Part 2: I threw my hometown off the Tetons "How I let go of the past and let in the light" (originally published on atlasoflight.com)
[Originally Published on 10/12/2016 on www.atlasoflight.com, the blog that preceded atlasartpress.com]
Let in the LIGHT, if you want to bloom. - AtlasofLight.com -
“I’d start by cleaning cabins and waitressing so I could live in the mountains [of the West]. I was finally fulfilling this decade-long dream of living the mountains...It was here I felt free...I decided I was never going back to the East. So, I threw my hometown [of Pittsburgh] off the glorious Tetons and didn’t look back…at least for a while.” - PART 1, i threw my hometown off the Tetons
(Continued from “PART 1”)
How does just five years in a place affect someone so much? I even question this sometimes, frustrated by the intense hold that the Grand Tetons had on my heart. Like a long lost lover that you want to forget, but just can’t let go of. To those that wonder about this, I say, ‘It’s truly hard to explain unless you’ve lived there and had the same exact experiences that I did.’ My husband and I found love together and life apart from our individual pasts that we gladly left behind. We had both moved there during transitional times in our lives from opposite ends of the country. It was pretty awesome most of the time, but there were rough times, too. Although, for some reason the aura and allure of that time in our life supersedes any bad memories.
The magic and uniqueness of that place and that time in our lives gripped our hearts like a sail to a mast in high seas. We were tethered to it. Holding on by strings that were pulled so tight by the dynamic momentum of the feelings, and emotions that went with those memories. These strings gripping the billowed sails of the past wore thinner and thinner as the years turned and the real world set in. We started to see a bigger picture of life.
But, don’t we all have a time in our life that we hold close to our hearts? A time when genuinely good, exciting, life-giving events overflow from your cup? I didn’t have the greatest time in high school or college, so the life I began in Jackson Hole was a long overdue nourishment for my soul. Soul-parched by the time I got to Jackson, I drank up the fuel of that mountain town like water in the summer desert. (Having lived in the desert in summer, that's pretty thirsty.) Whether high school was your golden era, college, the time around your first job, the time of falling in love, traveling, having a child, or all of the above, we say “those were the times, weren’t they?” Well, yes, they were, dear friend, they were. Give them some credit, yes, but they were the past. The past has a place, but the present has a more powerful place. We grew a ton as individuals and had incomparable personal and professional experiences there, but after a few years, we started to think seriously about the long term.
We initially left the the mountains to try to make a better, more secure future for ourselves. We worked hard to live there and were blessed with a few great places to stay at low or no cost, but it was not sustainable long term. We were a couple who loved each other and that place, but knew if we stayed we’d probably end up working more than enjoying all that it had to offer. We also had a few opportunities elsewhere that required attention and at least a good effort, so we left. With the full intention of moving back someday, we made the decision to leave together.
See, I am doing a new thing! ...I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV
A Move to the California Desert Actually Propelled Us to the East Coast We set off for California (near my husband's hometown), where a new job opportunity for my husband, getting engaged, growing my design business, and getting to know his family and friends awaited. California did offer many unique opportunities like building relationships with his friends and family, experiencing beautiful SoCal towns and beaches, a few wonderful new design clients for my business, and most importantly adopting our first rescue dog, a rottweiler-husky we named Carl. California also held trying times which drove me to personally dive deeper into spirituality as well as the company of our new heaven-sent pup who seemed to always brought joy. It was in the desert that I started to taste the strength of God. It was there I had needed Him the most up to that point in my life. I was soul thirsty again--just as I had been upon arriving in Wyoming. But this time, I was actually IN the desert and most of the things that used to fill me up me from that mountain town were either not available here or not at all the same (a love of the earth, opportunities to sing, a passion for the connection of humans and nature, a huge grassroots art community, dirty, lived-in cars, functional (not flashy) clothing, not to mention hiking, horses, forests, trees, long winters full of thick snow for activities). In my mind and experience, my new home in the desert seemed to be the drastic opposite of where I had moved from.
Instead of fasting from food for forty days, I realized I was fasting from my heart-and-soul satisfying life in the mountains that we had just left. It was through the life-giving words of Scripture, I was able to stay positive and strong during that time. I was homesick for the metaphorically lush mountains and stuck in the dry desert. The people around us in the desert (friends, clients, family, neighbors) loved on us diligently by inviting us to parties, gatherings, and presenting opportunities, but it still wasn’t the same--and I know looking back that I was not as open-minded as I could have been. Most everyone was very, very kind to us, including us on gatherings and showing off their beautiful desert town and the activities they loved. But still, we were floundering fish out of water and soon realized that we had to leave in order to move forward. If we had not left our comfort of the mountains and gone to the desert in the first place, we couldn't have moved forward in any direction. Sometimes you need to be placed in a new uncomfortable place--in an emotional desert--in order to truly appreciate what you had and/or seek a new path on your journey.
In the months that followed our leaving California, we drove to our wedding in Jackson Hole, experienced a generous gift to honeymoon in Hawaii, then a road trip to move to Pittsburgh while visiting a handful of close friends and family as we drove across the US. Though some may assume otherwise, we mutually decided upon moving--back to my hometown of Pittsburgh--for some specific opportunities here. We were blessed if one was looking on from the outside, but as taking on new jobs, education, homeownership, then children entered our lives, I didn't feel I had a break to absorb it all and was still longing for the mountains.
Comparison is the thief of joy. -Theodore Roosevelt
Arriving on the Opposite End of the Country and Overcoming Comparison We journeyed from the majestic Grand Teton mountains to the Palm Springs desert to the City of Steel and Bridges. From two destination, resort towns to mid-eastern town of industry, sports, technology, medicine, and blue collar pride. We found ourselves as fish out of water and floundered for a while again.
The past eight years of living in a place that we swore we would never live in have come and gone and are a big jumble of emotion. My biggest regret is that I spent too much time NOT being in the present during those early years in Pittsburgh. Our landscape photography, my oil paintings, ourJackson wedding photos, and other mementos reminded us of our time in the mountains and covered our walls and bookshelves. They were eyes into our past life and we had acquired most of our things as a couple during those years as well. Many of my business clients were from there, and although I continue to truly enjoy working with them, they were subconscious reminders of what I was missing. My friends and their experiences on social media highlighted the big blizzard snows (i missed fresh powder snowboarding and cross country skiing), the art events (i missed my artist friends and the passion for the arts), the outdoor excursions (oh, how we missed the national parks), etc, etc, etc.
One day during our first year in Pittsburgh, we went driving around town after a big snow storm trying to find a place to snowboard in the fresh powder. The closest thing we found to try to get that rush was an excavated hill from a new housing plan that was being built--worth a try, we told ourselves. As we tried hard to accept the present, despite being surrounded by the past, we tried to figure out what to do with each other in this new place. Trying to discover new activities and make new friends we could relate to was difficult, while accepting an extended family surrounding us who was desperately trying to get us to like it here. Nearly every single time we tried something new, it was backed up by fierce comparison. We were welcomed back to my hometown with the open arms and hearts of my family and extended family and we continued to compare. I was close-minded and judgmental as I tried to adapt to our new home.
As my comparison was fueled by a bitterness of leaving the mountains (even though it was our decision), I realized that my mindset needed to change or I would suffocate inside. You might ask, why didn't you just move back? We tried to in the respect that we had a realtor in an area outside of Jackson Hole that we had met with several times and toured homes. We looked into potential job opportunities and subscribed to the local JH online paper. We also made a special trip to Montana before the birth of our second daughter to look at homes that would be in a similar type of town and a specific job opportunity. There were multitudes of conversations discussing how we could make it work to move back--with my best friend, my friends back in Jackson, and my poor mother (who took the brunt of my complaints, because, well--she's my mom and will love me no matter what) . When it came down to the wire and actual logistics; when it came down to how our daily lives would actually flow (no margin in our lives for actually enjoying the place,no family to help with young children, two families on opposite ends of the country worthy of visits from our family, etc.), we just could not connect the dots to make it realistically work for our specific situation at that time.
After a final trip out West to look at potential homes followed by the birth of our second daughter who was born with a special medical need, I personally came to accept that we were here to stay for a while and it was the best decision for US at this time. Through prayer and intention, I finally accepted my personal journey and current place. I was able to OPEN my heart and mind FULLY to a new beginning in a place I never thought I would be. (HINT: this can relate to much, much MORE than a physical place, friends, but accepting ANY new change in your life.)
Saying Thank You and Farewell to My Mountains in Wyoming It was one year ago, last September, we traveled [along with our children] back to the mountains where my husband and I had lived for just five exceptional, life-changing years. To my family, it was an exciting family trip to a beautiful, fun place, but to me, it was my chance to say “thank you and farewell”. I was finally able to say with confidence and PEACE and tears of change:
“Thank you, my love--my wild, wonderful, Wyoming--and goodbye for now. You’ve taught me so, so much. You’ve touched my heart forever, but it’s time to let you go for a while. I will always love you, don’t worry. But we both need to move on.”
I will still be going back with my family to visit lifelong friends and family and share with our children all of the things that shaped us and inspired us in that part of the country. For the first time since leaving WY, I became free of the tether to that mast so that LIGHT could shine here and brighten every aspect of my unique journey here and now in this place.
How I let the light into my life--simplified:
Through prayer, I came to ACCEPTANCE of my unique journey. Once I came to acceptance, COMPARISON fell away. Once comparison fell away, I was able to fully LET GO of the past. Once I let go of the past, I naturally started to become more PRESENT.
HOW I LET GO and LET IN THE LIGHT--IN A NUTSHELL:
1. IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, PRAY Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16) (SEEK the purely good love of God. Ask Him to guide you to the purpose for your life.)
2. STOP COMPARING Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2) (ACCEPT who YOU are and YOUR unique PATH)
2. BE PRESENT This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24) (LET GO of the past and seek beauty AROUND YOU today)
THIS IS APPLICABLE TO MORE THAN JUST RELOCATION, friends. This theory can be applied to any sort of change or loss. The change of getting divorced. A loved one passing. A job loss. A break-up. Any change that affects your whole life.
I am beginning to record how I used the LIGHT that I let into my life (acceptance, love, an open heart and mind) and the steps I took to stop comparing and become more present. I plan to share that with you soon!