|View from the deck of my (former) mountain home|
But I fought to stay. I didn't really want to move. Between hustling with my own businesses and applying to up to 50 jobs a day (no, that's not an exaggeration), I still wasn't making the ends meet. Pair this with a psychopathic neighbor harassing me daily and the police doing nothing about it except taking 'a record' in case he physically hurt me and my stress levels were off the chart.
I was rational enough to know that something needed to give, hard choices needed to be made to save myself, yet I was still wanting to fight to keep the only home my children had ever known. I took the house off the market only a few weeks after putting it on, unable to face the holidays with house showings and unwilling to surrender.
But in February of this year, for the first time in 19 years, I missed a house payment and was behind with the dorm payments as well. I went in to the local community resource center, a place I'd donated to over the years, for help. On their website it clearly stated they could help with short-term solutions to get people back on their feet. Tossing my pride aside, I made an appointment. However, they told me they couldn't help me financially and that I should prepare to face foreclosure (!?!) and advised me to get rid of my pets because no homeless shelter would take me with pets. What the fuck? I was behind on ONE house payment, was hustling as much as I could, and their advice was to give up, to surrender, to give up my animals and accept that I would be homeless? In that moment, I regretted all the past donations I had ever made to this organization. I went into my car in a daze, leaned my head against the steering wheel, and sobbed.
The feeling of failure consumed me. I'd always been a fighter, a scrappy little go-getter...and here I was in my car feeling everything I'd worked for crumble beneath me.
I called a realtor, told the kids that this was it, and accepted that I would do what I needed to do to come out of the situation as best as I could. Realtors were horrible, though, even though I was in a seller's market, they wanted to make sure I knew that my house wasn't perfect--a snide comment here, a tsk-tsk there. Well, no shit. I have been a single parent for 12 years, which meant all my money went to supporting my family rather than fancy upgrades. Some would not even come to our agreed upon appointment because my house wasn't worth a million and they told me that they only represent homes at that price point. Through the constant humiliation, I sucked it up, stood up for myself to get what I needed to get from it, and went ahead with the process of selling my biggest asset. I'd be damned if I got so far behind that I lost it to the bank or allowed anyone to take advantage of me.
It became a race against time. I did put every spare dime into getting new faucets or paint or whatever I could to make my home more marketable, which meant sometimes not having any money left over for food. I would scrape together quarters and go to Sonic for a $6 meal that felt like a feast.
With the stress of trying to maintain some semblance of a business as I went through all of this, I felt like I was about to break. Judgements from my psycho neighbor who saw the electric company come to disconnect us unless I could finagle a deal--he would literally stand in my driveway and mock me--and judgements from buyers who apparently wanted a brand new home at a 20 year old home price and judgments from MYSELF for failing took a toll on the last shreds of my nerves.
I sold belongings simply to eat or pay a bill. I fed my animals before myself.
And I had never felt so alone and scared.
I had the dorm calling me demanding money and kept praying the house would sell so I could pay them before school was out for the summer. I fell further behind on the mortgage because I was throwing money into the house so I could sell it and trying my best to keep the wolves from the door so there would at least be electricity when potential buyers came through.
And it sold. I cried while packing and I cried while signing it away at the closing table. So much life had happened there--I had bought it with a handsome young husband and babies in tow with big dreams of a life that didn't include widowhood or financial destruction. How could I not mourn it?
But the plan worked--I had enough equity to pay off debt, more than enough to buy a smaller house in another city with cash, and plenty to set my children up in an apartment with some money left to start over.
My point in sharing all of this is that you can make the hard choices. The key is to decide what do you want most--a material thing, to keep up appearances in the community or do you want peace of mind and security for your family?
Sacrifice is sometimes necessary to have another chance at life. A fresh start. A year ago from today, I thought my life was over. I couldn't imagine surviving the level of distress I experienced every day, the absolute grief at "losing everything" sent me into a horrible darkness. What I went through this past year was more devastating than my husband's death--the level of uncertainty, the lack of a support system that I could trust to confide in, the feeling of absolute failure in letting myself and my kids down, the harsh judgment from outsiders like the people at the resource center who essentially told me that I would end up homeless when what I really needed was someone to give me hope and direction.
I miss my mountain home with its one-of-a-kind view, beautiful forested lot where elk and deer strolled around every day, and the sound of the trees whispering in the wind. However, I don't miss the feeling of terror I had every day that something else would be disconnected or that I wouldn't have enough money to pay for food or gas or the wicked judgement I placed on myself for "this cannot be my life, how could it have gone so wrong?"
I am a college-educated business woman with 18 published novels. I'd survived my husband's suicide and raised 2 amazing kids who grew into smart and successful college students. I did it all alone with zero help from anyone. But could I even get an interview to shovel dog shit at the local kennel? No. Could I get an interview anywhere for anything? No. So I beat myself up even more. Further and further down into the rabbit hole I went. A few years ago I was a woman with a flawless credit rating, someone with money in the bank and a fabulous career...the reality that it had all gone off the rails freaked me out and completely destroyed my sense of self-worth.
A year ago, I couldn't acknowledge any of my accomplishments because I was so busy criticizing myself and dealing with the harshness of other people who judged me purely on my ability to pay. I fell into such a deep depression that I myself contemplated suicide.
I went so far as to write down all my passwords to all my accounts and left a note on my desk to the kids entitled "in case I die, you will need this." I thought they would be better off with no parent instead of a failed one. That's how screwed up I was at the time, how lost and hopeless I felt.
But I didn't ever try to end my life when it came down to it. I wanted to LIVE, I wanted to WIN, I wanted to FIGHT. There was always something inside of me saying, "maybe tomorrow the miracle will come."
And you know what? It did. I bawled my head off when I left the house for the final time and took my 3 dogs and 2 cats and 2 kids into a hotel that night after closing---but I had hundreds of thousands of dollars in my bank account suddenly. We spent 4 nights in a hotel before moving into a very nice apartment in Denver. A month later I bought a new house with cash--no more mortgage for me! No more debt either! I have laughed for the first time in years. I took a vacation for the first time in years! My businesses are back to thriving and growing. I'm meeting new friends who want to go on new adventures. My dogs are thrilled not to be in that apartment...the yard may be smaller than what we had at the old house, but they are adapting well.
And the most important thing? I'm forgiving myself for being human. I've given myself permission to enjoy life again. I am grateful for having an asset that could save me and letting it go despite the fear of the unknown. I am allowing myself to open up to new possibilities.
I'm still decompressing from last year and all of that trauma. I have nightmares where I wake up screaming from it all. But then I look around at my new little house. I am safe. I am thankful I listened to that constant and strong voice inside of me that urged me to ignore that woman at the resource center, the nut job neighbor, the collection people's abusive language. Somehow, despite all the turmoil, that inner voice urged me to keep hope alive and do the hard thing so that we could have a second chance to live a good life.
So now we are starting over...again...differently than before when my husband died, but also maybe better than before because everything, even the new house, is an opportunity for reinvention.
Sacrifice can feel like the end, but it's truly a chance to let miracles happen.
Peace to you.
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. In addition, Easton also writes under two pen names--Dakota Skye (erotic paranormal romance thrillers) and Cassidy Springfield (new adult). She also works as a professional editor and creativity coach, creates a line of inspirational journals, travels as often as possible, and advocates for suicide awareness. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com. To discover more about her editing and creativity coaching, check out http://www.moxigirlwriting.com