Years ago, we were living in Grand Junction, Colorado as Stephen was working as a predoctoral fellow. We dreamed about what our life would be like once this doctorate was finally finished. There were so many unknowns, so many questions we needed to answer, and so many, really there were too many, decisions ahead of us. We sat together one night and resolved to establish a family ethic. We recognized that in our work we had mission statements and core values, but other than our wedding vows we didn’t have such a concrete thing for our family. A “Who We Are” a “Come What May, This Is Who We Choose To Be” kind of statement. So, we set out to form something that we could come back to, to root us, to remind us who we are when we lost our way. It took us some time, we wrote a lot about where we came from, who we were at that time, and who we wanted to be moving forward. We had a lot of ideas and then pared them down to these words.
We have had more than one occasion where we felt like we were thick in the muck and mire of life; where we couldn’t figure out which way was up. One such time was after the day Stephens dad and my mom died. We found ourselves in uncharted and unexpected terrain and we were in way over our heads. With a hodgepodge of belongings and no return flight in mind we left Denver for St. Louis. We spent that week arranging a funeral for my mom and then went south to Atlanta for Stephen’s dad’s funeral, then headed back north to sort through my mom’s belongings and her house. At that time, Stephen worked for The University of Colorado Hospital and they were generous with him and his unexpected and indefinite leave of absence. His coworkers donated days off and sent care packages, they were kind and cared well for us. A month later we were reentering life in Denver and imagining our life in the wake of all our loss, we couldn’t conceptualize reentering life as we had known it. A life where I had 3 little boys at home and Stephen headed out everyday to a full time job away from home, away from us. At the same time, that was how we paid for our life as we knew it. So we had some decisions to make. We needed to take stock.
We sat with our new circumstances and our familiar ethic and we decided that to be true to who we are at our core, to be the family we set out to be, we needed to change course. What we decided next would absolutely not be a good fit for every individual, couple, or family. But through our lens and with our own ethic we made some really unconventional and difficult choices. We decided to pack up life as we knew it in Denver, a really sweet life in a lot of ways, and make a huge move so we could spend more time together. In Denver, Stephen worked full time at the hospital and also taught classes at Regis University. It was too much time away. It was all good things that was taking him away from us, things he enjoyed, things he had worked really hard to be able to do and things that afforded us a life we had come to know and enjoy. But at the end of the day, we realized that we didn’t set out to be a family with nice things and a great resume. We had just lived through a nightmare where we realized life is short and unpredictable and when we came back to our ethic we saw we needed to make the difficult choices that would afford us the one thing we will never be able to buy back- time together. So Stephen took on some online teaching jobs with a lot of flexibility, we moved our counseling practice to almost entirely virtual, and we moved to a city where we have family nearby. It is so stressful at times. Really stressful and a lot of times we really miss living near the mountains.
Not long ago a really amazing job opportunity came knocking on our door. A great job, one Stephen would enjoy, with benefits and an excellent salary, back in the mountains, and it made us intoxicated for a few days. It seemed like a great opportunity, it was a great opportunity in fact, but then we filtered it through our ethic and it just didn’t match up. It isn’t always easy to be who we set out to be, and sometimes of course we have to make adjustments, but when we stay true to our values even difficult decisions are simple to make.