A New Chapter

It has taken me nearly a year to figure out my writer’s block… for lack of a better term. I have remained committed to writing privately but writing freely in blog form has taken the backseat. I have 40 draft blogs I’ve written in the past two years. All of which were started and promptly left to sit in the digital closet.

After some soul searching I have come to realize this blog, We Built a Camper, feels like a giant metaphor for a much larger life lesson I have been slogging through for the past two years: searching for the boundary between my individual life and my life as a wife.

I often describe it to my clients as “me, we, family.” All of us have these overlapping identities, each with their own responsibilities make up life.  However, our culture typically conditions women to be more “family and we” as the “me” portion slowly gets chipped away at by the other two priorities.

As women, we are taught that we can be anything we want to be, that women have been liberated. But in actuality, we are just conditioned to do more. Have a career, have children, be a sweet wife, while also being assertive, maintain relationships, don’t make sacrifices but each of these identities requires sacrifice. From my work as a therapist, I know that I am not alone in feeling like the sacrifice that gets made is myself. Not in the martyr, look how great I am way. Rather in the slow, almost imperceivable silencing of my heart, choosing career or being a wife and feeling all these roles are somehow competing with each other.

In an effort to take a bold leap toward a larger “me” in the context of my career and relationships, I am moving my writing to JoellaLong.com. A new website devoted to my solo work as a writer, therapist, and lover of adventure.

Follow along if you’d like: joellalong.com

When the past dream no longer fits…

Last Thursday life came into a new focus. In fact, it was such a profound perspective shift, it felt like waking up in someone else’s life. It seemed every decision, every fork in the road over the past three years was in front of me.

And suddenly, that potential I referred to in the last blog was clear.

I love skiing, trail running, and living in sunny Bend… but not as much as I love the field of Marriage and Family Therapy. It hit me like a freight train. All in one moment:

Not only do I love my career, I get to share it with the love of my life who also loves it.

That is my one thing, being a therapist with my hubby. That is what my life is about. And hiding from my potential has taken the form of attempting to arrange my life around other things I love.

Bend is an incredible place if you are an amateur or professional athlete and your life is about your sport. It is also an incredible place if you work remotely so you get paid a big city paycheck and live in a small town. It is also an incredible place if you don’t really like your job and want to drink beer or play outside with all your free time.

I have come to realize I was in the latter category when we first decided to move here. The Army and working throughout my education left Michael and I totally burnt out. We literally just wanted to work enough to pay the bills, run outside, and ski.

However, Bend has become like an incubator for us. We have developed ideas, methods, and have more to offer than ever. And our dream has expanded past just working to pay the bills. We have a clear vision and goals to match.

Change is on the horizon…..

Life Now

“We are all here to start a journey. And that journey is fucking hard, if you choose the right journey. Most of us, we decide to take a different journey in life, it is the journey of least resistance….. Find the truth of who you are, go back to where you turned away because you weren’t good at it or you didn’t think you were smart enough, and choose the real journey. If you finish the real journey, and you don’t fear or go places because they are easy, you will find a peaceful place.”

David Goggins, Navy Seal & Ultra Runner

I find comfort in knowing I am on my true journey. Most of 2016 and some of 2017 were spent attempting to find what was easier. My mind tried to convince my heart that maybe it shouldn’t be so hard, maybe things should be a little easier. I started to confuse flow with comfort and rest with laziness.

In the past 4 months I have been through more than I thought I could handle.  And while I am tired and googling Hawaii vacations this morning instead of working… I have a deep sense of knowing that I have been hiding from my potential. That I stepped out on this journey in 2013 and lost some of my commitment in November 2015. I let myself build narratives that Asheville was a mistake or failure and those narratives only served to knock me off track.

2018 will be about leaning into the journey; accepting that the journey is difficult and letting the struggles be the reminders that I am living a full and meaningful life.

The Ocean

I’d like to think it’s a simple product of wanting what I can’t have. Perhaps it’s a desire built from a summer of smoke and wildfire destruction. Or maybe it’s the way the cold high desert can make one feel out to sea; isolated from large populations and cut off from society.

I find myself dreaming of the ocean. In tune with the rock of swells, powered by the wind and fueled by the sun. Waiting for sunrises and letting go of sunsets. The rhythm of nature and the unique schedule of sailing. A new territory that is different every day. A tiny capsule with everything I need accessing much of the earth. This makes up the contents of my dreams these days.

Love and Admiration

The room was dark but I lay in bed next to Michael feeling wide awake. It felt good to be in the dark not facing all that was around us. We were in one bedroom of a 100+ year old historical home in Asheville North Carolina with no cell phone reception and a mountain of emotion.

Four days prior Michael’s dad had passed away. It set off a chain of events, many of which feel like a blur. Buying plane tickets, coordinating time off work, dog care, ride to the airport, notifying friends and canceling our plans for the next ten days. We took solace in knowing exactly what Michael’s dad, Charlie, wanted. We were so grateful to not have to guess his wishes or where to start.

Upon arriving in Asheville (6 and a half hours late… thank you, Delta) we got to work planning and coordinating the funeral. As with most of our Asheville trips it felt as though we were in quick sand. As one task was completed eight more popped up in its place.

Tensions were high that week between Michael’s siblings. Already defensive about the need to sell the family home, Charlie’s death seemed to be the proverbial straw. After finding out that two of Michael’s three siblings would not be attending the funeral, we both laid awake in a flood of emotion. We both wondered for a moment about why on earth we were here… again…. being kept awake by a flood of stress and a chorus of insects.

And then Michael began to share, “It’s not really about my family. It’s about developing character. Carrying out this funeral, burying my father on that hillside in Hayesville, being grateful for the man he was and letting go of all that he wasn’t, is important to me.” In that moment, everything became so clear. As hard as this all was and has been, it was so much easier being reminded that all of this was for my incredible husband. I wasn’t there for all of these messy family relationships or to fix anything from the past. I was there to love, admire, and support my husband… which is pretty much my favorite thing to do.

Life is fucking hard. It is full of some of the most grueling experiences and torturous emotions.

And that is why relationships are so important. Relationships with loved ones and with ourselves. If your relationships aren’t strong, if you aren’t spending time with people you love and admire, fix it. If your self talk sounds like an abusive partner, change it.

Because when life decides to hit you, you need love and admiration. For yourself and those around you. It is the glue and healing salve to our humanity.

David, Charlie, and Michael

Boo-hoo “I don’t know what my future holds!”

It was spring of 2007. I found myself in the most interesting class about city development and architecture…. though I have no idea how that applied to my major. Class was about to begin when a student burst into the door plopped into a seat while juggling loose books and a cup of coffee. The professor laughed at the sight of the disheveled and clearly overloaded student’s entrance. He attempted a quiet “everything ok?” though the room could hear him. The student responded, “yeah, I am just attempting to get a new job and I am thinking about changing my major… life is just messy right now.” Both the student and the professor shared a laugh and it seemed the professor took that as permission. He started by saying, “my wife just had our second child, I am applying for tenure soon, and I have a mortgage that comes every month. So many of you in this room think to yourselves “boo-hoo, I don’t know what my future holds! It’s so unknown and scary!” Just wait!,” he continued “one day you will wake up in your thirties with some non-negotiable certainties in your life and you will wish you had options. You will dream of unknowns!”

I must have really taken that moment to heart. Not only can I remember it like it was yesterday, but I seem to have dodged a lot of certainty in life. No debt. No mortgage. Hardly a steady career. And even though I absolutely love living in Bend, I find my mind wandering to other places I would like to live on a regular basis. The only known is my incredible partner in life, Michael.

It’s  been a decade since I received that advice and guess what? It still thrills me to have no idea how things are coming together! I still feel like my future is an unwritten page ready for me to create the next phase, phrase or prose.

Lately it has felt particularly blank. After 18 months of hammering away at the private practice I felt I needed a change. Not only does it seem life may take an unforeseeable turn (more on that later) but I would like to just make some steady money and have a more full client load. The private practice is still slowly growing and continues to get more streamlined but I would like to work with more people. So I followed that feeling and an opportunity came up to do some contract work for another private practice.

Long story short, I find myself in one of those awkward times in life where I have an abnormal amount of time on my hands. 

… And a PhD calling my name…