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

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