Let me preface this by saying how thankful I am for the life I have, for the opportunities I’ve been given and for the grace in which I’ve been able to operate. Birthdays have always been a quandary for me. I always want to be grateful, but at the same time, I don’t quite know how to act. Do you say, “Yeah! Better alive than dead!?” or “Great! I see another gray hair (or a bunch of them)!” or “I’m so glad to be alive!”?
It is, indeed a great time of celebration, of another day, another year but in the past, I’ve spent even the happiest of birthdays feeling unfulfilled, in the most selfish of ways. You see, I was seeking happiness from within and let’s just be honest, it wasn’t there to find. I was putting all my eggs in one basket and trying to make something out of nothing.
I’ve been doing some soul searching for the past year. Last year’s birthday, I can’t honestly remember. I’m sure we celebrated with cake and dinner and all that fun stuff, but something inside me broke in the best of ways and in that brokenness, I found the happiness I’d been looking for.
Just over a year ago, my husband lost his job of eleven years. Don’t stress for me, we weren’t in dire straits or anything, but 70% of our income was lost with his job. Seventy percent. Thankfully, we’ve never lived with a lot of debt and our savings were better than most, but it was devastating knowing that we couldn’t live the lifestyle that we loved. I was on the cusp of releasing my debut album when the news came down and we were torn of whether to hold it or go ahead and release it. Figuring that we’d spent a year in making it, we went ahead and released it.
To make a very long story short, the release party was cancelled when an out-of-state family member passed away the day before it was to happen and we ended going to a funeral instead. Each and every time we tried to reschedule it, something got in the way. Hubby’s search for a new job came about in snatches of contract work in which he’d work six weeks and then be unemployed again. We kept living, monitoring our finances, still giving, still being optimistic and still believing that things would change.
A true turning point came about with the fall semester (just one to go after that!) when I got a notice to report for jury duty. Ugh. I don’t mind doing my duty, but what rotten timing! I dropped my favorite class, the one where I got to travel with a music group and perform for people who love the music, and hated every minute of sitting in the audience, dreading being called out as a juror.
The waiting and wishing built and time kept going on. In the middle of all of this, hubby decided to give us a vacation of faith. You may laugh, it’s okay. We took off for a week of meet-n-greets with various radio stations in the south. We traveled through Tennessee, Virginia, South & North Carolina, and Georgia before heading back home. We met people who shared our vision and our music, who threw logs of faith in the fire of our hearts and helped keep the dream alive.
We did this on a dime. Literally! We got savvy, shopped the best deals for hotels, bought groceries while at the hotel, didn’t eat out much (just one or two great places), took tours of beautiful Charleston and Savannah (and many other wonderful towns) for so precious little that it still makes my head spin! Not once during this vacation did I worry about money, about how the bills would get paid or how we would make it through. That was a gift.
Christmas passed, a new year upon us and I started to realize that yes, it’d been a hard few months, yes, we had to watch our money carefully, but yes, we could still give to our favorite charities and even better, yes, we could still give-of ourselves, of our time, of our efforts and of our faith.
In this time of reflection, I found that by dropping the shell that said, “Hey, everything’s okay here!” and embracing folks who came out of the woodwork to help hubby find a job, who said, “If you need anything, just yell.” and meant it, to turning the tables on this trial and offering the same back to those in the boat with us. We started giving more. Yes, it meant living on less, but that was okay. We started living more. We learned to appreciate the childhoods we’d grown up in where we were taught to save, to preserve foods, to manage our time and energy wisely. We learned that we could live on 30% of our original income, sometimes less.
The irony of that time is that I didn’t go straight for the jugular and freak out because I didn’t have enough. As a matter of fact, we used it as a time to clean. Yeah, it’s okay to laugh. We took the meaning a little far when we decided to host a yard sale with some of our extras. We cleaned out a barn, a garden shed, the garage, two attics and all the closets in the house and boy, did we have stuff to get rid of. The sale was a success and we sent a truck and van load to charity when it was over. Even in our lack, we still had so much.
I know this is a first world problem and I’m not complaining. I refuse to. I was putting laundry away last night and contemplating my blessings. Even after sending bins of stuff away, we have so much more than those less fortunate. My pantry is full of fruits and veggies that I’ve canned (thank you, Mamma!), and while my bank account is nowhere near what it was when hubby worked full time, it has enough in it. And THAT’S where I like it. I don’t need excess. I just need enough. I smiled last night as I put away laundry (my least favorite chore) but I did it happily because I’m glad to have clothes to put away.
I’m so blessed with the things I have, but more importantly, the people I have in my life. They share. They share the things that matter. The laughter. The love. The hugs. The stories, of having been in the same place where we are right now and having made it through, of knowing what it’s like to say “no” when your friends ask you out because you refuse to buy dinner on credit. They share their strength. Their wisdom. They share their hearts through music, which so speaks to my spirit. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
So, what’s the end to this ramble of reflection? Be happy. Be happy where you, whatever the situation, find the light at the end of the tunnel and stay in that moment. Don’t let the little things in life weigh you down. It might get worse before it gets better, but it will get better. How do I know this?
- I got through jury duty.
- Hubby has a new contract for a short term job. He’s been offered full time with the company. Yeah!
- I graduated from college! Wahoo!
- My album? The one that didn’t get the big release party I thought it needed? It’s being played all over the US, in Germany, Canada, Mexico, China, Israel, Spain, France, Czech Republic and in Australia!!
- I started writing again. Not just blogging, but music, as well!
In seeking the happiness from outward things, I found that I turned inward and found the light that was there all along. It was just covered up with stuff; with things that were getting in the way of me finding the answers I needed. I learned that no matter how bad it seems, if you have determination to find a better way, to make it work and great friends who cheer you on, you will succeed!
I’m walking this path alongside you. Ram Dass is quoted as saying, “We’re all just walking each other home.” and that’s where we are. So, join me in celebrating today. Not just today, every day! Find the little things, the itsy bitsy things that you’ve been overlooking and put them to good use! They’re there for a reason. De-clutter! De-clutter your home, your office, your life, your soul. Rid yourself of the things holding you back and go live the life that you were created to live!
I woke up at 4:50 this morning, wide awake, feeling refreshed, feeling very much alive and very happy! I’m so grateful for the learning experience of the last year. I’m thankful that I found the light I needed and that it’s being used to show the path to others!
My co-workers surprised me this morning with this lovely gift. We enjoyed it (well, a bite or two) as the day began. I’ve had so much sugar and caffeine already that I may very well bounce off the walls, but it’s a small price to pay for being so loved and celebrated!