I’ve been struggling with what words to add to this space this week. Struggling to find a topic that would be a gentle transition from Ember’s last post…but as I’ve sat and thought about it, what I’ve come to realize is there is no easy transition. There is no easy, gentle flow to the next topic because losing a loved one is (in my opinion) the most difficult thing we face in this life.
Thinking about Em and Drew and the girls took my mind on a journey, a journey through the various terrains of this path that we call life.
In the past few days two events have occurred. I wish I could elaborate, but right now I’m not at liberty to talk publicly about these things. I will tell you this: one had to do with my job, and one had to do with our family. Both of them have been relatively small in the grand scheme of life events, but very significant in bringing our questions of where and why? to the forefront of our minds.
These where and why? questions always bring me back to thinking about our journey. About this path that, at times, can be seen ahead for miles and miles, our view reaching from the very tips of the trees stretching all the way down to the grassy, green trail that we walk upon. These are stretches of time that everything is going good—great, even—when our walk forward is brisk and purposeful, full of joy and intent; we know where we are going, and we are determined and excited to get there.
But then, of course, the landscape usually begins to change…nice easy paths become gentle hills, and before we know it the hills begin to get steep. There may be just a few at first, but suddenly the frequency and intensity of these climbs really starts to grow. The accumulation of daily stressors may leave us feeling worn out by our journey. We can continue to walk in these times, but it’s wise to slow down and take a breath, regroup, and recharge—as often as needed until the hills begin to ease.
When our families are hit by tragedy—the loss of life, a sudden illness or diagnosis, the loss of our home or our job—our journey on this Path of Life comes to an abrupt halt. It feels as if we are no longer on the Path at all because we aren’t. Tragedies take us, for a period of time, off the trail completely and deep into the forest. While on the surface we may continue to look as though we are walking, our hearts and minds and souls have stopped—our true focus is on the matter at hand and only the matter at hand. There is no movement forward or back, because there is no path to guide us. In these times all we can do is wait—wait until we start to heal and then, then we can slowly meander our way back to continue our journey.
While reflecting on this idea, I realized that Collin and I have recently found ourselves in a bit of a peculiar place in our trip—a place that doesn’t really fit nicely into any one of these categories. After several weeks of brisk walking forward—where we could see clearly ahead of us—we started to encounter some hills: the start of school, a change in day care, more work from our day jobs…which left us a bit winded. So we slowed the pace; we continued to move ahead, but we did so gradually.
Somewhere along the way, though, we failed to look up, and suddenly we found ourselves a bit lost: a fog had rolled in around us, and we never even noticed. This is not the first time this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. Lately it has felt as if our path has become less of a trail to follow and more of a maze to navigate. Several times we’ve looked at each other and asked, where are we going again?
But more importantly we’ve questioned, Why? Why are we headed in this direction? Instead of making progress forward, these past several days have left me spinning in circles. My bearings have been lost, and my path has become a labyrinth; I see all these possible passages and throughways, and I’m confused. I have no idea which way leads us truly home. And so we have tepidly been trying out various routes—considering various options to reaching our future—but with each one we have had to retreat; no trail feels quite safe enough to plow forward with yet.
One day this past summer we were taking a drive through the country, looking at farms and farmhouses as we tend to do, when I turned to Collin and said: Everything aside, thoughts of a farm and future jobs etc., what is it that we are trying to accomplish?
The dreams of our future have always been rooted in these two things:
1) Getting me home with the kids.
2) Eliminating as much debt as possible.
And so this week we find ourselves focusing on these priorities with renewed vigor. We have no idea what our future holds: Will we stay in our home or sell our house and move? If we move, will it be to a farm or property with land or a transitional house in town? Will it be a home that we fix up or one we build ourselves? Will it be local or in a different town, or even perhaps, a different state?
We do not know the answers to these questions because life does not grant us the luxury of knowing what our future will look like, but the first step in our journey is determining why we are going.
So if, or when, you find yourself in the same spot—in a labyrinth of life—my advice to you is this: retreat. Retrace your steps back to the beginning and remember again why you’ve set out for this destination in the first place, because when your why is your focus, the path ahead will become clear again.