I closed on my first house in February 2004, one month after my 22nd birthday. I was a baby. My house was a signal that a new chapter was starting in my life. It was a project that I desperately needed after four long years of a series of surgeries to reconstruct my right femur that was injured in a bizarre accident during a routine blood donation a week before my 18th birthday. The surgeries had been tough, tougher than any of my specialists had predicted mostly due to a complication occurring after my first surgery that lead to an extensive second emergency surgery that I was lucky to survive and even luckier to survive with all of my limbs.
While I was incredibly fortunate, the surgeries plunged me into an intense recovery that included learning how to walk again and a life of chronic pain that was a result of the trauma during my second surgery to save my life including severely damaged nerves in my right leg. To say I was depressed was an understatement. I was honestly barely hanging on, surviving each day but not at all living. I needed direction, a reason to move forward beyond myself and my circumstances.
I felt so far from the life I had wanted and dreamt of before life had been flipped upside down. Everything was different after my surgeries, I wanted to go back to the life I had before but couldn’t. My friends had all moved on, graduated from college and had started their careers and lives while I had been in and out of the hospital. My body felt so foreign and different to me. My surgeries had taken a time away that I could never get back but they had also taken who I was as a person. I didn’t know my identity beyond being a sick patient. I needed to find a way back to myself, if that was even possible (at the time it didn’t feel like it at all). It occurred to me one day that I needed a project that I could immerse myself in and try to rebuild my life. After spending years in and out of doctors’ offices and hospitals, I craved normal. I craved the everyday, ordinary moments of life. I wanted a life, career, marriage and children, in that order. While I hadn’t been able to control the previous four years, I knew that I could control my life moving forward and I was determined to Field of Dreams my way to it. “If you build it, he will come” was my motto so I bought a Volvo and a house.
The house would be the kick off to a new life; a life I could finally start. I found an old, neglected little cottage that I felt akin to. I lovingly painted each room in my new home. I removed the gross brown shag carpeting and had the original wood floors refinished. I replaced the roof, landscaped the back yard, had new windows installed and created a welcoming home that surely would house my little family. Little by little my previously neglected little home came back to life and so did I. I slowly found myself again, little by little. Life became enjoyable; I started laughed again and launched my interior design business two years into being a homeowner. The years ticked by and I was honestly happy. I worked, had friends, dated and always believed that surely I was bound to meet someone on my next date that would be the person that I would want to build my life with. With each year that passed, I would feel strangely encouraged instead of discouraged because things were bound to work out, right?!
Things were good until they weren’t.
One night last November, I pulled into my driveway and sat in my car looking at my house. The house was dark, empty and for the first time in 13 years I didn’t want to go inside. Things had shifted in what felt like a millisecond. What was fine a second ago, suddenly wasn’t. In the darkness, I couldn’t deny what my reality was. I was turning 35 in less than two months and desperately wishing my life was one way instead of accepting the way that it actually was. All of a sudden, the house that had given me freedom and wings felt stifling and claustrophobic. It suddenly didn’t fit. I desperately didn’t want things to change but I knew that it was too late. Once I saw it, I couldn’t unsee it.
I had built a home for a life I didn’t have, one I couldn’t buy or force to happen.
Two days later I had called the realtor and ten days later, the house was on the market and just like that I had let go.
And let go I did. I let go of the handed down Jenny Lind crib that I had been storing in my garage covered by moving blankets. Let go of the tiny cashmere newborn clothes that my friends and clients had given me over the years because as each year passed surely I was getting closer to having the little family I so desperately wanted. As I donated each box and item I also let go of all my failed relationships and fertility issues that had haunted me. I let go of a business that I had built over the past decade. I no longer wanted anything that my life had been. I let go until all that was left was what could be contained in a small storage locker of belongings that I’m sure I’ll never look at again and a few boxes that I took with me to start over. This time building a life on what is instead of a life that I wished I had. A life built on the honest truth and in its full, imperfect and complicated glory.
You might be reading this and thinking, why did/is she giving up? Everything that she wants can still happen! And to that I would say yes. Absolutely. I still do believe that what I want can happen but I also don’t want to be so stubbornly focused on a goal that isn’t coming together that I miss the life that I do have and/or being offered to me.
I also personally believe in listening to life. Clearly, the thing I wanted most, the thing I had poured my energy, time and money into wasn’t happening and after knocking on the same door for 13 years without it even opening a crack, I have to believe that I’m being redirected.
Letting go of my dream, the way that I envisioned it, isn’t giving up – to me it’s just giving in, getting quiet and listening to see what is showing up for me. I personally believe that the Universe does in fact have my back and that things are working out for my highest good – maybe not the way that I selfishly want but for my highest good nonetheless. Letting go doesn’t have to be negative, it doesn’t mean that I’m not strong or capable and it doesn’t have to mean losing ones faith. In fact, I’d say that I am more at peace today than ever before and for the first time I don’t have a plan for my personal life, I’m just going along with the flow and leaning hard into the opportunities that are available to me because there are a lot of doors and many that are wide open just waiting for me to chose to walk through them.
The process of letting go has been fascinating for me to explore personally but also interesting to talk about with others. Over the last couple of months, I’ve had this conversation with friends and acquaintances and when I get to the part of the story of how and why I’ve let go of my attachment to this particular dream, I’ve noticed how people franticly try reassure me and get visibly uncomfortable although I am not uncomfortable, sad or upset. I find it fascinating that we as humans desperately want life to work out the way that we think it should but sometimes life doesn’t work out the way we imagined. Sometimes there is no pretty bow that can tidily tie things up. Sometimes life is left raw and unfinished. As much as there is glory in life, there is also this.