Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Unbeing dead isn't being alive." e. e. cummings

I am in a laundromat washing clothes that I've lived in for the last three months: thermal underwear, neck gaiters, hooded sweatshirts, lots of fleece. But today, I am wearing a suit; I just left a job interview. I am trying to marry the two very different worlds: the one I have recently emerged from, and the one I am in now.

I recently watched a documentary called Happy that validated a lot of what I've been trying to put words to this season.

When we are asked the question, "what do you want from life?" often the rote response is "happiness." But what does it mean to be happy? Does happiness come from money? Status? What makes me happy might be something completely different than what makes you happy.

I've seen people I love work 60 hours a week literally making themselves sick with exhaustion and stress. They've sacrificed relationships with their families, spouses and even themselves in order to "succeed." We spend so much of our lives in positions that make us miserable simply to afford the  house, the car and the status.

When I abandoned that lifestyle to live in a tiny, one-room cabin in the northwoods for the winter, many questioned my decision. Some were critical of me; they said I was selfish, idealistic, extreme. Some were even more harsh because I am a woman - and a mother of two - who chose to take a sabbatical.

No one can fully understand my reasons for abandoning my old life for a few months of solitude in the northwoods. This time away has taught me many things, most importantly, to not waste time worrying about the naysayers, and that I am a hell of a lot stronger than I thought three months ago. Those who know me and love me understand and know the reasons I chose to leave. I will say this: sometimes the heartache that comes from leaving is less than the heartache that comes from sticking around. Sometimes it takes more strength to walk away from a situation than it does to stay and maintain status quo.

But, the heartache I felt these last three months from missing my children was overwhelming at times. At a crossroads, Sunday, I loaded everything I had in the tiny cabin, packed up the dogs and gear and drove back to the farm in Ohio.  After driving all night, I arrived at the farm just in time to wake Elise up for school.

She opened her big, brown eyes and blinked up at me.

"Mommy!" she said brightly and wrapped her pajamaed-arms around my neck. She smelled like shampoo and clean bed sheets as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

We went outside in the pre-dawn light of 6:30 a.m. and let the dogs out of the dog boxes together. She's always been such a good helper with the farm. She wants to be a veterinarian.

Today, as I watched the fleece and thermal roll absently inside the dryer at the laundromat, I thought about these two worlds and how I have a leg in each. Do these worlds have to be in opposition to each other?

It seems I have to choose: professional vs. musher; skirt suit and panty hose vs. thermals and hooded sweatshirt; mother vs. musher. Is being a dog musher really going against the grain that much?

People have said, "why can't you just run dogs recreationally?"

For me, I am all in or all out. There's no in between. I need a goal of a race or consistent, good training miles to stay focused.

I love my daughters. More than I love anyone on earth. But am I setting a better example by being a cog in a wheel? or by teaching them that women can be strong, take a stand against what doesn't sit well with them, take risks, live in the woods alone?

Not being dead isn't synonymous with being alive

We all have to find out what we're made of and what makes us happy. Money, status, approval-seeking have never made me happy or been motivating.Watching something blossom, take shape, and come to fruition is super gratifying for me though.

The dogs and I have done a lot of work. Non-mushers cannot possibly fathom the amount of time, money, and effort that go into training a team of sled dogs. I do not intend to let the hours and training miles count for naught.

We are running our second Midnight Run on February 15, 2013 in Marquette, Michigan, though I am back in Ohio. Check it out:

Still trying to find a balance....

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