Today’s DYL is by Steph of Love in the Time of Foreclosure. I first met Steph online through blogging and then in person this summer at Chiblogo. It was great to meet her and hear her story firsthand. As you will read below, she has had quite a year.
And whether you yourself are facing foreclosure, debt, or another major challenge, reading Steph’s intentions are encouraging. Though she’s not immune to dissapointment, her resiliency shines brightly. Enjoy!
DESIGN YOUR LIFE: Steph of “Love in the Time of Foreclosure”
Be happy. Now.
In the midst of fighting to save our house from foreclosure while drowning under our serious debt I noticed something strange… I was happier. Happier than I’d ever been, in fact. How on earth was that possible? On the surface it didn’t seem to make sense. Until I realized that I was simply choosing to be happy. Now. Not waiting for things to turn around, because who knew if they ever would. I strongly believe that happiness is a choice. It is possible to be happy at any given moment no matter what the circumstances in life. Throughout the entire eleven months of fighting to save our house from foreclosure and hold onto the life we knew in Los Angeles this became my mantra. Be happy. Now. There’s no waiting for things to get better in order to be happy. What if they never get better? That would mean I’d never get to be happy and that does not work for me. So I choose happiness.
I’ve always been a crier. As a kid, this embarrassed me to no end. It was impossible for me to hold my emotions back. To wear a mask of any kind. So many times I wanted to hide my emotions away, but wasn’t able. I saw my inability to hide myself as a flaw. I don’t know when it happened but there was some point in my life when I finally embraced my ability to put it all out there. This has materialized in the most concrete way in my blog, “Love in the Time of Foreclosure.” Writing has always been my way to sort things out for myself. And now I write about my most vulnerable moments in a public fashion. Putting it all out there for the world to see. The benefit? When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, it’s easier to be at peace with yourself… and people are in turn vulnerable with you. Life gets so much more real. Forget about surface conversations… deep conversations and connections with people just happen. Worlds open up. People open up. And life just is more fulfilling.
Life is easier when you’re helping others
I met my husband on a 500 mile bike ride from Minneapolis to Chicago to raise money for people living with AIDS. We like to say that our first date was six days and 500 miles long. On the ride we noticed an interesting phenomena while climbing hills. If we focused on cheering our fellow riders on, we’d be at the top before we even realized we were climbing a hill. Putting our focus on helping others seemed to be the trick. When we didn’t, the hill was always harder. That’s when we’d notice the pain and would start thinking the hill was impossible. This phenomena extends to all areas of life. When I’m focused on helping others, my life seems so much easier.
Leave it all on the track
I ran track and cross country in high school and my senior year I battled injuries- stress fractures and a strained hip flexor. When I was able to compete, I was extremely disappointed by my performance that was nowhere as good as the year prior. Each time I stepped to the starting line it was more about, “Am I going to let myself down again this time?” than anything else. Not the best way to compete. Towards the end of the season before one particularly inconsequential dual meet my coach said to me, “Don’t think about winning. Think about leaving it all on the track. If you go out there and give everything you’ve got and make sure that at the end of the race you’ve put it all on the track and you have nothing left, that’s what matters. Think about that.” Those words rang so true. They were a call to action. I can do that, I thought. It’s not about perfectionism or even winning the race, but knowing that you lived full out and held nothing back. Ever since that day, that’s been the standard I hold myself to in life.
Don’t let a perfectly good crisis go to waste
Last year speaking about the economic crisis, Rahm Emanuel said, “You never want to let a serious crisis go to waste.” There is opportunity in every crisis. The opportunity to do things you wouldn’t have been able to do before. That’s exactly how Bob and I viewed our personal financial crisis. In fact, we made a promise to each other to not let it go to waste. To learn from every moment. To grow as a couple and as individuals. To rise to the occasion. We talked about how things might look bleak, but that if we kept at it we could actually create huge opportunities beyond what we ever imagined. We didn’t save our house, but we did end up living rent-free in a big farmhouse in one of the most beautiful places in the world- San Juan Island. We haven’t recovered our income, but Bob landed a job with a great company where he gets to work from home and I became a blogger. Beyond all of that, though, what we gained from our crisis was the knowledge that we can weather any storm. And that our marriage, love, health and happiness are by far our highest priorities.
Be grateful in good times and bad
It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well but it’s almost more important to be grateful when they’re not. This is what got us through the year of marriage counseling and the year of our financial meltdown. Gratitude. We put it into practice. When one of us is feeling down and out or downright sorrowful, the other will ask, “Name one thing you’re grateful for right now.” It’s impossible to not find one thing. At the very least we can say, “I’m grateful for you.” Or, “I’m grateful for Pablo.” (Pablo is our Pug dog.) Or, “I’m grateful for the love of my family and friends.” Expressing gratitude – especially in ‘bad’ times – has a magical effect. It’s worked wonders for us. In fact, it worked yesterday. When we were miserable because our pipes froze and we were freezing and feeling lonely missing our family and friends and our old house and Los Angeles… Bob said he was grateful for something. I honestly don’t even remember what. But it worked. It changed my focus from what we didn’t have to what we do have. And that’s a lot.
Acquire experiences, not things
This is one that I always agreed with but never really put into practice. Until our financial crisis. Through selling 90% of our possessions in a giant estate sale, I began my detachment to material possessions and honing the extremely important distinction between want and need. I firmly believe that less is more and more is burden. We are so done working to pay for things we own. Instead our life is now about acquiring experiences. I love that!
Check out past DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews.