Today (Christmas, 2013) our family of seven shared a Christmas meal around a small table in a rented vacation home. I am grateful to be with all of our adult children before heading out to Australia (our first stop in 2014) and to be wearing shorts on Christmas day.
Still, I feel a bit unsettled — and although none of our children mentioned it today, I’m sure I’m not alone in that feeling. It seems like just yesterday that we were gathered around the family table in our Virginia home celebrating Christmas 2012. The tree twinkled, the fire crackled and the house smelled of pine needles and Christmas cookies. I wrapped endless presents, my husband (the chef) cranked out endless meals, and our crazy brood battled over endless games of Trivial Pursuit.
We didn’t know then that it would be our last Christmas in that house (the house I swore I would never leave). We would have laughed if you had told us that by Christmas 2013, strangers would be sitting around our family table — and, in fact, enjoying much of the rest of our furniture (all sold in an estate sale). We were blissfully unaware that 2013 would come roaring in and kick some butt.
So, how did it all happen? How did we go from a 7500 square foot house to one suitcase each plus a bike and a set of golf clubs?
It all started on a freezing-ass cold, February morning. I was sitting in our kitchen with my husband, drinking coffee and staring out the window as a steady, icy rain fell. Cold weather always makes me cranky, but on this particular morning I was also plagued by a growing sense of foreboding about my company.
I’ve had my own business for many years and was pretty successful with it for a long time. But, in 2010, I made a serious misstep with a flagship software product. I failed to get outside funding for the product and now, in 2013, our closest competitor was flush with cash after two rounds of investment. We simply couldn’t keep pace. The stress of it all was keeping me up at night — and perhaps more importantly, causing me to question my entire professional life. I’m not ready to retire (and really can’t afford to given my tastes and lifestyle), but at the same time, I began to realize that I no longer had the level of desire necessary to make my product succeed, or even to continue with my business. The naked truth was that I loathed my working life, which consisted of long hours behind a desk doing work that had stopped being fun (or even mildly interesting) many years ago.
As we stared out into the rain that February morning, we suddenly began to have a conversation that thousands of couples have probably had in the middle of a nasty winter punctuated by troubles at work.
And so it went. We continued to fantasize about our escape while winter droned on relentlessly and I kept beating my head against the wall at work.