Christmas Eve marked the one-year anniversary of the start of this adventure, and over 4500 miles on the road so far. It's been full of surprises, realizations, growth, and much joy. Without further ado, 10 things that stand out for me about the first year of heartLOOSE …
1. Adapting to life in the camper has been way easier than I expected, in terms of the physical space and the ramifications that has on four people plus two cats. I've very rarely found myself wishing for something I didn't bring, and out-of-sight-out-of-mind is proving pretty accurate. The lack of kitchen counter was rather sucky until about two months ago, and now is no issue at all thanks to our reconfiguration of the kitchen table area! We have a lovely 6' long wooden counter that can either be 12” or 24” wide, and when not in use we have an extra wide couch area instead. Yay!
2. I didn't know how much more in love I'd be with my husband after a year of this, I was really afraid that we'd both miss personal time and space so much we'd get pretty cranky with each other. While that's happened a few times, it's nothing like I thought it might be. I love working with him and being with him more than ever, and actually parenting together? That's nearly a first … we so rarely were both with the kids at the same time in the past, other than a few evenings a week, and some weekends. It changes everything. In a very good way, and I love it.
3. People we visit are far more open than I ever expected. I wrote a bit about that last month, but it continues to amaze me. Open hearts and open doors … the trust, the vulnerability, the sharing of daily life in all its beauty and pain and sometime drudgery. Anything done together ceases to be drudgery though. Sharing the burdens and the joys for a bit is energizing, eye-opening, and delightful. It's a kind of intimacy that I had much more of when I was younger, and the sometimes false sense of connection I get via social media is no real replacement for face-to-face and side-by-side.
4. I thought we'd be on the West Coast by now! Twelve months and we're right back in the spot where we spent the 2nd night of the trip, in Knoxville?! While it is home base for us, I figured we'd have made it through a lot more states by the one-year mark. Hitting roadblocks in the first 5 months is the biggest reason for that, but we're also staying places longer than I anticipated. There's just more to do, and more willingness to let us do stuff, as well as the need for downtime.
5. Speaking of downtime, we do need it, a surprisingly large bit of it actually, in between visits. One or two nights on our own aren't enough … we need space to be just a family, to recalibrate our relationships with each other, and to concentrate on the things we can't do easily while we're “docked”. Things like writing, phone calls, do-nothing days, and getting stuff fixed and modified in our living space. And most importantly, head-space to figure out what's next, and take stock of the bigger picture.
6. I think I've learned more about myself in the last year than in the previous ten. A surprising and delightful side effect of getting out of my comfort zone, having lots of deep conversations and friend-mirrors, and being unbound from the usual constraints of time and expectations and commitments. I'm loving being unmoored, but had no idea it would help me see myself more clearly. Change of scenery, change of perspective. Similar to that vacation-inspired epiphany that makes you see your real life as needing a tweak or even a wholesale makeover once you get home. I've got an IV-drip of that going on. It's not all vacation mind you, and in fact far less so than you would think. But it's a real chance to gain viewing points, perspectives, and skills for choosing to act and react differently to things. Some of those things are absorbed just by watching relationships work, and some come by being introduced directly to new ways of thinking, healing, and interacting. A smorgasbord of information and knowledge.
7. Living one day at a time is easier, and more peaceful, than I ever expected. I knew I need to let go of a lot of things to make this way of life work, and yet I feel like the first five months of feeling stuck were partly because I didn't trust God to really take care of us. We thought we had to do more. Plan more. Become side-income wizards before we could take the first step. Hah! We just had to take the first step … and then the next one, and then the next one, and so on … one. day. at. a. time. Living on faith that if we do what's in front of us, and move on when we feel it's time to go, that it will all work out. And so far, it has. The blessings keep piling up … mostly in ways that have nothing to do with money, and everything to do with life.
8. It's become screamingly obvious to me that emotional work is just as important as physical work. For all of us. Not just the four of us, but everyone we meet. People are increasingly hungry for meaningful connections, and maybe I'm just extra hungry after two years of living without much contact with anyone but my kids for five days a week, but we need to spend time connecting. To listen, and not judge. To be heard, and still loved. To see, and speak truth. To hear, and understand. To learn, and change heart. It's all as vital as putting food on the table and fuel in the truck. We need to love, and be loved, and it happens best in person.
9. I love working together with my family. I know I'm repeating myself but it's true that it's one of the most personally delightful parts of this trip for me. Not to mention, I'm learning a LOT and reveling in that too … I do love adding new things to my skill set. It feels healthy, and good for all of us. We're not harnessed together, but we do dance, and it's deeply satisfying. We haven't yet gotten the boys to feel the same about it all, and while they never may, it's my wish that they at least learn how to work through all this, and then they'll be equipped to do anything they choose to apply themselves to in the future. They're not there yet though, and I'm hoping to find a better way to teach that, soon.
I just re-read the list so far, wondering what 10 should be, and it jumped out at me from number six …
10. I'm loving being unmoored … living the wandering life. I was not at all convinced that would be the case, and thought that being rootless would be a huge strain on my routine- and home-loving heart. So far, that fear is completely unfounded. I don't crave schedules, or a fixed address, or steady income. I do miss having a regular community, but I'm finding ways around that. I have no idea how long this will last, but I trust it to take me at least as far as the end of the trip, wherever and whenever that is. It's a bit like I've come over to the dark side (no plans! disorder! irresponsible freedoms! unconventional freaks!) and feel way more at home than I ever thought I would. My Type A tendencies (except when it comes to the boys' Lego habits and haphazard cat care) are in remission, and may stay there indefinitely.
It's been an exceptionally interesting year. One that has defied expectations, and slithered away from too much definition. It's been, simply ... rich, remarkable, gut-wrenching, savory, and full. Thank you God, thank you friends, hosts, family, and followers. Yours is the love on which we feast, the hope which we carry, and the work which we do.