The Ghosts of Past

In July of 2011 we lost our home. It was a great house, it was our first house. It was the biggest house I had ever lived in. It had beautiful granite counter tops, beautiful hardwood floors, a huge kitchen, a bedroom that could sleep 4 people, a whirlpool tub to soak away the day in, and a perfectly manicured lawn. I can honestly say that living in that house made me feel secure, it made me feel that I was finally settled.

All of that changed in 2008. It was the first year that things started to go south with the economy. Year after year things got worse but I kept saying that all would be okay. I never gave up hope that our lives would stay the same. Well, they didn’t. When it was time we finally had to let go. We moved into a rental home and never looked back. I tucked away all the sad feelings into the furthest part of my brain. It was over.

We moved into a home that had more land, the house was really small, and I really struggled at first. My husband was thrilled , we were in the woods and he had more freedom. We began to build our lives over. We got chickens and goats and built a huge ramp in the backyard (my husband is a skatepark builder). Then as luck would have it the house next door came up for sale and it had even more land. It was a steal, it needs a lot of work, but slowly it is coming together.

We have even more animals now, turkeys and ducks now call my land their home too. I still dream of my big kitchen and a bathroom that feels like a spa getaway. In time….

Then in October I got invited to a party back in the old neighborhood. Ah, the ghosts of my past come back to haunt me. I kept telling myself I was fine, going to the party would be fine.

The day of the party came. I almost felt sick to my stomach. I would have to look at all the old neighbors, all the people who saw us lose our house, lose our life. I started to feel a deep sadness. I wasn’t sure where it was coming from, I had moved past all of that, I thought. Our lives were better now. We barely have any bills, we live a much simpler life, and things are so much easier, right?

It was about an hour until the party. I felt my heart beating in my chest and I was anxious. I didn’t know what I would say to all those people. I started doing my nervous twitch and my OCD kicked in. I count on my fingers when I get nervous or anxious. I wandered around the house and realized I was actually really sweaty. What the heck was going on inside me? I didn’t want to drive past my old house. I didn’t want to see it or ever remember it. It represented so much more than just a house we lost. To me it felt like a failure, a big fat in your face you couldn’t make it. I felt sick to my stomach. I had to go to the party and put on my best face, let nobody know that I was a wreck inside. How could this be so hard, it’s just a house, some wood and plywood with a few stones on the front, that’s all. It was starting to look like I was the house, the structure that couldn’t see it through, I was the thing that was lost. I didn’t know where the house ended and I began.

Truth be told, at the heart of it all was the “what will they think of me” that drives all of my anxiety. One of my biggest challenges in life is letting go of what “they” think of me. So I put on that pretty party face and got in my car and went to the party.

Walking up the driveway I whispered to myself, ‘let it go’ and I did. My sister Jennifer often uses this quote in her writings and workshops. It is a favorite of mine. I had no choice I was getting dragged, I had to let it go.

Let-go-or-be

I walked in and let my ghosts go back to the place that they came from, the past. It was a great party. I had such a good time. Nobody really cared that we lost our house, that we were struggling, or that we weren’t where we used to be. Nobody said a word. Everybody was amazing. In fact in reality we aren’t the only ones who are struggling now. It turns out that having gone through the fire can help somebody else who is in the pit now.

I don’t particularly enjoy the feeling of anxiety, it sucks. This is what my ghosts do, they come back for a visit, and stir the pot up. I can take their hand and walk the road with them, or I can leave them in the car and go to the party.

Here is what I know:

If you lose it all then you have a big open place to fill back up.

and most importantly what I learned from Dr. Seuss

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose. 
You’re on your own. 
And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go….Dr. Seuss, Oh! The Places You’ll Go!
US author & illustrator (1904 – 1991)

And then there is always a handstand on a skate ramp with goats. Now that is living.

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12 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Past

  1. Hi Rachel~
    Your blog is great! Go You! (I came to it via your sister’s FB post.) This piece really speaks to me because I can totally relate. We’ve been there. For me, it was truly is a matter of counting our blessings (Hubby & I having each other, our beautiful child, our relative health, etc.), letting go of this *thing*, and choosing to move forward. You are so brave to write about this. Peace & Love to you.

  2. Hi Rachel!
    Your blog is great! Go You!! (I found it via your sister’s FB post.) This piece is so striking, so relatable, and incredibly honest. I’ve been there and it’s traumatic. Your point about letting go is right on! For me/us, it was about counting our blessings (our little family, our relative health), letting go of this *thing*, and moving forward without shame and with hope. (Little did I know the lesson about loss that awaited me.) You are brave to write so honestly about this. Peace & Love to you.

  3. I love your honesty and realness! ❤ "Let it go" is going to be my mantra for the next couple weeks. I look forward to more of your posts.

  4. I needed to read this today. Thank you.. For being real.. For being honest.. For not being afraid to bear to everyone that you are humans and you have fears.. This inspires me as I myself struggle as I am petrified every day while worrying what others think about me.. It’s our nature to want to make our lives the “picture of the American dream”, when it’s never really that way. Again thanks. Love you!

  5. Rachel, so wonderful to see you writing and sharing. Thank you for your honesty! You weren’t the only ones to experience this kind of trauma during the Great Recession so, it’s refreshing to see you pull back the scab and share for all. Keep writing. Keep helping us all. Sending love and light to you and your family.

  6. I call your story a success story because you learned such a valuable lesson…home is wherever you hang your hat. It sounds to me like you have more quality in your life now, and more room to be creative.

  7. Rachel, A beautiful and relevent post. Yes, this shit happens, I lost my FLorida house where we raised all my kids due to the economic bust. At the time, it was tragic, but now, looking back, it was just a house, your home is where your family is. And, life marches on. A time to mourn and a time to let go. Loved your writing. It is inspiring and guess what, your kids would probably be much happier and more stable having the skating, the animals, the country and the life experiences you offer them. They could care less about which granite countertops you have. You are a trailblazer, and you know what people think of you is not your business. Your true friends love you no matter where you live. Just be happy, kind and keep on writing. You are good.

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