Years ago now, I wrote a post called Home is Where the Hard Is. In it, I wrote about the hard that is our home, about the struggle it takes to do even the simplest home project, and about how that hard is what made it all the more worthwhile.
I was new to our house and we were in the honeymoon mood of making it our home.
The hard thrilled me, it revived me. It held up a mirror to life as I’d known it and asked if what I knew was what I wanted or, if instead, I wanted something different.
I was deeply in love, not just with The Chief but with all that he and this new life embodied. Yet as I was falling in love with my new home, a new friend who has now become a dear friend confessed to me that she was falling out. Reading my post, however, set to the tone of a starry-eyed, love-drunk newbie, a bit of the romance returned for her. She looked a little more fondly at the hard, she’d just needed a break At the time I remember being shocked that anyone could possibly fall out of love with the beauty of all that is our tiny hamlet in Alaska. She pulls you in, how could you ever let go?
The romance of the hard held me close for years. The thrill of an unexpected storm, the creative meals due to dwindling supplies, the discomfort of far beyond freezing temps truly testing my abilities to survive. All of it, every day of it felt like an adventure until…
We spent two years in the hard and a fissure formed. Timing isn’t everything but it can sure make a difference and after spending the entire year before COVID at home in order to finally settle after years of constant packing and unpacking, the non-stop hard started to chip away at the joy. No worries, we’d take a trip and all would be rosy again. Except, we couldn’t. Two years after our intended year-long staycation we went on our first vacation since our honeymoon and for the first time ever we both weren’t ready to come home. I’m fact, had Leto been with us, we might not have.
Where were we?
For the first time ever, The Chief said to me “I don’t want to leave. I could even see living here.”
And so, we have.
The little crack those two years formed has grown since it’s inception but when Ollie came, the crack gave way to a rushing tide of wonderings.
Would the hard work with him?
More bluntly: Would the hard with him work for me? Was I up for the challenge?
There are countless women who have raised their babes in the wild and I was certain for years I’d be among them. It felt like a badge of honor and I hoped it’d be bestowed upon me but that’s not how badges work. Truth be told, I know my ego played a part in hoping I could live this life and ride the homestead-ish mountain mama wave all the way in.
Maybe I could, maybe we will, but right now, I’m just not up for it. This summer, with a new babe in the woods where systems constantly break down and medical care 8 hours away, where there’s one road in and one road out and sometimes no road at all, I finally admitted to myself that I am not up for this year-round anymore. OK, I had done it. I had said the scary thing to myself but the scariest part of that admission was what would happen when I uttered it aloud.
Since our start we’ve always spent some time apart but it’s gotten smaller in quantity every year. We love being together. He also loves being in Alaska. The two years had cracked him but not in the same chasm-creating way it had me. I wanted to be near healthcare and grocery stores, and activities and opportunities for Ollie and, truth be told, for myself. Yet I wanted to be with my husband. I wanted our family together.
So, what’s a family in transition to do?
Move to Hawaii, of course.
Ever since that first trip, Hawaii had been our starting point for hard conversations. Did we want to live in Alaska year round? If we didn’t, where would we live? In a time where some of our dearest friends have been gone from Alaska, it’s been both harder and easier to think outside of the AK box. Our base has shifted. So, we returned to the place where that shift began, this time with our Leto and our Ollie, never to return.
In the past few months, the hard conversations have continued. We spent Thanksgiving morning in tears when we came to the realization that things would indeed be changing but the questions of “How? To where? When?” were still unanswered. That doesn’t rest easy on the soul.
Since then, some big plans have evolved and come this fall, The Chief, Ollie, Leto, and I are doing the last thing we ever thought we would: we are moving away from the woods for more than just a season and heading to Anchorage because…
The Chief is going back to school!
I can’t express the happiness I feel in typing those last three words. I am so incredibly proud of him for choosing a path he desperately wanted but was unsure he’d ever see. I am completely aware that Anchorage is still Alaska, where the grey skies have been getting me down but, that’s the beauty of years of debate: compromise. We’ve agreed I’ll spend some time away every few months to up my vitamin D intake and we will both spend time out in the woods, just not all of our time. It’s the best (that we could come up with anyways) of all worlds. Time in the wilderness and time away and overall, most of our time together.
Almost eight years later, I completely understand where my friend was coming from. I love our home and I also needed a break from the hard. A real break. These past few months have been just what we needed: time in the sun, time with ease, and time to think.
Have I missed the 14-hour shopping days followed by the late-night 8-hour drives home? The unpacking of the truck in waist-deep snow at 3am? Honestly, in some ways, yes. The old me does st least. The mom me? In some ways still yes but in the ways that are a no, I’ve been grateful to be here, at home wherever my heart is.
In just a little over a month we fly home and for the first time ever, we won’t be rushing back out to the woods. Will we be there again? Certainly, but not immediately. Does this new norm feel weird? Indeed. Yet I know it’s right because when I remove what I feel I should do, coupled with what I said I’d do and look at what I feel I need to do for us, this is the answer.
From our hearts to yours (via Hawaii and a half n’ half sunset)
**Where is your heart taking you these days? Are you branching out from your idea of home or rooting down? Let us know in the comments below**