What we didn’t know was that once we left South Carolina, once we headed out for our adventure, everything would go wrong. I can’t even begin to explain or remember all of the little things that went awry, but the big things are burned into my memory: our corrupt moving company holding our belongings for ransom, finally giving them up only after an emotional battle and thousands more dollars of money that we had to borrow, finding out that the same moving company had kept many of our belongings including our mattresses, which left us struggling in our first weeks here on an air mattress until my first paycheck.
Then, while I was gone on my first business trip, Bear encountered a foxtail – something we knew nothing about- but once he inhaled it- cost us almost $1000 in an emergency veterinarian bill. (goodbye to the rest of the first paycheck!) Those first few weeks were horrendous, and Shea had to deal with a great deal of it alone, in a new city where he knew no one, while I was a few states away, working. Then, to top it all off, while I was on that trip, I took a tumble down a small flight of stairs, luckily breaking nothing, but the fall left me in such pain for the rest of my business trip, that I spent part of every day in the restroom in tears, and cried myself to sleep every night. This was contract work, and I refused to go to the ER because I knew no doctor would let me continue to work, and our financial situation was so perilous at that moment that I couldn’t risk being sent home. I waited to visit the ER after my trip once I got home, and came out hobbling on crutches, but relieved I had made it through and gotten paid.
I kept waiting for the moment when we would turn the curve and our fortunes would change. I kept waiting to see the light in Shea’s eyes and know that he loved it out here as much as I always have. I kept waiting for him to find his next career direction and see the light at the end of the tunnel he has been waiting for. I kept waiting for my job situation to settle down and for me to feel I was really where I was supposed to be. The contract work dried up, and I finally found a full time position. But for the most part, for most of these things, I am still waiting.
I have had more than a few challenging times in my life, so I know this is not the lowest point. There have been days in this last year, though, when things have felt bigger than me, bigger than us, and I have lost faith in myself. I have doubted the decision to bring us out here. Even though it was both of us deciding, it was me who started this chain of events, it was me who suggested bringing us here—all the way to the other side of the country. We both loved living in Myrtle Beach, SC, a place that held a lot of childhood nostalgia for us, and where the people that are truly family to us live. I cannot express how much we miss Aunt Marlene. We would be in her kitchen celebrating Easter with her and other family members tomorrow, and not doing that will be a hole in our hearts. I had assumed that by this time, we would be able to afford to fly back for holidays, and we are just not at that point yet.
The truth is, we were struggling back in SC, and we are better off financially here, even if we are still struggling. It’s hard to face that, especially for Shea, who doesn’t know anyone else here, and I know he feels so disconnected from the world at times. Changing careers is so hard, and navigating through that has been more challenging than he or I could have ever imagined.
I have wanted to write for months, to spill my soul out and share what has been going on in my mind and heart, but I haven’t been able to find the words. Working has left me drained and while I am so thankful for my job, especially now, I come home exhausted and unable to summon the creative energy to do the thing I love and honestly need to do most when I am trying to work through a hard time. I know creative people all struggle with this. We have to pay the bills, so your art-- whether it’s writing, painting, music—it becomes the thing you do on the side unless you have been lucky enough to find away to make it your livelihood.
On the train ride home, standing in the middle of dozens of people every day, I find myself getting emotional thinking of all the time ticking away. I am not writing my novel, I haven’t even written a blog post in months. It has been overwhelming lately. I tell myself I will make the time, I will stay up late, I will carve out time on the weekends. But I can’t summon the words at exact moments. They come to me or they don’t. Lately, they haven’t.
I wish I could say I see all these hopeful changes just around the corner for us, and that within a few weeks, we will be out of this rut, full of purpose, and without any doubts of our choices and our place in the scheme of things. I know that won’t be true- unless a winning lottery ticket finds its way to us.
I have to keep myself focused on what we do have. I tell myself all the time that it’s like being at the beach, looking for sea glass among the broken shells. You have to look really hard to find these beautiful, cloudy blue-green pieces of glass, little gems among the wreckage of the ocean, but they are there. Right now, my pieces of sea glass are that we both have health insurance, we are both ok health-wise, Bear is healthy and happy and loves it here- as do all of the animals, we live in a great place near beautiful walking trails, I am working full time, and we can pay the bills- barely- but we can. Tomorrow and the next day and the next, we will have plenty to eat, and we have a roof over our heads. We have each other. And although things have been rough and we have struggled at times, we know and love each other more every day. Some days are harder than others. Some days are good. We laugh, a lot.
It has become this weird little mantra for me when I am having a bad day…look for the sea glass…a way to remind myself to look for the positive things. I don’t even know if the analogy makes sense to anyone but me.
Sometimes the pieces of sea glass are really hard to see. Tomorrow, I am promising myself I will take a few extra moments to look harder to see them, to wait for the sun to catch the colors and show them to me. I know they are there, hidden among the broken shells of my life right now.
Here's hoping in a few months, it's not as much of a struggle to find them.