How I Survived a Major Life Event

greg-nor-cal-164A personal note: This post is not about marketing, at least not directly. It’s a personal account of a very significant event in my life. If you came over from my B2B Inbound Blog, thank you. In reality, this post is about a journey I took and am still on. Interesting how personal and work journeys get intertwined. It’s as honest as I’ve ever been with my readers. And it’s a bit therapeutic for me to get this story out – in order to move on from here. Thanks again for listening…

I knew ahead of time that making a major move would be a huge challenge. I also had a major writing project in the works and other client projects that needed to be kept on schedule. Plus, as a sole-proprietor of my business, I had many operational and marketing details that needed ongoing attention. How was I going to keep it all together? Would I have the energy to survive it?

benicia-house-backMy wife, Trisha and I, sensing the time was right, sold our house (with the lemon and peach trees, and gorgeous backyard views) of nearly 10 years in Benicia, California (25 miles outside of San Francisco) with plans to move back to our home state of Minnesota. “You’re going to do what?” people asked, incredulous that we’d even think of leaving the comfy climate of Northern California for the frozen tundra! But, as we learned over the years, despite the near pitch-perfect climate, there truly is no place like home.

Though brutalized by one of the worst Minnesota winters on record, our hearts yearned to be at home with our kids, grand kids, friends and family. So we sold what we could on Craig’s List, held a moving sale, packed the rest up in 6 U-Haul U-boxes, jumped in our 30′ motorhome, and along with our two English Springer Spaniels, Hunter and Joey (named after ball players Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer), we headed for the land of 10,000 frozen lakes. Slowly.

Here are the lessons I learned, some before, some during and some after making this major move. I hope they may resonate with you and help you keep it all together next time you’re up for making a major change. (I also hope they may explain why I’ve been somewhat silent over the past couple of months.)

Believe in it (and fight through the doubt)

The idea to make a major change in your life may start as a notion, but it must be fully believed in to sustain it and keep you going when the testing comes. We felt strongly this was our path and held firmly onto that through faith in God.

Some things fell into place for us (like selling our house without a Realtor) while others became a real struggle (finding the best and most cost-effective way to ship our moving-salehousehold items, getting a case of gout just as we began moving stuff out to the shipping containers – ouch!), but we kept moving forward because we continually believed in what we were doing.

It’s been my habit to begin each day over the past year-and-a-half with Bible reading and prayer. It helps tremendously to know the Lord is always with you. As David says, “I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. (Psalm 16:8)

One story that was especially encouraging (and instructive) was the account of Jacob wrestling with God while embarking on a major journey of his own with family and all their possessions to the promised land. The words “Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper” (Genesis 32:9) crept into my heart. I believed them, and in what we were about to do.

Prepare (then adjust)

I wanted to take the entire month of April off work as we’d be traveling and getting settled in our new Minneapolis home. That wasn’t possible. Instead, I planned out all of the work that would need to get done on a weekly and time-sensitive basis. I was able to do some things in advance while contracting with others to produce what was needed.

colorado-river-650

Advanced preparation for scheduled work allowed me to enjoy the road trip and unwind at the end of the day without having to constantly try and catch up on work. However, the major writing project I was on was a different animal. At one point I lacked critical information needed to produce copy and keep things on track.

Because we didn’t plan a firm arrival date, I was able to adjust our travel schedule. Once the needed information became available I was able to spend two nights at the next RV park instead of one so I could spend a whole day writing. We did this on a couple of occasions and it not only allowed me to get work done, it afforded us the opportunity to kick back, relax and enjoy some incredible parts of the country such as Needles, California and Moab, Utah.

needles-rv-lagoonThe other sort of unexpected thing that came up and caused us to adjust our travel was when Hunter, our 8 year-old springer got sick. He was loose one morning and jumped into the lagoon just off the Colorado River in Needles, CA to chase after some ducks. Turns out he swallowed some water (and parasites along with it) which made him cough up vile and poop blood – over and over again. Not good.

We didn’t know what had happened or what to do for him. But thanks to the wonderful techs and veterinarian at the clinic in Golden, Colorado for quickly diagnosing the problem and fixing him up with the meds that took care of the problem. Wasn’t expecting that. But glad we took the extra time and made the decision to alter our travels to get him taken care of.

So, while you do your best to plan and prepare, be sure to allow yourself some time to make necessary adjustments. Looking back, it was some of the best, unplanned time we had on the long journey home. And it certainly made Hunter a happier doggie.

Let it Go (and get over it)

If you’re making a major life change you’re going to put a ton of emotion, effort and energy into it. I had no idea how much until we nearly came apart the first night out. eos-winery-275Fortunately, we had planned to spend two nights at our first stop away from the home we’d just move from. That was a good decision, because we were in no shape to travel on the second day out.

It was one of those stupid, insensitive things guys sometimes say to their wives that triggered it. Physically spent with our emotions raw we said unkind things, slammed doors and scared the heck out of the dogs! I don’t even remember what it was I said. But the way things were looking that first night, I was getting divorced soon as we got to Minnesota.

Then I made Trisha a grilled cheese sandwich and we cried in each others arms most that night. We were spent. And we just let it go.

We loved our California house, but it was behind us now. We had to let it go and get over it to be able to move forward.

The next day we awoke a bit groggy but refreshed all at the same time. We toured the EOS winery which was conveniently adjacent to the RV park we stayed at in Paso Robles.

Take it Easy (on yourself and others)

We hit the road in our RV on April 1, without knowing exactly when we’d arrive in Minnesota. Winter there was like a stubborn, unwelcome guest we didn’t want to deal with. So we took it easy driving on average only 300 miles a day and staying one to three days at a time in the campgrounds along the way.

This worked out great for the most part. We were fortunate, we got to sort of play it by ear. Taking it easy allowed us to be in the moment, to physically rest up and mentally trisha-hunter-gcprepare for the Minnesota adventure ahead.

Normally, I’m the kind of person who makes a plan and is rigid about following it. And, when things don’t happen according to plan I get all stressed out. (Just ask Trisha!) But in this regard, with some spiritual guidance, I was able to relax and focus on someone else.

One of the stories I read about in my daily Bible readings was about the Israelite men being counted and organized for battle in the promised land. Everyone, with few exceptions, were required to join the fight. One group excused from taking on the Canaanites were the newly married. God wanted them to spend time making their wives happy in creating a new life and home together.

While I wasn’t newly married at the time, God spoke to me about focusing on my wife’s needs and what she was going through. To spend time attending to her and not be so driven to stick to my own plan. I was far from perfect on this, but I learned a lot about taking it a bit easier while focusing on meeting the needs of my wife and trying to make her happy.

Making these big changes is tough on everyone, especially those you’re closest to. Be aware of this and go easy. Don’t be in such a hurry. But relax, enjoy and savor each moment. You won’t pass that way again.

Simplify (and be kind to yourself)

Once we got into “moving mode” I knew things had to change. I would not be able to keep up the pace of client work and marketing activities. So I took several measures to simplify my routines by eliminating certain activities.

photo-trish drive rvFirst, I notified my clients of my moving and travel plans and reduced availability over the upcoming 30 days. Setting proper expectations and working ahead did wonders for everyone’s peace of mind.

Secondly, I intentionally planned to drop some things from my regular schedule. My podcast, an interview-based show was one such example. I had a couple shows in the can and released them along the way, but wasn’t able to add fresh shows due to the travel and limited technology on the road. I was okay with that and went through a period of giving myself permission to shelve the podcast until I was settled again in the new office.

It’s taken longer than I hoped to get the show back up and running again. I’m still in the process of setting up the new office, which at this point just doesn’t have room for the podcast studio. I could feel guilty or sad that I’m letting my listeners down. But I just didn’t have the mental or physical capacity to keep it going and I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

Plus, it was far more important for me to take care of getting to Minnesota, and  the business of settling in (and being there for my wife) than it was to expend energy trying to keep the podcast (and some other things like my blog, social media, etc.) going. Speaking of energy, mine was in serious short supply by the end of the move, which leads me to my final lesson or discovery about surviving a major life event.

Get Rest (and exercise)

We had some moving help from an outfit that called themselves professional movers. But when they showed up with the first of our six U-Boxes being towed behind their beat up RV, I was like, “Are you kidding me?”

What moving company shows up pulling your stuff in a RV?movers

The driver, who was the most able-bodied of the 3-person crew, spent most of his time delivering the boxes (one-at-a-time) before his helpers could unload and deliver our stuff into the house. One of whom was a smoker and eater who had to rest/eat/smoke every 10 minutes, while the other, the driver’s wife, constantly complained of injuries (knee, back, shoulder).

I won’t go into all the exasperating details, or the time I caught the crippled one sticking her tongue out at me after I asked her (nicely) not to throw things on the ground! Let’s just say it wore me out.

In addition to our furniture and such, we had over 110 small, medium and large sized boxes. Yours truly carried a fair number of them up the driveway, up the stairs and into the house. I was working while helper #2 was eating (4 times) or smoking, and helper #3 was dumping stuff on the ground, licking her lips with her tongue or sitting in the RV with their dog.

parkwayAfter moving everything in those U-Boxes, mostly ourselves on the California end, we just weren’t expecting to do the same in Minnesota – especially when we supposedly had the “moving help” to do it. Heck, we could have had our 5 sons/son’s-in-laws help had we known what we were in for.

It’s been 2 months as I write this and I’m still recovering. And the only way I’ve been able to deal with the banged up, tingling hands, aching muscles and metal fatigue is by resting – a lot. I’m down to about one nap a day now and have started walking and running again.

We joined the YMCA and I’ve been going 3 times a week, around mid-morning. Some days I will go for a run with Hunter and Joey along Minnehaha Parkway or to Lake Harriet and back. I do this during “work time” because I have to. I need to. I don’t think I would survive without the rest and exercise.

At some point you’re going to get (or feel) buried when going through a major life event. Anticipate this and plan for plenty of rest and moderate exercise to get you back on your feet again.

Are we there yet?

waseca-rv-parkSo far I’ve been to grand kids’ baseball games, birthday parties, band concerts and had a Father’s Day celebration for the first time in 10 years. Oh, and we’ve been to a couple RV parks here in Minnesota, too.

Most everything is different, yet familiar all at the same time. We are often asked, “how are you doing, are you adjusting, how is this, that and the other thing working out…are new-houseyou glad you moved back?” Sometimes I’m not really sure how to answer. It’s complicated…we’re adjusting…surviving a bit more each day.

We’re here, where we believe we are to be, but it’s not like we’ve reached our destination. It’s still a journey and everyday is full of new highs and lows.

On Veteran’s Day we visited the graves of both our fathers. As we walked among the gravestones we saw “Jeremiah 29:11″ inscribed on one of them. Trisha asked if I knew that verse. I said it sounds familiar but couldn’t quote it. Later I looked it up, and smiled as I shared it with her:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that promise to my next major life event – and everyday in between.