The Struggle is Part of my Story

Life is a rollercoaster, and you never know what’s around the next corner.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this trip would test my strength and mark a life-changing event on my timeline.

Gregory Paolini Design LLC // canton, NC

On the road again, this time, spending a week in a professional woodworking workshop, I learned sawdust, sounds of loud, powerful machinery, and testosterone were never in short supply.  With only one female professional woodworker in the shop, her and I offered the only estrogen.

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I’m sure my Dad’s plan was to live vicariously through me when he urged me to take this course; I recall fond memories, growing up with him repairing and creating gadgets in the garage/workshop, now referred to as "man cave", haha.  Who knew all these years later I would be here; It was a little out of my element, but I was up for the challenge and thought this class would be a great way to get some real hands-on training and techniques, ones I would surely be putting to good use in designing and fabricating my own Tiny House.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

This trip was as much about learning with Gregory Paolini and four other students (men in their 50’s), as it was another opportunity to continue healing the broken relationship with my mom. I drove down early to get settled, which to be honest, had me more anxious than the class. Staying with her for a week would be a true test.

For a little background, my parent’s divorced when I was in college, a time I felt a huge disconnect from my family being away at school.  I didn’t realize it back then, but being in my bubble at York College of Pennsylvania shielded me from many of tough days I’m sure. I can only imagine what my brother had to deal with in my absence, and I certainly regret not keeping in better touch during those tough times.

That’s not to say I wasn’t deeply affected by the experience, because I most certainly was.  It’s funny, I can so vividly recall me telling my mother, I believe I was about 18, that she and my Dad could never get a divorce, because I knew what it did to a family, and I would do anything I could to avoid that from coming into our life. But it did, and it changed everything, just as I had expected it to.  I’m thankful to have had my college professor and mentor, JoAnne, who stood by me through those tough times. Her support and influence was, and continues to be a pivotal part of my life, and I’m forever grateful.

I’ve always had a stable relationship with my Dad, but when my mom accused me of taking my Dad’s side during the divorce, everything changed for the worse. My mom began favoring my brother and making life at home nothing short of miserable. I believe her “fight or flight” mode kicked in… and well, I took it as she decided to fight until she took flight.

Both my parent’s had a part in the crumbling of their relationship, so I’m not making my mom out to be the bad seed. I understand and have sympathy for her and what she went through. My discontent was in her approach and ultimate actions towards me that I thought were never supposed to happen between family, certainly not a mother and daughter.  But things got bad, and words were spoken, actions taken, feelings hurt, with no communication or closure to be found.

The struggle is part of my story

It’s been a struggle to say the least to accept, forgive, and move forward to brighter days since then.  Me making the decision to spend the week with her, driving the hour to and from her house to class every day, was me being the bigger person, in hopes of burying the past to make room for more fruitful growth.

The weekend we spent together before Monday’s class was nice, and I was excited to share and create a memorable week together. We planned out meals, and activities including checking out a local Habitat for Humanity store for possible items for my future tiny house. I had plans to help her with some crafting projects she wanted my input on, everything seemed to be on track.

Sadly, by Wednesday, I found a simple event had flipped a switch in my mom’s head, and I felt estranged in her home through her silent treatment.  She left me no choice but to leave and make another way for the remainder of my trip, and she had no plans to stop me. After leaving a final note on the counter, apologizing for anything I did that made her feel that she needed to act the way she did towards me, and not be able to communicate and move forward, I left my name and told her I would pray for her.

"In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength"
- Iroh (Avatar)

Suitcase packed, feeling defeated, I stood by the door and took a moment to myself, looking back at my mom’s home, taking what could be a last look at memorabilia she had from our life and childhood, pieces we had talked about incorporating into my tiny house.  Taking in where we came from, how we have come to this, understanding it was all about to be the past.  I took a final look in my rearview as I drove out of her complex, and didn’t look back.  I only carried with me the hope of a happier life for her, even if I wasn’t going to be a part of it.  

It was only after two hours into my woodworking class I received an email from my mother, about three pages worth of feelings and emotions she was holding during her silence, and beyond, that she felt she needed to tell me. I’ll spare you the details, but it was a nail in the coffin of any hopes of having a fulfilling, happy, healthy future relationship.

My dad helped me find a place for the rest of my stay. I won't soon forget how defining that first night alone was in my hotel room. Alone, feeling unloved, struggling between wanting to understand what went wrong and accepting that certain things are out of my control, I leaned on family and friends who know me best, needing to be lifted and set straight on who I was.  Someone I thought I knew pretty well, but questioned during that time, after hearing so many negative words from the person that raised me, who instinctively knows me better than anyone else, I knew there was a lining of truth in her words, however thin.

"I'm thankful for my struggle because without it I wouldn't have stumbled across my strength" - Alex Elle

As hard as it is to talk about, I felt the need to let everyone know who reads this, that life is what you make it. Like all obstacles, you have to move through them to get past them.  I did just that.  Affirming myself of my worth, I focused my mind on the people and teachings around me, and made the middle of Asheville my new home, a truly beautiful place to be. I learned a lot about myself during that week. There is no such thing as perfect. I am imperfect, constantly growing. I yearn to understand. I feel things deeply. I have good intentions. I hold resentment. I am resilient. I am in control of my thoughts and feelings.  A friend recently told me expectations are premeditated resentments, and I'm finding that to be a daily struggle I need to be conscious of.  

Getting myself back on track

Shifting focus back on my class, I wanted to share some pictures, in no particular order, to give you a feel of what the experience was like. Despite the trials and tribulations outside of the class, I took away some very valuable lessons from the mentors that surrounded me. Simply, there is no such thing as perfect.