Last summer, a funny little cascade of events happened. And by funny, I mean I ate my way through a bag of Oreos and cried under my blankets for a good day and a half. That kind of funny.
So let’s start with the first.
One: I decided to leave the urban dwelling I came to love and adore because my niece and my nephew asked to live with me while they lived their glory days of college. I (being the totally awesome aunt that I am) said “ABSOLUTELY,” and decided we were well on our way to outgrowing our 4th floor flat anyway. My daughter was sharing her bedroom with my 19-year-old niece, which really only worked for about a day, if I’m being totally honest. A college girl’s belongings + a four year olds curiosity = you do the math.
We began apartment and house hunting. But it was all dependent on which school my daughter got into.
And then the next fun event happened.
She didn’t get into either of the schools we were banking on. The ones I was already budgeting for, planning on, researching like a mad woman.
The first option was quickly removed from the list because I’m not rich and the school had to decrease their financial aid packages. (The real question: who can afford a $20,000 Kindergarten tuition?) As for the second school — her name wasn’t drawn in the “lottery of names”.
Can I just say that the process of the lottery for schools feels like a mix of that short story by Shirley Jackson that we had to read in high school and The Hunger Games. The day I entered her name into the school’s lottery, the attendant stood still with the black box in her hands, looked straight-faced at me and said “Good luck in the lottery.” To which I replied, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” And then we had a lovely little staring game until I grew uncomfortable with how legitimately serious she was.
Three: A month later, I lost my biggest client (because they hired in-house and apparently New York is too far of a commute to San Antonio. Whatever.) I handled it as any professional freelancer would — I said “Thank you for the opportunity to work with you.” and then hung the phone up and had a full-on panic attack.
Four: My parents decided to relocate to my city, find a place to live, and move in with me.
Cue Billie Holliday’s “Solitude” blaring out of a small iPhone dock while I laid on the floor of my apartment and stared at the ceiling, tears rolling into my ears. I throw excellent pity parties.
I don’t like it when good things unravel. I’m not a fan of feeling out of control.
I’m not sure about you, but I can trace 98% of my issues back to one thing — pride. In whatever form it comes (arrogance or insecurity), I am prone to being self-centered. I would try to come up with a reason as to why I am this way but I’m just gonna go ahead and tack it on the board of “I’m human” and assume that most of us are really good at thinking about ourselves most of the time.
When I realized we had lost a large chunk of our income, a place to live, the schools I wanted and that I was going to be living with my parents again, I felt like a failure. A complete and total failure. (And I’m not going to tie a bow on this one — somedays, I still do.) Not being able to make things happen how I want things to happen by this point in my life might be one of the most heartbreaking things for me to admit.
So last summer, my parents moved here, and we moved into a house together. All of us. Grandparents. Me. Kid. College kids. We found a home with a yard, trees, a fireplace, lots of rooms, and space for each of us to find quiet and solitude.
But I felt ashamed. The voice in my head nagged — Look at you, it said. 30 years old. A single mom barely making ends meet. You are a Lifetime movie. But one of the cheesy, depressing ones. One of the movies that everyone makes jokes about and pretends they hate, but you’d probably watch with a bottle of wine because GOOD LORD THE DRAMA and it’s SO PITIFUL.
Yes that voice. Perhaps you know it. It probably says awful things to you too, and yet we all listen as if it’s going to change its mind.
It was the day we moved that was the hardest for me. After eight years of being independent and calling the shots for my own home and surroundings, I was back in the kitchen arguing with my mom about dishes, schedules and the color of the carpet. At one point it seemed I had taken leaps and bounds forward in life, but now, I felt 15 again. Friends and family had unloaded all of our things and I hopped in the cab of one of the trucks with a brother to vent.
“Ugh,” I groaned (just like a 15 year old, mind you). “I can’t believe I’m living with mom and dad again. I’m so embarrassed.”
He shook his head. “God provides,” he said. “Not always how we want him to. But he meets needs. Would it really make a difference if He provided anonymously? Isn’t it even better that it’s through your parents? The ones who love you and care about you?”
I nodded, choked back the tears, and fiddled with my hands as my pride knotted in my throat.
It’s been six months since we gathered under this roof to call it home, and it hasn’t been perfect. It’s been messy, humbling, hard. It’s been loud and busy, fun and happy, cluttered with things and arguments, and then cleaned with grace and patience.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve had company in the mornings,” my mother says. Her tea is hot and the teabag rests on the spoon next to it, just like it did for the first 18 years of my life. “It’s nice to have someone to visit with again. I’ve gotten so used to being quiet while your father sleeps.”
It’s in these moments that I realize in accepting a helping hand, I’m actually just holding another hand. Perhaps in my accepting, I’m giving as well. I’m picking up the tiny pieces of tiny strings of things I thought I wanted, and realizing that what we have is very, very good. I spend afternoons working at my desk while I watch her out the window, kicking the sky wildly as my father pushes her on the swing and I’m laughing, shaking my head at how I ever worried that we would be the worse for this.
Sometimes life never works out quite as we think it will. Sometimes God provides in ways we don’t want him to. Sometimes it feels like a death blow to my pride. And sometimes, that’s the best thing ever.