A year ago, I sat on the porch at the home of my dear friends and tried to smile. There were dogs and children and pre-teens hanging from yoga ropes. We laughed. We told stories. We sat by the fire and tried to piece together the things that had beed destroyed in the previous 9 months. Everything changed in March of 2020. Places that had been safe were no longer. Relationships that were sufficient were destroyed with masking and distance and deviating beliefs. In December, the last of “my things” was removed from my life. I had spent the last 20 years of my life serving organizations that I believed in. That has meant different things in different seasons, but by this time – by choice or by force – this was the last tether to the life that I had built in my suburban paradise. Two decades. My entire adult existence was birthed and gave birth and buried and grieved and fought and loved on 312 Sunset Ridge in League City, Texas. Here is the funny. I never wanted to be in League City. I tried to escape in active attempts through the years. At 45 years old, the only things that I had known to be stabilizing communal forces went. That included the city that I never intended to love and the many people that had woven their way into our lives.
Lucas and I made a decision (like we have for many years) to lean into our own understanding of what was best for our kids. After trying to think outside of all of the boxes, it was decided that the best opportunity was to move to our lake house in Austin. In a matter of weeks, I moved with my daughter to a small community on Lake Travis. A house on the lake? What a wonderful way to reset. A natural life pause after a trying year? Lovely. Just days into this solo experiment, the freeze of 2021 hit Texas and I was immediately reminded that I am ill equipped for wells and deer and ice and ice. I also found out that living in the Hill Country means that I have to kill scorpions and handle all the spiders. I have seen snakes and Texas sized centipedes. I now drive back roads that are written about in country songs…to the grocery. That was all before April. And then a new sadness set in.
By April, I was hemorrhaging grief. I was lonely and alone. This season has given me a respect that I will never lose. One that no one can convince me otherwise about. SINGLE PARENTS ARE MY HEORES. I have the best of rocks in my spouse. Steady. Sure. And completely incapable of parenting long distance. I don’t think this is a skill one should strive to master, because the cause is always painful. Instead, we fell into a rhythm of weekend Dad bringing the fun. This might be the only thing harder than single parenting. I was the nagging bitch all week and Dad came to be wake surf buddy on Friday. Not exactly a joyous mother-dream Hallmark moment. Motherhood is so hard in every stage and season. And this one is no exception. I thought I would love these years. Wise voices have reminded me that I have been set up for pain in launching thanks to COVID. The most import observation from the spring and early summer was…exhaustion.
Something unexplainable happens when you go through struggle and pain with others. They become the scabs on your open wounds when you can’t heal. They remind you of your worth when you have forgotten. They drag you out of the mind gutters and (especially in my case) annoyingly position themselves not to intervene, but to be the pillow that you can come home and cry in when things just make you want to hide in bed. That’s what my lifelines have been this year. This small band of humans have saved me from myself. And in the process, through many tales of treachery and unplanned nonsense, they are the ones that have encouraged me to finally own my life. MY life. Not the one that was handed to me through birth or culture or religion. One that says what I mean and means what I say. To live, from every pore, the most true life that I can create. Today.
So, I went outside more. I started fishing. I camped. I flew to the coast alone. I drove out of a city in a car without RESERVATIONS. I saw so many places I had never seen. From the California coast to the shores of the east. From the small creeks in Austin to the oceans. I stayed in a bus one night. A bus. As a house. I played. I loved. I started to dream. The stinging pain of the last 6 month began to wain. I began August on a new mission. What if? What if this next season of my life was about the things that I have always thought that I could never do – and I fucking do them? As I began telling my people about what I could only explain as a required new birth, they said GO. My people said I could do it. Even things that others would laugh about. Even things that would take me so far out of my comfort zone that I would fail. They believed that I was worth all of it. ME. A middle-aged mom who had given her life away to everyone but herself.
Just as I began to feel the legs underneath me again, a new wave of hard broke open with a painful swell. I lost my Dad. September was brutal. The last days, while in retrospect were few, felt like they would never end. And then people. Because of COVID, we had been so careful around my dad. The number of face-to-face human interactions that I fostered in the previous 18 months were few. The day Dad died, I found myself in a room with 30+ people for the first time in what felt like forever. I never thought about the fact that after the long detox, I might not ever want to return to peopling. Going from nothing to being together with alllllll the faces during one of those days when I just needed safety, changed something. I wanted small. I wanted still. I can’t hear in the noise of people anymore. My soul whispers. And as I have learned to hear her, I also know that her voice is intentionally quiet. She wants me to be in an environment of simple to work on the complex healing. I am not privy to some sacred spaces unless I provide myself sanctuary from the world.
I was supposed to be on one of my adventure trips the weekend we lost Dad. The friend that I was planning to travel with supported me though the funeral and when all was settled, I was gifted a modified version of the planned trip. I needed those days of stillness in ways that I cannot articulate. I was given space and most importantly, we went outside. We cried. I wrote. We cooked and ate. We even stopped for chargrilled oysters as we sped through Louisiana. The gift of allowing people to really know you is that they know how to support you. I didn’t need “normal” that week. I needed the most abnormal days, as compared to my daily grind. As we wandered hills and chased the sun, we also began to think and dream.
I’m not the only one that lost all that was normal this year. The number of life tables that have been turned upside down from the pandemic are many. One of those most impacted in my life was my best friend. So in those heartbroken raw days, we sat on rocks and threw sticks for dogs to chase. We also began to think about happiness. Not a business plan. Not a 10 year plan. HAPPINESS. I have never once in my life walked into a decision with the majority motivator being MY happiness. I’m horrified to say that, but the value of investing in my own happiness has never been a priority. That changed in the weeks that followed. In my most fragile, sad, broken spaces, I have seen that the only person who knows the things I dream about is me. And I can only make those dreams a reality if I demand (to myself, mostly) that things have to change. So, I did.
My final adventure of 2021 was to a goat farm. South of Sanity was the name. And there was only one person that had caught the craziness of my vision enough to want to come along. Something sacred happened on that farm. Healing began. Philipp played all day with the animals. He slaughtered chickens while I wrote. I studied goat products and quizzed the owners about anything that they would share. This was it. I wanted a farm. A goat farm. With land and space and soap making and egg harvesting and wild chickens that chase big dogs. I could feel the aliveness that I thought was dead. Somewhere between hanging out in the rabbit reading room and playing with the fearless diaper wearing youngest child of the farmer, I realized that the next season would not be in a city. I would not be loud. It may not even be in Texas. But I wanted that. So I said it. Out loud. And every time I did, I fell more in love with the idea.
I came home and announced my big dream. That was on November 10th. For added fun, my new farm partner and I had 829 miles between our current residences. Philipp lived in Georgia, after moving to be closer to his son. Having worked together before, we know our natural strengths. Let me organize. Finances? Got it. Manure hauling? I’ll do it, but he will love it. So, we drew a 2 hour circle from Atlanta and began to look. He had been searching for a permeant home, but this big idea, the fully sustainable, agro-tourism farm was a new level of land exploration. It was all we did. We obsessed over the perfect spot.
By mid-December, the land had been purchased, and the name established. For Christmas Lucas gave me 35 chickens and 4 goats. (Of course, being the stellar man that he is, that also included the same through Heifer International.) I didn’t walk on it before closing because it all happened so fast, but the day we decided to make the offer on this land I quit looking. I deleted the real-estate apps off my phone because I knew it was the one. But I’ve now been there and I can’t hold on to my excitement any longer. It is all that I could have ever asked for. Every dream that I’ve thought about can all happen on our 22 acres. All at the same time. Let me introduce you to my next season…