It’s been over five years since we moved to Utah. Five years. I can’t even believe it. I remember how hard that was for me then. To move 1000 miles away from everyone we knew. Family. Friends. Neighbors. My work.
You see, until then I was still living under the delusion that eventually I would arrive. Somewhere. To that place I seemed to be endlessly chasing. That marriage. That family. The fulfilling career. The fancy home. The people. Money. Stuff. Expectations.
Sure, my experiences in Al-anon had ever so slowly begun to change me. I realized somewhere along the way I wasn’t the ONLY one who didn’t have it all figured out. None of us really do. We all just muddle through. But even then I think I held on to this idea that if I muddled hard enough I’d find IT. I don’t even know what IT was.
OF COURSE I had to work. I’d been in training for so long and I had this title– Dr. Albertson. OF COURSE we needed to save for a bigger house in one of those fancy neighborhoods. One with some land for our growing family. OF COURSE my children should play soccer and football and basketball and baseball. And on select teams. Year round. They should also probably learn a musical instrument. OF COURSE I should run half marathons and maybe even a marathon one day. OF COURSE I should do book club and bible study and supper club and volunteer my time at school and church.
Because all these things sound good. And look good. And if I could balance all these things then I’d be that much closer to having IT. I would arrive.
It was like I boarded a train that kept pressing forward and onward and I couldn’t get off but I also couldn’t see the destination.
Utah threw a wrench in it all.
Dan had to look elsewhere to finish his training and he liked the Utah fellowship program the best. And I remember how my heart leapt when he suggested I just stay home for that year. After all, it was only a year then we’d likely move again.
I remember that release. I remember how I took a big, deep breath. Releeeaase.
It only lasted a minute or two before my anxiety kicked in.
Move? Away? We wouldn’t know anyone there. Where would we live? Where would the kids go to school? What about their sports teams? What do you mean I could stay home? Do doctors do that? How will we afford that? I am the breadwinner…could we cut down from a doctor salary plus a resident salary to just a resident salary? Cut our income by two thirds??? We have three children…how will we eat? And what about our extended family? What will my parents say? What about my friends? What about the kids’ friends? Will we be able to sell our house?
How are we going to do this???
I was so scared about it that for a little while we considered having me stay behind with three little boys to keep working while Dan moved to Utah to do his fellowship for a year. This did make the most financial sense.
But I remember that idea felt awful. Like a punch in the stomach. I’d think about this plan and feel nauseated. I prayed and prayed and prayed…God show me the way. And I remember one night while brushing my teeth how I broke spontaneously into sobs. How they wracked my body and the toothpaste gushed out of my mouth and down my chin. How it brought me to the floor.
I and the kids would go too. Whether we lost money on the house or not. Whether I worked or not. Whether we lived in a house or a tent or an apartment or our car. Our place was together. Our family needed to be together. God was leading…so we fearfully moved forward.
I wish I could say I placed it all in God’s hands. That I faithfully moved forward without fear. That I trusted wholly and completely. I wish it would be that easy for me.
I remember how my beautiful friend Amy told me that this year would likely be such a gift. An adventure. A year at home with my boys. A gift I’d likely look back on and treasure forever.
It’s so much easier now in hindsight to see how He carried me. How He carried us all during that time.
We sold our house and broke even. We scrimped and save and managed to pay off both our cars before our move. We found a little house to rent in Bountiful, UT for $900 per month. We got rid of probably half of our belongings…extra furniture, toys, clothes, decorations, junk. We packed everything we had left into one U-haul and moved. My final check from work with my last quarter’s productivity added in EXACTLY covered the cost of Isaiah’s tuition at the little Catholic school we found. The school that turned out to be less than a mile away from that teeny tiny rental home. And a new forward-thinking clinic was looking to hire a Family Practice doctor one day a week. It practically fell into my lap.
That year was exactly the year Amy said it would be.
Simple and slow. We didn’t buy ANYTHING except food for that entire year but we managed to find enough to have family ski passes. We spent our free time hiking and exploring new places or riding bikes to the park or walking to the library down the block for story time. Then Dan took the boys skiing every Sunday after church in that winter’s record snow! Our kids didn’t play sports for nearly a year but made plenty of friends in the new little school and church playgroup. I home-schooled Eli and taught him to read. Our little house didn’t have a microwave and we lived on scrambled eggs and pancakes or noodles and never went out to eat. I could vacuum the entire main level (about 600 square feet) from a single outlet. And the boys loved sharing a bedroom for the first time in the tiny basement room. We planted a garden in the giant garden bed out back and for the first time ate fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers and zucchini from our yard. We made peach crisp with fresh peaches from our tree. I’d get up early to go for a run but I’d leave my timer/distance tracker behind. Then I’d come home to sit on our little front porch and watch the hummingbirds on the trumpet vine along our driveway.
That year was a gift I unwrapped every single morning. And that feeling of release I felt for only a few moments at Dan’s suggestion that we choose Utah returned. And stayed. Every day I breathed in big and long and deep and wide. Finally I could breathe.
I had stepped off the train. I watched it wiz by me as I just stood there. Still and quiet. Feet firmly planted on the platform. Breathing in and out in long, slow, deep breaths.
Somehow we had enough left over at the end of that year for a down payment on our next house. A house right here in Utah. Not the big fancy house on some land like I’d always envisioned but a sensible home in a cookie-cutter neighborhood. Because it turns out I love being home with my (now five) kids. I love being the one to drop them to school and pick them up at 3pm. I love pushing babies on the swings and walking them to the neighborhood park or packing them up for Friday story time at that same little library. It turns out I love gardening and heading out for a hike in the woods on a random Tuesday and watching all my boys ski together on Sunday. It turns out the boys like to play sports but they also need time to be kids, to be bored, to ride bikes and find bugs and play with their friends. It turns out I like running just for fun and fresh air and exercise rather that training for my next big race. It turns out I just need to breathe.
Every single day I unwrap the precious gift of my deliciously slow, sometimes boring life…this beautiful, ordinary life. And still, every day, the world beckons. That train is just waiting for me to board so we can wiz off again…back to work, one more sport, a bigger house with a yard, half marathons, money, stuff, expectations.
I do my best to block out the peripheral noise…the noise of the world’s expectations and advice and emotional baggage and competition. I try to make decisions that are good and right and whole for ME. And my family. I remember to pray. Then open my ears and eyes and heart for the results.
Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25: 4-5