This time last year I was preparing for the new year ahead and one of the things I have done is to choose a word for the coming year. A lot had been happening in my life, I was preparing to launch a new business January 1, and I really wanted to make it a special year. The word that I chose was Miracles and I consecrated the year ahead to focus and belief in the manifestation of miracles in my life. I set my sails the first week of January and my business, mentoring women, was going really well. It was an exciting start. I had no idea that I was heading into a major disaster and that my life would, very quickly, be forever changed.
The end of January we had an unprecedented ice storm and the pipes froze and cracked causing flooding throughout the attic. It looked like it was raining through the ceiling. A fire and water restoration company came in to dry out the walls and cut holes everywhere, tore out tile, put big tubes into cabinets, up into the attic, and attached them to 4 different units that filled my kitchen. They left at 3:00 and within 2 or 3 hours it was unbelievably hot, the units pulling a tremendous amount of power. Just before 7 I took the dogs out into the snowy yard for their after dinner walk and as we walked back through the door into the studio there was an enormous explosion in the kitchen. All the wiring in the wet walls overheated and literally blew the freezer apart, in an instant flames were everywhere.
The rest of the night plays out like a foggy nightmare in my mind. I got the pugs outside, and Miss Scarlet, my African Grey parrot, because she was in the studio. I was on the phone with the 911 Emergency operator who was yelling at me to get out and stay out but my 4 beloved parrots that I had hand-raised and had for 20 years were in the front of the house on the other side of the kitchen and I couldn’t get to them. I had to leave the dogs in the fenced yard, Scarlett on the deck, and run through the garage to the street to meet the policemen and the firemen, I was screaming hysterically, “You’ve got to get my babies, you’ve got to get my babies,” but it wasn’t to be. My 4 little parrots died in the fire that night. Beyond that it was all a blur, my daughter took charge and I woke up in a hotel the next morning, just over a month after the miracle year had started, having just watched my home go up in flames.
As the months went on there were losses upon losses, nothing made sense, the new business that I had started dissolved into thin air, and after a month in a hotel we were put up in a little rental house the other side of town. As a woman who is agoraphobic my safe haven was gone and it devastated me, I didn’t leave the rental for weeks at a time, being bi polar with a severe anxiety disorder, and PTSD which was in high dudgeon since the fire, it all just tore the fragile fiber of my being apart, and though I tried to get another business project going I could not sustain any kind of meaningful work, I was running out of money, I wasn’t well, and I was collapsing at every turn. By the end of summer I realized I had to apply for disability and by fall I had almost no money at all.
The beginning of October found me back here at the house that is my house but didn’t feel like it in its new incarnation, and as the pugs and Scarlett and I began to start over the news came that I was denied for disability. I didn’t have the will to live or move forward, I didn’t know what to do, nothing seemed real, everything seemed impossible, I cried almost non-stop, and couldn’t sleep. Coming into the end zone of my miracle year my whole life had fallen apart and were it not for my little pugs who are my babies, and Scarlett, well, I’m not sure how I would have held on at all.
Even more it finally became clear that my disabilities had caused many more problems than I even realized. I could no longer manage my life without help and my daughter stepped in to help me. It was the beginning of a series of tremendous and very difficult changes that had to be made. My daughter would have to manage my finances, we had to meet with an attorney to begin the appeal process for disability, and as I sit here writing this I am starting to cry again because I’m not sure how I can hang on and make it through the next year financially. That knot of fear rises up in my stomach and the walls seem to be closing in, the floor feels like it is rolling under my feet so that I can’t get firm footing to stand, and I huddle with the pugs in the small room off of my studio for hours at a time. I just feel so lost. Where did the miracles go? How could this possibly have happened? All of this?
Though I am afraid and have times when I feel as though I can’t hold on and keep moving forward I see glimpses of a future that will be a more settled one. I have been struggling to manage my life on my own with serious mental health issues for so long I have been worn out from it all, living in denial, my bi polar brain coming up with grand ideas that I cannot carry out on my own, there will be no big business, the fabric of my being has been stitched and patched and the seams are loose. The house burning down and the domino effect through my life throughout the whole of this year put me in a place where the harsh truth and reality became apparent to everyone. The Phoenix crashed and burned but she is rising, very slowly, with much needed help. We cannot yet see how it will all play out, and I do not know how I will make it financially, but I know that I will make it somehow, with my daughter at my side.
My life had become one of secrets and shame where I was drowning in a life I couldn’t manage and I can’t do it any more. The miracle of this year is that everything finally fell apart, the “other shoe” dropped, and I’m still here. I don’t know what will happen but I know that I will survive and live a simpler, more peaceful life than I ever have. And it is a relief, the relief that I have needed for years, and it seems that I had to be whipped hither and yon before I would let go of everything. That is the biggest miracle of all, the worst finally happened, and I’m still here.
Now I am moving very, very slowly. I catch myself beginning to imagine ways in which I can make money, the grand schemes and plans bi polar folks are so prone toward, but what I know, after a lifetime of teaching mindfulness, is that this really is all I have, this moment. I will not pick a word for this year. I will simply let it unfold and live through each day as best I can, I have no other choice. Living slowly, one moment at a time, is the only way I can survive.
And I am painting, I am becoming the artist I always dreamed of being. I have started a new page on Facebook, Becoming An Artist At 60, to track my life and work and share with others. Art is saving my life, I can do it gently and at a pace that if slow is still moving forward. I can tell the stories of The 100 Ladies, paint them, and see my work move out into the world to help other women. Having my work for sale through Society 6 is a wonderful thing for me, building my confidence in myself, to know that with all that has happened I can’t “do it all” but I can do this. There are no big plans and schemes and dreams, simply snuggling here with my pugs, and drawing and painting these ladies who come to me like gifts. They teach me, they lead me, they guide me.
On this night of the winter solstice, the darkest night of the year, I am getting ready to turn toward the light, I am turning a corner, and while I have no idea how this will all play out I do know that we will work it through, together, and I will paint, and snuggle pugs, and in the spring I will begin to garden again, on a much smaller scale, and my life, as it unfolds, will be miracle enough for me in it’s simplicity. “Losing everything” is the beginning of having everything that matters. That’s where I am now. I wouldn’t wish the last year that I’ve lived through on anyone, but I am moving forward into a more manageable life, and there is grace in this, and I am deeply humbled and grateful. This is the real miracle, one I never knew I could find.
Miracles exist, but know this, they don’t come the way you think they will, the way you hope they will and imagine they might. No, they come the way they are supposed to. I am grateful for this year, and looking forward to the next. Amen and Hallelujah, I have made it. I am here.
Blessings and love to each of you. Have a beautiful Christmas, and a grace-filled new year…