“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about”. ~ Haruki Murakami
Wow. I read this as someone’s status today on Facebook, and read it over and over and over. It had a very emotional effect on me. My eyes got all teared up, and I felt like my chest was overfull of air. It was as though some higher being out there – God or the universe itself – knew that I needed to read these words today.
I’ve been a muggled up bundle of emotions recently, due to some personal health challenges. My younger brother and a close friend are also enduring some health challenges, and I’m worried about them. And I was reminded two days ago by my baby son (he’s 18, but he’s still my baby. the older one is 21, but he’s still my baby too. so hush) that THIS fall he will be leaving for the Army. When we started talking about it 2 years ago, it seemed so far away. But, when he was a toddler, thinking about him driving and dating and graduating from high school seemed far away too. But, the days are here. ~sigh~
The last 5 years have been quite turbulent for us as a family. My father passed away on December 20, 2008 after a short fight with cancer. He was diagnosed in June of that year and gone before Christmas. It left our entire family a bit gobsmacked. But that was dad. Not gonna spend a lot of time on needless drama. No need to drag things out.
My husband and I have both been (fired, laid off, downsized, kicked to the curb – just choose the phrase you like) from professional, well paying jobs in 2006 and 2007 consecutively. Currently, we are a one income family. Thankfully, I had a connection and was able to secure a decent job with o.k. pay. Nowhere near the 6 figure salaries we were used to making, but we squeak by somehow each month. Some months we squeak louder than others, some months we cry and squeal. My husband just hasn’t been able to secure anything steady and full time, but every little bit helps.
We did not lead a “charmed life” until 2006. We started out poor and worked our way “up the ladders” to that 6 figure income. So, we’ve just gone back to the way of thinking and level of discipline that we had when we first got married and had 2 young children. It is what it is. And we’ve worked very hard over the years of teaching our sons the true value of a dollar and have not spoiled them with material things. And I have to say, that I am so incredibly proud of my husband and sons and our little family. We have such a bond amongst the four of us. We are truly all best friends. Our boys have never been in any trouble, other than a few bad grades or occasionally running late for curfew. We’ve managed to keep them grounded, and instilled in them respect, heart and conscience. A lot of that credit is owed to my husband. I’ve always said that I could have raised good boys, but without my husband, I don’t know that I could have raised good men.
I guess the last 5 years are so poignant because they have the most “raw”. That little bubble we were living in was suddenly popped and we were dealing with a different reality. There was panic for a number of months. Stressful is not a strong enough word by any means. There were quite a few things, other than financial, going on that were completely out of our control, and sometimes the layers just seemed to deep and heavy to try and breathe under. Frugality was “forced” upon us. Making do with what we had was “forced” upon us. Making better choices and decisions about everything we spent money on was “forced” upon us. Dealing with other crisis’ that we never dreamed we would ever have to deal with was “forced” upon us. But we are so thankful for the way things have turned out. My husband says, “Count your blessings, even if you only have 3.” How can I not love him?
Had it not been for these “forced changes”, we would not have realized and appreciated just how strong we are. Spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically. It was during this 5 year journey to this point that we started looking at our “past” life and analyzing how we’ve spent it. I’m one of those people who believes that everything happens for a reason. Even though I may not clearly know what the reason is at the time, I trust that God will show me the direction or decision that needs to be made next. Our awareness of everything around us has been heightened. Our blinders are off.
Our current goal is not JUST about homesteading. It’s not JUST about frugality. It’s not JUST about gardening and raising chickens. The accomplishments we have made (and are making) and the knowledge we have gained (and continue to gain) cannot be measured in any conventional way. When a task is accomplished using nothing but your wits and creativity to make it work with the barest of materials, that does something for your self-esteem. It’s child like euphoria and you want to clap your hands and jump up and down squealing “I did it! I did it!” I am fully convinced that to have a successful garden it must be an extension of yourself. My spirit is at absolute peace when I am tending to our vegetable garden. There’s a connection to the entire world around me – from the way I observe the clouds in the sky to the glee I experience when I see worms wiggling around in the earth. It may sound hokey, but there are several times that I stand outside and just “be”. Just close my eyes and breathe deeply, taking in all the sounds of the birds, the wind rustling through the trees and feel the grass ‘neath my feet. I’m a teeny tiny speck in this great big ‘ol universe. I can make the choice to heal or to hurt the world around me. I choose to heal.
We’ve been given a second chance to realize what is really important. There has been such a sense of peace and calm in our life since we began living more simply. At the beginning of our marriage, we were frugal. Now, we’re simple. We no longer stress about the things we have no control over, because, well, we have no control over it. Just as the sun and the rain are imperative for the garden to flourish, a peaceful mind and spirit are imperative for the human to flourish. You have to feel a distinct connection to every aspect of nature to have that peace. Honestly – how can you just KNOW that a chicken may not be feeling well, or that your pepper plant would like more sun, or that the bees really like the Borage you planted. You experience it when you’re in tune and in touch with your surroundings and you’re looking at things with your heart and your spirit, not your eyes and your brain.
I dunno. That little quote just let me know that we’re on the right path. We’ve weathered quite a few storms. But it wasn’t until we made the clear, conscious, determined decision to reconnect with nature and with our spirits that we really started appreciating the lessons we’ve learned from each storm. And there will be more storms I’m sure. But I’ll gladly tough them out. The sun never forgets the shine once the rains stop.