with the question, “Would you like us to take all the tubes and IVs out, sort of prepare him for you to see him?” say yes. Because we said no.
So I stared at his feet and tried to wipe the image of his mouth full of tubes from my mind, but I still can’t. I stared at his feet and tried to think of happy things like how we used to make fun of his finger-toes. And how, during that one trip to Wisconsin, he ran around the lobby of the hotel while we were checking in and almost shit his pants trying to find the restroom.
Over on the chair were his things. His jacket, carefully folded and hung over the back of the chair. His clothes in an orderly pile, topped with his wallet and keys. His shoes tucked neatly under the chair.
I kept waiting for the sheet to rise as he took a breath, but my heart knew he was gone.
In that moment my heart also knew why husband got laid off, and it had nothing to do with selling a house.
I have no classy way to transition you into the rest of this post other than just telling you to blow your nose and throw away your tissue…I won’t make you cry any more today, unless you’re like me and like to re-read well-written posts.
I went back to college because I wanted a career to help our family in a more significant financial way, but I knew it would have to be something meaningful and significant or I would be unwilling to commit myself to it. Teaching was the only logical choice for me, and so I began a journey.
And when I wrote an essay in Western Philosophy that received high accolades from a professor with rough edges and a tough hand for high marks it lit a flame inside of me. It was the same flame that was first lit so long ago when a woman named Alice Dickerson read the childhood poetry I wrote, looked me dead in the eyes and made me promise to never stop writing.
I broke that promise for many years. Many years while I was busy doing better things, or too sad and alone to have an ounce of inspiration within me, but I never forgot her words.
So when the letter arrived inviting me to join the writing fellowship at my college, I kindly declined with gratitude for being considered.
Let me tell you.
I didn’t want to go to school on student loans, and with our financial situation in a state of constant movement I realized I was not going to be able to go to school the way I wanted by paying as I went.
After watching several schools in my area close and consolidate students and teachers, after calculating the amount of debt I would have to acquire in exchange for a degree that I may or may not be able to get a job with in a school or area I wanted to work in, I reluctantly faced reality.
Even though I only went back to school for a short time, it gave me the drive and confidence to know I can write.
So naturally, I began blogging.
Blogging gives me the validation I need to keep writing because people enjoy reading what I write. Blogging makes me feel like Alice Dickerson made the ten-year-old-Adrienne (because I was, afterall, born with an E) feel about writing. Blogging makes me feel like I felt when I sat quietly in a classroom full of great writers angrily and frustratedly talking to each other loudly about the Bs and Cs they received on their essays and spoke not a word about the A+ that was clenched in my hand.
I began blogging because someday I would need a reference for my ability to write.
Then I had an interview for the secretary position at the small town school I went to and my husband went to and my kids go to. Although I knew it was foolish for me to get my hopes up too high for the position-the job that I was absolutely sure was perfect for me in every way-I was way up there in the clouds. So it hurt pretty badly when I came crashing down, and I had to swallow the lump in my throat. The lump of rejection.
But I believe every single thing happens for a reason.
Afterall, that is the reason for this post that seems to have no end…but fear not-it does, and thank you for still hanging in there.
Because if I would’ve gotten that job that I thought at the time was the perfect job for me I wouldn’t have gotten the job I have. The one that is perfect for me that I didn’t even know I was qualified to have. I was. I am. And I am in love with my job.
I teach kids how to love reading.
Well, that’s not actually my technical job title, but that’s what I’m doing.
So when I see the sparkle in a child’s eye, a sparkle that was put there by a book or story and when I witness a child connect with a story and look forward to reading and WANT to read, and everytime a child stops by my door, peeks in and says, “Can we read today?” my heart knows this is where I belong.
Because everything happens for a reason.
And I know there is more for me than just blogging. I feel it. I have more to write than what will ever be contained between the pages of interwebs.
Last night I was walking through the fair, and someone crouched in the corner of a game booth was drawing a sketch on a white pad of paper. Without looking up he said to me, “You need to be writing.” It was not the only dream I had this week with the same orders.
I won’t stop writing here. I will stop by from time to time in a random, non-scheduled way with nonsense to share because I love nonsense.
And I promise to waste time on social media, so go follow me on facebook.
But there is more for me to do.
If you’re afraid you might miss my sporadic posts, I’ll be the first to tell you you’re not crazy. It’s a genuine fear, since Facebook doesn’t always tell you what I’m doing and although I’m trying really hard at Twitter and G+ I currently suck at them. The only way to truly be sure you will always see what I write is to subscribe by email by entering your email address here. I promise I will not spam you.