Seriously, aren’t my girls stinking cute?
I’m working on being less melancholy. I am. But it’s hard. The last 9 months have been so, so hard. Maybe the hardest of my life. I spent my last, long, miserable winter at an unreasonable latitude. Our first without a mid-winter escape to someplace warm (like Michigan). The coldest we’d seen so far. The longest we’d seen so far. Our first with two small children. Then, right as our Halloween pumpkins began to thaw, my father killed himself. And thus began our travels. 10 days in Michigan to say good-bye and bury him. 10 days back in Alaska to pack/sell/ship/donate/trash everything we owned. Then, nearly 3 weeks to track down our possessions and get them all to Colorado. (Remind me sometime to tell you the story of calling around trying to find our car. It had been abandoned in Seattle by a fraudulent shipping company. Such a funny story.) Then, The Great Job Hunt, looking for an apartment, re-establishing some relationships in Colorado and -whoops!- the Waldo Canyon Fire. We were not in harm’s way, but my family was. So they evacuated to stay with us (in a third party’s house!) while we ferverently refreshed news pages waiting to see if the fire jumped the road and took their house. Now, we’re finishing another stint in Michigan trying to help my mother go through everything my father had owned.
It’s a lot of travel, a lot to ask of a pair of toddlers, and a lot to ask of a marriage. As a testament to our solidarity, we’re doing fine. At the very least, we all still seem to like each other, and I think that’s more than we could have expected had we known what this year was going to look like.
Today, I sit here trying not to scratch flea bites (thank you, stray cat, for getting into the house and dropping off your nasty friends), getting ready to pack my kids back across the country (only one this time!) and finally move them into our home. Ours. We have our own place waiting for us in Denver. We have furniture on the way, 2 jobs accepted and final interviews scheduled for the elusive ‘real’ job. We’re getting there.
I have hope.
Is that all that separates me from my dad? This abstract sense of something good on the horizon? Is that it? This year I committed to being more brazen. I didn’t want to be brash or act without thinking, but I wanted to stop letting the risk of embarrassment or insecurity rule my decisions. I wanted to try things and do things and branch out a little. I wanted to put myself out there in a way that allowed hurt, but also allowed victory. Was that one, silly little commitment the difference between life and death? Between being ruled by my depression and learning to rule my life?
Clearly, mental illness and long-standing physical addictions are nothing to wave aside. They played a heavy role in the death of my father and I will forever be watching for them in my own life. But sometimes I can’t help but wonder at the small, quick decisions that forever affect the course of a life.
When I was 18, I was celebrating New Year’s in a hotel room with my boyfriend and some friends of ours. At 11:45, I thought back to how many people I had out-partied that semester, and how many hockey players I could match drink for drink in a night. I thought about the fact that I was young, with a family history of addiction and alcoholism, and that my tolerance was higher than seemed necessary, and that I was only in my first semester of college. And I decided to take a year off. At midnight, I put down my champagne (not even an empty glass) and didn’t drink again for several years. After the first year, it just seemed unnecessary to drink while underage, and once I was of legal drinking age, it just didn’t seem important.
What would my life look like now if I had finished that glass of champagne? Or not taken my impulsive personal challenge seriously? Or forgotten about it the next day? Would I be swimming in booze right now? Would I have graduated from college with a good GPA, finished two AmeriCorps programs, earned a Congressional Award Gold Medal, married, had two children, and traveled to see so much beauty? Would I have walked away from God? Would I be depressed?
I don’t know, and I’m not sure it matters. Being impulsive is not the moral of the story, but neither is learning to see the ways my life could go (or could have gone) horribly wrong. The moral of the story is yet to be determined. Or maybe it’s be grateful. For the times that life has gone wonderfully right. Even when I’m in the midst of the hardest months of my life.