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The Great Plan, part 3

Updated: May 6

How It All Ends

It’s January first, the dawning of a new year. As has become our tradition we celebrated New Year’s Eve with a quiet night at home, a big steak supper with all the fixings, in bed long before midnight. I fell asleep feeling resigned, leaving a year that had proven to be full of trials, a year where nothing showed up quite the way I had expected. I never wish time away but I was happy to close the door on 2023.

I was also unsure how to approach the new year, what would 2024 hold? I knew what it wouldn’t hold, the dreamy farmhouse property we offered on in December. When I got the official news on the afternoon of the Winter Solstice I actually collapsed to the floor. It was fully dramatic and completely self-indulgent. I wailed and sobbed and yelled out loud, I scared my dogs. I worked through it enough that when Steve and the girls got home from school I was collected.

The girls also cried when we told them, that was probably the most heartbreaking of all. We have looked at many properties over the last few years, we never got so invested before. This one felt like it was something that belonged to us and it was snatched away.

It was dismal, I let myself wallow in the sadness of letting go of that house, and I also started to get curious. Maybe there’s a different life for me than I anticipated? If everything is happening in my favour, as my positive nature wants me to believe, then what could this all mean for me? “It’s this or something better” my friend Laura sagely reminded me.

And as this farmhouse dream was slipping out of my hands, making me question all I had desired, the property we were buying from our family friend was also troublesome. Not only was the house still not vacated well into January, far past the cut off we had agreed upon, there was false information given which was halting the legal transaction of the house.

By the middle of January, Steve was going through the phases of grief. You know these? The disbelief, the trying to change course, affect a different outcome, and a deep seething anger. It’s not really my story to share, I was only a witness to what this process was like for Steve but it felt dark and consuming and binding. It definitely washed into our family lives and there was one week in particular where I had had enough.

Enough of not getting what I wanted, enough of showing up willing, brimming with eager creative ideas and hope, and not having the desired outcome. I was frustrated that we had risked even more to try to change the path we were on and were still coming up empty handed. This wasn’t one of those stories where the righteous prevailed and their dreams materialized, it was one where there was no peace, no joy, no reward.

That’s one perspective. If you know me you know that I’m always going to get to the part where I flip the script and choose a different lens to see a situation through. I’m just not there quite yet.

The end of January brought resolution, just in very different terms than we had anticipated. The property had now changed hands and was vacated but the deception, or miscommunication, meant that it wasn’t holding the equity we were led to believe it had. This meant that the neat row of dominoes we had lined up weren’t going to fall, the house wasn’t the trigger we thought it was.

February came with some big decisions. Not being able to free up funds meant not being able to further invest in the property developments Steve had worked on for six months. It meant having spent tens of thousands of dollars on plans and infrastructure and not having a way to keep going. It meant having a duplex worth of windows and exteriors doors and nowhere to utilize them. It meant having incurred loans and not knowing how to pay them.

The property we had just bought was a mess, what were we going to do with it? It needed a complete top to bottom refresh, it had been renovated extensively by Steve, as it happened, just five years before, but it had been treated poorly and was in disrepair. What were our options here?

We could flip it, we’ve done that a dozen times, we’re no strangers to making something beautiful and appealing. But what about capital gains? With this softer market, how could we get enough out of it to pay off the loans and the taxes and even break even? We could rent it out, it’s in a desirable neighbourhood, the rental income could carry it. But we’ve had tenants before and often it’s more headache than it’s worth.

We could live in it. As it stands we need a place to live ourselves in less than three months. It’s a far cry from the expansive farmstead we dreamed of, but wouldn’t it be an answer to a prayer?

It doesn’t solve the issue of paying back the loans, neither living in it nor renting it, and it doesn’t get us any closer to where we wanted to be.

I want to pause here. Because as of the time I’m writing this I’m actually still immersed in these scenarios, this is just the thing I was avoiding by not writing. I don’t know the end of this story yet, it’s happening in realtime.

I look back over the past few years and am curious about what I’m meant to learn. I know I’ve approached life differently, taking the unconventional route, risked where I maybe shouldn’t have. When we left for Costa Rica, we let go of everything we owned, who does that? When we maybe should have been buckling down and finding a more traditional way to solve our financial problems we just took another radical leap towards the unknown.

It’s in those moments that I think I just don’t know how to adult that I also have to look at the unique experiences we’ve had. We’ve travelled with our girls, they’ve lived with different cultures, different attitudes, different ways to approach life. They’ve attended all manner of schools - private, international, public/Catholic, nature and homeschool pods. We’ve struck up businesses along the way, we’ve made lifelong friendships.

We’ve kept betting on ourselves. And we’ve pivoted every single time things got rough, determined to find another way towards our dreams. We’ve done this with our kids alongside, with our relationship prioritized, we’ve done this with the family values we hold paramount at the forefront of all of our decisions.

And when I see it that way, I see how I’d do it all over again.

In January when Steve was in the muck, more than he ever had before, when he had to have forthright conversations with lawyers, with the family friend we were dealing with, with his investors, he accessed a part of himself he hadn’t before. Maybe there is no reward without risk, I’m still working that out, but I know there is no growth without discomfort. And we have been extremely uncomfortable for a good while now. I can see how it’s changing us, I can see how even though we have stumbled, we have gotten angry or we’ve hermitted away, how we have made mistakes that impact more than just ourselves, we haven’t given up.

And I also see that there is a gift in deciding the narrative of this story. It can easily be one of defeat, of trying and failing and resignation to less than we desire. Of settling. It can also be a story about how we keep learning what really matters, we keep getting new experiences to see the world as something that’s always working out for us, if we choose to see it that way. Apply that to your own life, if every perceived negative experience was actually God/source/higher power’s/wisdom’s way of giving you exactly what you want in a different package, what would that mean for you?

In December I went to a friends house and burst into tears when I saw how beautifully decorated her home was for the season. We’ve spent the last five Christmases in five different locations. Said differently, every year of Edie’s life has been spent somewhere new. I ached to just feel at home. I watched as different friends of mine were getting things I have dreamed of for years. A farm, a work opportunity, travel, whatever it may be. I felt my insides disintegrate at the contrast of what I was experiencing and wondered how nice it must be to just have it figured out.

Funny how that’s what I hear most when I share this writing, the responses from readers have been about feeling seen, not feeling so alone in ‘not getting life’. We have many perceived ideas of what other people’s lives and experiences are, how isolating it is when we steel ourselves away for not being good enough, not knowing enough, not being of equal value. When we lose our connection to the whole we see life through this narrow focus and forget that we’re all wounded in our own way.

It’s only a couple months later and I don’t feel in the depths of despair as I did in the fall and winter. I’m sharing that part because it’s important to remember how quickly things can change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse. And most surprisingly is how we ourselves can change. Our desires, our dreams, the things we’re holding fast to. Our beliefs. Our limitations. When we give ourselves the grace to get things ‘wrong’, when we let go of needing to know everything that’s to come, we see how great things actually mostly are. Right here, in this now moment. In the suspended nothingness of life, in the unknown.

So I wrap this up here for now without knowing how it all ends. In less than three months I will be writing to you from somewhere else entirely, I wonder where that is. At the time of writing this I have pumpkin banana loaf baking in the oven, I look out from the dining room table where I’m sitting and see the grey calmness of the river. My dogs are breathing softly on their bed in the kitchen, Edie is watching Bluey and singing to herself. Steve has taken Gracie and Lily to gymnastics and I have restorative yoga shortly. In a moment I’m going to fold some laundry then have a tub, read the newest novel I got from the library. Tomorrow I take two of my girls to meet our friends just an hour away for an overnight in a hotel, a way to celebrate March Break and do something fun and out of the ordinary. And every part of this is good, because moment by moment life is good.

This could all still go so many ways; I don’t know what this investment property will mean for us down the road, I don’t know how we will one day make use for all those custom windows and doors in some way that I just can’t yet see. I don’t know if another way to stay with the original plan will show itself or if an even better plan is emerging right now. Emerging along with the snowdrops and crocuses bursting from the winter-moist soil, the trill of spring birds singing a song of new life. There’s excitement in that, right now there is, because when nothing is certain, everything is possible.

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