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This is the first post in a three part series of year-end reflections.

  • Words & Movements - Our stories are both an expression of an experience and the lens through which we view that experience and future experiences. In this way, our stories, our words, have the power to manifest things in our lives.
  • Growth (in community) & Tools - Where I want to grow this year and one of the tools I use to make the connection between the struggles and triumphs, responsibilities, tasks, and to-do's that facilitate that growth.

I turned forty-one this month, and like any birthday, this one invited reflection on the past year, both the calendar year from January to December, but also my "birthday year" which happens to follow the same cycle as the calendar year.

My parents had a thing for December babies, or rather, they knew how to beat those March blues, as my younger brother was also born in December.

My December birthday is wrapped up in everything that the holiday season and end of year means to me.

In this last month of the year, amongst holiday activities, Advent meditations, and the general good will and cheer (and busyness) of the season I am also mentally preparing to put closure on this year and anticipating and planning for the next. I am pondering the things I've experienced in the last 12 months and thinking about guiding themes and directions for the year ahead. It's a lot of reflection for one month, but to be lost in that kind of thinking, and then writing those thoughts is one of my deep pleasures, so lucky me in December. It's like a birthday gift.

The end of one year, a new one coming, my birthday, the holiday season they all conflate into this month, that for me, is defined by contemplation and celebration.

I'm supposing, though I honestly don't really remember, that I may have always been bent this way - to reflect a lot on the past. I think it expressed itself differently when I was younger, in my desire to carry forth traditions, which probably influenced my career path as a homemaker.

As an ESTJ I concern myself with how things have been done in the past and generally try to find some kind of successful example to follow in my life. For many of us, myself included, life has veered from a path that we can follow, by choice or by circumstance (who we marry, where we move for work, the stuff that happens to us beyond our control).

It feels like the modern age gives rise to more of this off-the-path stuff (though maybe that's just an illusion on my part). Maybe this is why I have such a compulsive need to write the path, write the story; because my life doesn't follow past generations' experiences very well (who's does?!) and it's non-traditional (based on where I come from) and I have to reconcile that reality with how I'm wired - to align my life with knowns and keep things (relationships and resources) in safe boundaries.

There's got to be a path, and I'll write it after the fact if need be.

By nature, my first response to a problem or pain is to ask "what mistake did we make in our past to bring this upon ourselves? How can we learn to never make that error again."

I'm not saying this is necessarily healthy, and in many cases it doesn't help solve the existing problem, but it is an unconscious and deep-rooted response of mine. As an ESTJ I am looking to make systems and structures that work well and protect people (myself included), based on experience with past situations. And so it's very necessary for me to reflect and bring order to experiences, to dig up the truths to carry forward with me.

I move into the future based on how I process my past experiences.

Let's talk about ESTJ's

I am reminded here of a podcast I listened to recently on the ESTJ personality type by Personality Hacker. I love Personality Hacker, they are one of my favorite places to geek out on personality type stuff.

Because this is my "birthday post" I'm taking the liberty to expound upon ESTJ traits a little. As a "gift" for the ESTJ's in the crowd (though most of you who contact me and have formed relationships with me via the blog are very different from my type, go figure) and for those of you who love an ESTJ.

In that podcast Antonia and Joel talk about healthy and unhealthy ESTJ's (and all the other EJ types). I appreciate that breakdown because for me that's how you up-your-game in self-awareness: you identify and move forward into healthier ways of being. The purpose of self-awareness is to know your strengths and weaknesses, your ways of looking at things and processing information - to build healthier relationship with yourself and others.

The signs of a healthy ESTJ: (highlights from that Personality Hacker podcast)

  • Grounded in a sense that everything is going to be okay.
  • Many ESTJs may experience anxiety because they can’t find enough security and safety around them. The healthier an ESTJ gets the more that fear goes away.
  • Instead of frenetically attempting to force change upon the world, the healthy ESTJ will find a way to create change at the structural level – with institutions.
  • The stereotypical ESTJ is the supervisor, manager, civil servants, or local politician. Their desire to make sure institutions are running well really defines their health. They are grounded and focused.
  • A really grounded ESTJ is a protector. They are reliable. They are making things happen from a grounded place.
  • They can be very protective of their families and ensure the needs of their mates are being met. They secure the perimeter.

The word grounded in these descriptions is particularly interesting to me. I identify strongly with the need to feel grounded and before I had language for that I would have expressed that as resistant to change, not very spontaneous, comforted by routines, all of which is still an accurate description, but the reason for those things is because of what's underneath. My need to feel grounded and secure makes change, spontaneity, and open-endness threatening.

The unhealthy way to lower that threat is to resist change, become more controlling in an attempt to manage my environment. The healthy way to lower that threat is to root deeper in my true source of security.

One of the ongoing challenges of my adult years has been to find that grounding, that security, in a life-sustaining relationship with the Divine.

This three-part series of posts are reflections on the past year. I've been looking through my journal and my writings for dominant themes from the last year and possible directions for the New Year. The importance of being grounded is the theme that flashes neon red.

This is probably a foundational theme in my life because of who I am and what moves me. But this idea has become front and center in my life in the past two years because of the breakdown of 2014.

December 2014 was a very hard season for us, a difficult time in our marriage. My birthday that year was short on "celebration". The salve to that pain was that a new year was around the corner, and that we had 365 days before my next birthday to make changes for the better.

What I'm writing in these posts, my reflections, are the "two years later" to that birthday, and the "one year later" to last year's birthday post.

Foundations

Two of the resources I used for healing in the past two years recommended making a list of my life accomplishments, as a self-affirming exercise, a list of evidence against false thoughts and wrong thinking (a CBT technique). According to The Wisdom of the Enneagram, type 6's forget their achievements and this is not surprising news to me. When I am in a bad mental space all past achievements are forgotten, or worse, trivialized. And it becomes hard to have hope for the future with such a bleak (& false) remembrance of the past.

But I do believe remembering our accomplishments is bigger than a personality type issue.

So many times in the Bible, the writer/speaker exhorts the reader/listener to remember what God had done for them in the past. Remember and tell, because when we forget, we don't just forget a detail of the past, we forget an identity. This is what testimony is, we bear witness to the hand of God, the work of the Spirit, the evidence of Grace in our life.

I see a list of life accomplishments as a kind of evidences of grace document.

Of course the narcissist could point all the glory to herself in a list of this type. Look at how great I am. But most of us are cognizant that so much grace has been given to us in our birth, in our every breath, in our family of origin or in our friendships. We see the grace in the time this terrible thing almost happened but didn't, or the terrible thing did happen but look where I am now, in the "stars aligning", or the "universe supporting" us, that we know that everything we accomplish in our life is made possible by unmerited grace.

And so my list of life accomplishments is really a document of grace in my life, it's a list of the "big things" that have transpired, written through the lens of grateful heart.

For this post I want to share two points of celebration from that list.

I am thankful for my close relationship with my three teenagers. I am privy to love and loss. Triumph and disappointments. I don’t know everything, there are secrets kept in hearts and amongst the three. (I adore that the three of them share things with each other that I don’t know.) But I don’t need to pry, beg, coerce, manipulate or otherwise use relational gymnastics to understand my children. I’m with them. I know them. I don’t have to ask “how was your day” and get a “fine” response from which I must tease truth. I know their friends. I know their mentors. I have relationships with people who are investing into my children. The structure of our days and our space supports positive and deep relationships with each other. I am a co-creator with my husband in making that space, in securing this perimeter, and my heart is beyond full with the satisfaction and connection I have with my children.

I am so deeply grateful for my evolving and deepening friendship with my life partner and love, Damien Tougas. We have come through some hard stuff but we are both committed to holding in our hearts and mind the best version of the other. We see truthfully what we are and what we aren't but also hope for things unseen and imagined. We are helping each other become the person each of us hopes to be. We are working to see something come to fruition in the other that is seeded and partially hidden, not yet grown, but is hoped for and believed in. Marriage is a kind of faith.

These two things I am most thankful for in my life. I have many, many more. The relationship with my parents, the closeness with my mom, dear friends who know and love me, the connections and community of church family and homeschool coop, experiences I've had, places I've lived, the ideas I have co-created and co-labored (with other people and the Spirit) into reality in the physical world, my list is growing and is more specific than I share here. What a rich, rich life.

The high holiday is almost upon us. My family's most significant holiday celebration of the year. I have two more posts in this series written and mostly ready to go. I will be posting those throughout the holiday, as I celebrate and contemplate the "things" most precious in my life.

If you have some reading and thinking time over the holidays (I hope you do!) I'd love to hear your thoughts.

First, do you know your personality type and what it looks like, internally and externally, to be expressing those traits from a healthy place?

Do you have a dominant life theme that arises from your personality and/or life trajectory?

What are your most precious evidences of grace in your life?

This is the sixth and final (phew!) post in a series on vocation, marriage and work.

Just to re-cap where we left off in this story.

One of the four parts of Project Home & Healing was to Craft a Vision, and that piece has remained elusive for me.

Last year I didn't even bother thinking about it because I wanted to build this vision from a solid foundation, but first of all I had to work on that foundation. I knew it had to be a vision for me, not for Us, but of course it had to fit into Us. And I wanted it to be a vocation-related vision.

This year I felt it was time to step back into online work to see if I could figure that out. I didn't have a clear vision but maybe vision is overrated, and it was more important to just "do stuff", or maybe I would find one through bumbling around. Hey, anything's possible, right?


For years I have admired a specific handful of women working online. I am inspired by their quality of work, personal integrity, and success. Each of these women, and what they do, is different, but as I've watched them grow their businesses or grow their blogs over the past couple years, I've experienced two things. I've been inspired to think about how I might do something similar, and I've been discouraged and fearful that I'm washed up, already a has-been, haven't come near my potential and had no idea what my potential was to begin with. I missed the boat. These feelings of discouragement are not a helpful, or even true, mindset.

Then there is the matter of finances. To date, this is our most resource-intense season of raising kids. And it's only going to get "worse" before it gets better. Helping our kids with post-secondary education, perhaps starting businesses, weddings and establishing their own households; these are the investments and expenses that will help launch them into adulthood. Do we feel responsible to provide everything for these needs? Absolutely not, but we live in challenging economic times and where possible we want to help our emerging adults make a successful transition to the next stage of their lives.

So earlier this year I felt I had to "do something".

I needed to do something to "reach my potential". I needed to tackle an online project to help me get back in the game. I needed to help contribute to our finances. I had taken a year off from thinking along these lines, partly by choice, partly by necessity, but at the beginning of this year I decided to move forward, vision or no vision. So I started two projects: a writing project and the creation of an online soap course.

I felt compelled to do both for entirely different reasons. I knew the soap course could make money, the model is fairly clear and I know the market. I get how it works. I have no vision for how the writing project earns money, it's just something I need to write.

I worked at both endeavors through the winter and the spring. I worked some weekends. I worked while Damien took the kids to co-op on Mondays. But when late spring hit and all my energies were consumed by home and homeschooling (my first vocation) I started to get very frustrated and angsty about not moving forward on my projects. I felt like I had to prove to myself that I could do it, by golly, that I had it in me to produce and sell, and to help support our family this way. I needed to push harder.

And yet, I know through painful experience, the answer for me in these situations is not pushing, but pondering. Pushing takes strength and is often necessary in many areas of our lives to do the hard work of living. But stopping to ponder, and to listen, takes courage and is equally as necessary to find discernment into where we should invest our strength, where we should push.

I was very frustrated with my situation (these kids are taking so much of my time!) and with myself, and All. The. Things. I lacked internally and externally to move forward with my ideas.

I was paddling upstream, and I was unsure: was this a situation requiring strength to keep paddling or the courage to re-assess and change course? I do a lot of paddling upstream in my life in terms of society's expectations and values, sometimes it's hard to differentiate when I'm supposed to paddle and when I'm supposed to flow.

And then summer came, and our trip, and though initially I had hoped to find traction on my projects in the change of pace for the summer, I soon resolved myself to a different path. I set my intentions to embrace what was right in front of me. And I had a great summer.

I still hadn't resolved the issue of the stagnating projects and the deeper issue for me of my lack of vision, but I resolved for summer to just stop worrying about it. Our trip out west this summer felt once-in-a-lifetime, the kids hurtling as they are to independence. I didn't want to spend it over-analyzing and working away on a project with the mountains right outside our door.

I talked with friends and family about my frustrated efforts over spring. Conversations with Katie, Krista and my Mom were especially helpful. And then as we were driving home, somewhere in Illinois, I articulated the whole mess to Damien. I explained my frustrations with myself and the situation. Is there a problem with me that I can't progress on my goals? What is wrong with me?

I talked about my motivations to get back in the game and the desire to earn money to alleviate some of our financial strain. We discussed if it was maybe time for me to get a job, instead of trying to produce and sell a product online. And what kinds of income-earning jobs I might be suited for and enjoy doing (after years of being self-directed and independent). Perhaps more to the point, what kind of jobs could I possibly pick-up, without training and experience, that could come close to the remuneration that Damien's work can earn for our family.

We talked about our past experience of working together. We asked ourselves if that was an option we wanted to explore again, without all the emotional insecurities from the first time around.

Then we came back to the reality of the present, which is that I already have a full-time job! Which is why I was finding it so hard to move forward on other projects. This is a time-intense season of homeschooling for our family. It's a time-intense season of raising kids, period. More time-intense than I had anticipated years ago when I envisioned this stage of family life.

And we concluded we'd rather have the stress of home-educating our kids on a single self-employed, middle class income, allowing us to spend our days together and for me to have the time to invest in a community that supports this endeavor, than the stress of me working for an enterprise or a mission outside of family, pulling my energies away from these final years of homeschooling, pulling my energies away from the work I am clearly called to do, and love to do.

What this meant practically, is that I shelved the soap course. Even though I'd already worked many hours on it. I felt the sting of not-good-enough, especially since this is the second time I've shelved that course. I still want to do it, my material is still here but it's not the right timing for family life.

The writing project however, those words I just have to write, it stays. And that block of writing time has been back on the schedule since late summer. I don't know how and when I will publish what I'm writing. It might be my first book, or maybe a course. I'm not hung-up on what it will become. I'm doing the work of getting that Idea into the physical world.

The freedom to make this decision, to say, it's not the right season to pursue income-earning work, is a privilege, I realize. But it's also the result of a long string of choices we've made over the years about how we prioritize our values.

This is what we set out to do, twenty years ago: to make a home together, have a family, support our kids and each other, stay married, build community and relationships, homeschool our kids through high school.

The Big Vision, the Big Goal. I'm doing it, right now. It's hard work. I often feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task (what were we thinking?)

But this is one of the most clear callings in my life. The calling of creating and raising a family, providing a home and an education for our children.

What a long time it can take to become the person one has always been! How often in the process we mask ourselves in faces that are not our own. How much dissolving and shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity - the true self within every human being that is the seed of authentic vocation.
~ Parker Palmer

In a way, we've arrived. Of course once you arrive at one destination, you're aiming for the next. And that is what I have been trying to craft a vision for, but I'm still so invested in the present work, I don't have a lot of imagination for the time after this. And I'm coming to understand that that's ok.

I've been comparing myself to other women (oh this is such a weak area for me, comparing myself) who build online-based careers and homeschool, and I figured I should be able to do that also. There is still potential for that but I'm not interested in juggling a bunch of jobs, or working evenings and weekends to build a career, a blog, a business. As it is, those hours are already full with the work (& leisure) of homemaking, mothering, marriage, community building, and taking care of myself (which by the way, is not last on the list in terms of priority).

Do I want to earn money? Yes. To be paid for what you do brings a unique satisfaction. Do I want to relieve some of Damien's burden to provide for our family? Definitely yes. But he has a responsibility to fulfill, as do I, and both Damien and I agree that income-earning is not my responsibility at this point of marriage and family life. I don't want that stress, on top of the existing stresses of my life. And Damien doesn't want a stressed-out wife on top of his existing stresses. Because let's be real, it's not like me working a very part-time job, which is all I'd barely have time to do, while sacrificing other things that bring me joy, is going to significantly alleviate financial burdens.

Acknowledging that my full-time work right now is home and family almost feels like a betrayal of previous goals and dreams of mine: to partner with my husband in earning an income, to be a professional blogger (I still want this but I'm not sure the right path for me), to join the ranks of creative entrepreurial moms working online. But it's not a betrayal of course, it's an deepening awareness of self and the evolution of family life.

Looking for a vision and trying to earn money when it's not what I feel called to do for our family right now, divides and diverts my energies from the work I clearly feel called, and equipped, to do.

And so it's back to Let Your Life Speak and asking myself, "Renee, what is your life telling you that you are called to do?"

I am called to build a garden. I am called to contribute to the village of our homeschool co-op. I am called to be a friend and life-partner to Damien. I am called to write. I am called to take care of our home in the way that I do; with good management, attention to order, beauty, and details. I am called to be a mom. I am called to study and learn. I am called to build community and make connections. I am called to do the work of Christ (which is to love), with the body of Christ, in the city of Montreal. I am called to appreciate beauty. I am called to get to know and care for our neighbors. I am called to be still in the presence of the Spirit. I am called to have relationship-building, beauty-questing, and health-supporting adventures with my husband. I am called to speak freedom and courage into people's lives because these are the most hard-won and difficult things for me to live. I am called to read good books and ponder what they say. I am called to share my space, share my life.

Vocation at its deepest level is, "This is something I can't not do, for reasons I'm unable to explain to anyone else and don't fully comprehend myself but that are nonetheless compelling."
~ Parker Palmer

Some of these callings are vocations and others are just such ordinary things I feel they are hardly worth being described as a calling. And yet, I'm coming to see that those things I can't not do, because they are part of my Essence, an expression of true self, which is to say: the Holy Spirit moving through me, working in harmony with how God knit me together, are in fact my callings.

And right now, I have three very clear vocational callings: homemaking, homeschooling, and writing.

I made the mistake of thinking I ought not to write because I wasn’t making money, and therefore in the eyes of many people around me I had not business to spend hours every day at the typewriter… I was looking in the wrong mirrors.
~ Madeline L'Engle

I can't say I've made that mistake, but I have scratched my head raw sometimes thinking about how to earn money from writing. Perhaps I was seeking a validation or justification for something which needs no external reward to begin with. I simply want to write, and continually get better at it.

These days, Damien and I are actively discussing, after a year and a half hiatus on the subject, our vision for the next stage of life. We are listening to each other's hearts and asking ourselves, how do I support my spouse to be everything she/he feels called to be? What was once a wound and a broken place is slowly healing. And I'm finally starting to understand the vision he's had for that last five years (the one I tried to support) is not about a specific product, website, or project, but is about becoming the best of what we can be, together and individually, to build a solid future together. A future we are both excited to walk into. It's about the next Big Thing.

We have a mutual understanding of each other at this point that we did not have before. We don't have all the answers, or even most of the answers, for how we will achieve our desires, but we have self-awareness and an awareness of the other that has been hard-won.

We’ve each disentangled ourselves, bit by bit, from the thicket of couplehood, and have emerged scarred after plucking out thorns of need, resentment, jealousy, and feel equal, and distinct, and secure in ourselves. Still, increasingly, we realize that it’s our love for one another that feeds our separate strengths.
~ Beth Powning

What am I aiming for in a career, a vocation, in my work? What is my vision?

Quite simply to do the work before me, and live the things I'm called to do. And I'm trusting that the work in front of me will evolve into the next stage. I don't need to be frustrated or feel forced. Perhaps instead of paddling upstream I can find a movement in which to flow.

Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice "out there" calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice "in here" calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given to me at birth by God.
~ Parker Palmer

Oddly, what I've learned is that the making of self is more a matter of yielding than forcing, it is like a gradual clarifying, and the slow, surprising emergence of an unexpected shape.
~ Beth Powning

Within the next couple years, as our kids start graduating, I want to start income-earning work. I want to be able to financially help launch our kids into adulthood and to help fund more travel and adventures with my husband. I want to contribute financially to our goals for the future. At least I say that now, maybe our path will take me in another direction, but that's where I'm currently aiming. Maybe it will be a job that builds on my previous career as a homeschooler, maybe it will be something brand new. Maybe I will work with my husband again, joining forces in projects or a business venture. Maybe I will earn income as a writer. Maybe I will tap into my organization, management and administrative skills and join a team of some kind.

I have a lot of competencies, skills, and experience that would make me an asset to many different types of organizations and structures. I see a lot of options in the future. And I see writing, homemaking (I started before the kids came along and I'll continue when they are gone), travel and adventure, beauty seeking, community and relationship-building as integral parts of who I am, regardless of a career path.

Right now, I'm not trying to figure out that future career, instead, I'm putting my efforts into what I'm clearly called to do and I'm playing with the Ideas that spark my curiosity. My chief aim is not to produce a product, find a job, or grow an email subscriber list. My goal right now is to nurture a sense of inner confidence, in all my callings, from a place of deep security and well-being. This is a spiritual path, not an employment one.

High-functioning Sixes are self-confident and self-affirming because they have learned to recognize and trust their own inner guidance. Their faith in themselves often manifests as outstanding courage and leadership. They lead from a deep understanding of people's insecurities and frailties, and others respond to them, seeing their sincerity and willingness to be honest about their own weaknesses. They nurture an egalitarian spirit, a sense that there really are not leaders and followers, just different people with different talents finding ways to combine them for a common good. This desire to engage, to find common ground, and to work for everyone's mutual safety and benefit is a gift that our species needs for survival.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

A working relationship with Damien, or anyone else for that matter, can't provide what God alone can give. Following, leading, "being good", "doing the right thing", managing well, having success in marriage, mothering, homeschooling, blogging, vocation, career, etc., none of that can secure what can only come from within.

These have been Big Lessons for me. Hard lessons. To be broken, to be in unhealthy places emotionally and mentally and to re-build from those is not how I wanted to find security or freedom.

I thought I had to Craft a Vision to help me find my footing. But the path for me, the way I can step strong and sure, is to walk in the confidence of who I am and whose I am even though I don't have a Big Vision for my post-homeschooling vocation.

Someday, maybe, I'll have a clear income-earning vocation vision. Or maybe, someday, I might just look around and see I'm already doing it.

This is the fifth post in a series on vocation, marriage, and work.

This series has been quite a ride. I've shared some personal marriage stuff, got a bit philosophical as I defined work, vocation, calling etc. And now we're back to where we started this story.

Me, searching for an understanding of my vocation and specifically, vision in that vocation.

When we moved back to Canada in 2011 I was so gung-ho and determined to become a creative mompreneur.

In my desire to be a part of something, in my desire to do something "significant", in my desire to contribute financially to our household economy, in my desire to produce something other than children and meals, and in my desire to serve and help people outside my family, I started to turn homemaking and homeschooling into an entrepreurial venture.

In the same way we encourage our kids to experience new things, "just try it and see, you won't know until you try", I tried many things.

Sometimes I pushed against my natural inclinations, following expert advice and opinions that didn't feel quite right for me.

If I wanted to be successful I needed to advertise, publish on a schedule, market, build a platform, write bullet point posts, etc... I learned new skills, met new people, read marketing books, traveled to a blog conference, made partnerships and participated in collaborations.

Some of these felt like a good fit for me, and others didn’t.

I've learned that I don't identify as a business-woman, or an entrepreneur. As a writer, I don't like deadlines, and I generally don't need them to be motivated to accomplish tasks. I'm internally driven. I don't like the "give us your email, get a free gift" bait and hook marketing technique, or many other marketing techniques for that matter.

Over the years I've tried different ideas and some of them made me feel icky, others made me feel defective. When things didn't work for me I wondered, what's wrong with me? Why can't I embrace this technique or strategy?

Each of us arrive here with a nature, which means both limits and potentials. We can learn as much about our nature by running into our limits as experiencing our potentials.
~ Parker Palmer

Sometimes by pushing up against who we aren't we realize more clearly who we are. Sometimes we don't know if our aversion to something is because it truly doesn't line up with who we are or simply because we haven't tried it before. But one thing I know and believe to be true: you learn best through trial and error. And many of us don't like this reality, because we're afraid of failure, afraid of being wrong.

One of the things I've struggled with most in the past few years in working online is a lack of vision. Or I'd have a micro-vision, like a product I wanted to produce and for various reasons was not able to follow through on my ideas. Both circumstances were discouraging.

In 2013 I decided to invest my efforts into Damien's vision, together we embarked on the most ambitious work/life project I may ever do - thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail and documenting it with a video series. That project required everything I had, and more.

I made the best decision I knew to make at the time; our family couldn't have done the trail without giving it everything we had. The problem, as I explained in a previous post, is that I wasn't walking as an equal partner in Damien's vision because I was deeply insecure and I was overwhelmed by the complexity, and all the unknowns (the ocean waves, to return to the ship metaphor). As I had come to do in our life in general, I relied more and more on Damien's leading. And not just his leading, but that he, personally, would make sure everything was alright. In my insecurity, not remembering the true source of my identity, I relied way too much on my relationship with Damien for my sense of identity and purpose, in life and in my work.

In the absence of my own strong vision for my work, in an absence of understanding and being at peace with my calling and vocation, and true self, I came to over-depend on Damien's vision, his perspective, and his skills.

I remember thinking specifically that Damien would be my secret sauce in this world of online work.

Average Sixes are frequently worried about the future. Because they have serious doubts about themselves and the world, they start to look for a "sure thing" that will guarantee their security - anything from a marriage to a job to a belief system to a network of friends to a self-help book.... Simply put, Sixes are seeking assurance and insurance, trying to hedge their bets. They feel that life is fraught with dangers and uncertainties so it must be approached with caution and limited expectations. Sixes have personal wishes and dreams, of course, by they are afraid to take actions that might undermine their security. They become more concerned with establishing and maintaining their safety nets than with pursuing their true goals and aspirations. ... With other people or with tradition behind them, they feel they have the backup they need to move ahead.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

There was a mental shift for me from a healthy dependence on "us" and the strength we get by mutually supporting each other to a dependence on Damien and his gifts, abilities, vision, and experience.

Following is not the problem. Leading is not the problem. It's not these actions that trip us up so much as the attitudes and motivations of our hearts.

The biggest problems for sixes is that they try to build safety in the environment without resolving their own emotional insecurities.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

This was not Damien's desire for our working relationship, that my support and buy-in would be driven by insecurity, that I would always be looking outside myself, and to him, for guidance, confidence, vision, firm ground, and an overall sense that everything would be ok. All of which only served to increase my insecurity and opened the floodgates to anxiety. And so it's no wonder that working together wasn't working for us.

The winter of 2015, we returned to our original division of labor, and I drew inward. I brought my world in as tight as I could. I didn't want to dream. I didn't want to look for vision. It was a time to rest from dreaming and scheming. It was a time to heal and find my center. I didn't want to figure out a post-homeschool career or a while-homeschooling-career. I didn't want to figure out what it looked like for me to work online.

I had a job, a calling, a mission right in front of me. A vocation I chose many years ago, to take care of our home and raise our children. Work that was satisfying, meaningful and fulfilling to me. And I had writing. This was enough. More than enough.

But it's lovely when you find someone at work who's doing exactly what they dreamed they should be doing and whose work is an expression of their inner gift. And in witnessing to that gift and bringing it out they actually provide an incredible service to us all. And I think you see that the gifts that are given to us as individuals are not for us alone, or for our own self-improvement, but they are actually for the community and to be offered.
~ John O'Donohue

I set my intention on home and healing (I called it Project Home & Healing) and I created a structure for that project, a way of framing the things I needed in my life at that time.

And I found healing, in making home and living in Montreal. I found healing in Christian community and friendship. I found healing in going to church. I found healing in Personal Retreat Days and morning mediation, CBT, and supplements. I found healing in reading good books and listening to thoughtful podcasts. I found healing in friendship with Damien. I found healing in being with my people. I found healing in Jesus.

When their minds become quiet, Sixes experience an inner spaciousness that is the Ground of Being. They realize that Essence is real and is not simply an idea; in fact, it is the thing that is most real in existence, the very foundation of existence itself. People have associated this inner peace with the presence of God, which is manifesting itself at every moment, and which is available at every moment. When (Renee) experiences this truth, (she) feels solid, steady, and supported, as if (she) were standing on a massive bed of granite. She realizes that this ground is the only real security in life, and it is what gives her immense courage.
~ Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

So much healing happened (Hallelujah!) in 2015 and through this year also. But one of the four parts of Project Home & Healing was to Craft a Vision, and that piece has remained elusive for me.

Last year I didn't even bother thinking about it because I wanted to build this vision from a solid foundation, but first of all I had to work on that foundation. I knew it had to be a vision for me, not for Us, but of course it had to fit into Us. And I wanted it to be a vocation-related vision.

This year I felt it was time to step back into online work to see if I could figure that out. I didn't have a clear vision but maybe vision is overrated, and it was more important to just "do stuff", or maybe I would find one through bumbling around. Hey, anything's possible, right?

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