This is where we planned to grow old. This is where we planned to hold family holidays and celebrations for decades to come. This is the backyard where we hoped to chase grand-children. But there is nothing certain in this life. I know this now.
We bought our home a few months before the economy went to crap. And although we've always saved and lived conservatively since the beginning of our marriage, we weren't expecting a lengthy recession and prolonged income loss.
For three years we've hung on. It took us two years to pay off our twins' NICU medical bills. We lived modestly and cut expenses while my husband's income continued to drop. We sold a car, emptied our savings--always hoping the economy would turn around next month. Or the month after that....
We've always been committed to having at least one parent home with the children. To this end, we started a small business to make up for lost income. My husband was working all day and staying up late to start his business. He lost sleep. I tried to stay positive and encourage him as he soldiered through with stoic determination.
But the economy remained sluggish and we were barely breaking even. And then, one morning last October, something else broke. My husband woke up with a hugely swollen ankle. He could barely walk and at night, the pain grew worse. He writhed in pain while I googled his symptoms. After three days of increasing pain, I persuaded him to go see a doctor.
It was gout. Even his doctor was surprised. How could this be? According to all the charts, my husband is "too young" for gout. Except my husband has been losing too much sleep, working too hard and not getting enough rest. Since having the twins, his hair has gone almost completely white. The stress has taken its toll. The doctor said he needed rest. But rest was the one thing we couldn't afford.
Something had to change. Something has to change.
Additionally, we must relieve the unrelenting pressure on my husband. He is strong and capable of bearing a heavy burden--and he does. Too much. He will not stop. The gout was a wake-up call. If he doesn't do something different, he will drive himself into the grave.
And for what? A house? Yes, I could go to work full-time but we've both decided that we value an at-home parent more than we value owning a home.
The thing is, I'm such a nurturer that if I had to work in an office I'd probably try and breastfeed the fax machine. This is how I am hardwired--for an ENFP like me, everything is about relationships. I can endure many things but I cannot endure being away from my children full-time. Also, I cannot endure making decisions against my core values. I would much rather give up a home than give up time with my family.
I would far rather live in a small rental apartment and be available to my children in all the ways they need me than work full-time and be exhausted upon returning home each night. My husband fully agrees.
So, together, we've made the decision to sell our home and downsize to a nearby rental apartment where we can rebuild and save.
I've taken a few days to pray and filter all this through the lens of Relentless Optimism. I'm still sad but I no longer see leaving our home as a loss. I see it as an opportunity. Perhaps this is the first lesson of Relentless Optimism: People. Not Things.
Also, I no longer see leaving our home as a ending, I see it as the beginning of an ADVENTURE. (But tiny confession: yes, *sniff*, I will miss my beautiful home, my beautiful roses and my beautiful neighbors.)