“I want to move while I still have a sound mind,” Mom said. She was in her sixties, and she and Dad knew they wouldn’t be able to stay on their country property forever. “I want to be able to decide where we live and what we’ll take with us and what we’ll get rid of when it’s time.”
My parents had lived in the same homestead they’d raised us in. As adults, now with our own lives, spouses, children, my five younger siblings and I would return to that familiar place we once called home and celebrate together. Christmas. Easter. Thanksgiving Day. We sat with our own children around that same table from our childhoods – the one we did homework on and had breakfast at before heading off to school. We sang in four-part harmony, with some playing guitars, just as we did when I was a child. There’s something special about connecting our pasts with theirs, overlapping memories like that.
But my parents knew it couldn’t last forever and began to prepare for their inevitable move. They took it slow. Over months and years, they took time going through their belongings and preparing for the estate auction sale they’d eventually have.
Finally the day came. It felt strange to watch their possessions be sold piece by piece like that. The old familiar coffee table we’d laughed around, the familiar serving dishes we’d all eaten from together. The paintings I’d thoughtfully stared at as a child. It felt weird, but it was also good for us to be there – I think it gave us a sense of closure and helped Mom, Dad, and the children and even grandchildren with the process of letting go.
That was ten years ago. They bought a condominium in town and have embraced the new chapter of their lives, diving right into the community life of living in town and in a building with others. I love seeing them take hold of it. I love having them near enough that I run into them in a local restaurant or see them go for a walk when I’m driving in town.
We feel the change the most when we try to get together.
We won’t all fit in a condo suite, after all.
It felt like a jarring difference at first to have to rent a facility for gatherings or meet in someone else’s home. But it quickly became the new normal. At Christmas my parents always rent a place for us to get together. They make sure we have a lot of space so that we are able to do some sort of activity together. Usually there’s a place to play sports. They make sure there’s enough room for everyone to eat in one room. Most of all there has to be a place where we can pull out the guitar and sing our hearts out. As soon as we gather around the table to eat or around the guitar to sing songs in that familiar four-part harmony, we once again feel at home together.
Home, we discovered, was never a place; it was the happy experience of being together.
I sat alone in a room with the clock. Just me and the clock. For hours each day. Its loud ticking reminded me of every mind-numbing second that slipped by as I recovered from hip surgery.
If you’ve never had hip surgery, recovery basically involves one simple instruction: whatever you do, DON’T BEND! A 90 degree bend – even to just sit on a chair – could pop that thing out of its socket and next you’d be blinded and howling by the searing pain. Or so I imagined. I didn’t want to find out, so I didn’t bend.
(Think for a moment of how many times you bend in a day, by the way. To sit on the couch. Use the toilet. Get in a vehicle. Even eat a bowl of soup. Even with some handy-dandy tricks and tools at my disposal, it was a challenge, folks!)
So I lived in our living room, laid back in our recliner or on the hospital bed we had brought in special for me. Once I got over the weird feeling of living in the main room, it was actually pleasant to be surrounded by our walls of windows and enjoy our gorgeous country view anytime.
There was a problem though.
I had to be still and quiet and alone for most of every day for weeks.
Sitting by myself unable to work nearly drove me plumb insane that first month. I wished more people would visit. I desperately wanted to climb into the car and grab a coffee with someone. Or show someone a house. Or do… something. With anyone. The walls seemed like they were closing in on me some days and I felt like life was passing me by. It was difficult. Uncomfortable. I started to hate the sound of that clock announcing every second I was missing out on.
After a couple of weeks though, something weird happened.
I began to enjoy the quiet. Solitude grew on me. The joy I discovered in that peace and calm was beautiful, but it also frightened me. Was this the new me? I was turning into a hermit, and I liked it. Would I even be able to enjoy the bustle of my work and the busy social calendar once I returned to work? When I would think about work, I could somehow only remember the long hours and stress I would return to. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go back.
Over a few months, I returned to work. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my love of my work and people remained intact. In fact, I think the whole hip surgery and recovery deepened my enjoyment of work and my appreciation of people.
The blessing of hip surgery for me was the gift of time to rest and refresh – something I didn’t realize I needed so badly and didn’t know how to do. Recovery forced me to stop and smell the daisies.
The blessing of surgery also was to remind me what I love about my work – the people.
When a person is in a great deal of constant pain, it’s difficult to remain positive. Heck, it’s difficult to even SEE the positive. Now that the pain is gone (thank you, Lord!), I have eyes to see the good stuff again – and that good stuff is always the people I get to work with.
There’s something deeply moving and intimate about helping that young married couple find a home. She’ll have a tummy round with expectation, and their eyes will also be wide with expectation as they search for the home they will grow their family in. Create memories in. Make love in. It will be their own little nest, and I adore being welcomed into that very personal experience. It feeds my soul.
They say we don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone. I would agree. My hip replacement journey helped me appreciate my health, my career, and the people I get to serve every day. Thankfully, it wasn’t gone for too long, and I get to return to the health and work and people I love.
Name a time you’ve been pushed out of your comfort zone. Did it help grow your appreciation?
I especially love the way weeds pull right out sometimes, root and all.
Recently, when I was down on my hands and knees digging in the dirt, my little dog joined me. At first, she supervised nearby for a few minutes, possibly to see what treasure I would unearth. As I continued pressing my hands and tools into the soil, pulling out weeds, and humming, she decided to dive in right next to me.
She claimed a patch of weeds right beside me and set her paws to furiously digging. Dirt and leaves flew everywhere, even onto me. I paused my weeding to watch (while guarding my eyes from flinging flecks of dirt). She worked and worked, finally digging a little pit for herself. Then she stood in the middle of it and plunked herself down, nestling as deeply as she could into the cool earth.
I smiled, petted her, and returned to pulling weeds.
In the quiet, I thought about how she and I were both digging in the garden but for different reasons. I want the flowers to be visible and not crowded out by weeds, and she wants a cool place to sit.
We all have different motivations for doing what we do.
Many people can do the same thing, but for different reasons.
I’m a real estate agent, but my why might surprise you.
A controlling parent, a cheating colleague, lying clients, or a bullying boss.
When you’re in it, especially if stress and difficulty come from multiple sides, it can feel like the most miserable isolation. But the truth is that none of us is alone. We all struggle.
So what do you do when the pressure becomes relentless and you start to feel like you’re drowning in negativity?
You don’t drown in water by being in it. You drown in water by staying in it.
-Edwin Louis Cole
Many years ago, I was in just such a place – drenched in deep, extreme negativity. The enormous personal stress resulted in my losing 50lbs in a month. I couldn’t eat – my body wouldn’t allow it. My insides felt shaky – like I’d swallowed a phone stuck on vibrate. And all I could think about was the very difficult circumstance that was turning my heart inside out.
Then something happened that changed my life.
A friend noticed and did something. She saw what a mess I was and how it was damaging my body.
“You need to go to a doctor!” she said.
I insisted that I didn’t – that I could handle it. She insisted more though, and made me go. She drove me to the doctor’s office. She sat with me in the room. She forced me to get help.
And it rescued me.
Most of the stress and difficulty we face in our work and relationships isn’t that extreme. But it’s critical to recognize when we’re maxed out on stress and negativity, and to take action before we make things worse – for others and for ourselves.
We can’t wait for a masked hero to arrive though. Most of the time we have to be our own friend, noticing that we are a mess and that something has to give.
Give Yourself Permission
I don’t know why we find it so hard to give ourselves permission to be wounded; to feel hurt. I’ve got news for you: humans hurt, hearts break, and we’re not robots who can flick a switch to make it all stop.
Healing can only happen when we realize we need it.
Needing help does not mean you’re weak. In fact, it’s what’s going to strengthen you. Admitting your wounds is itself an act of strength and the next step to progress – no guilt required. Give yourself permission to need help.
There is a time to take a break. When you’re slammed from all different sides, it’s tough to pull out a smile. We have to recognize when our bodies, emotions, thoughts need a break.
When we are in a bad mental state, we’re probably not the most effective in our work and relationships anyway. We need to invest in our own well being with the gift of a rest.
Let It Look Different
Know that your rest and recharge time doesn’t have to look like sunbathing on a beach in Cancun.
It doesn’t have to be two weeks long. Do and be what refreshes you.
For some, it’s going to be retreating to a cabin with a stack of romance novels. Or others it looks like camping out in a recliner for a few days, refusing to cook or clean, so their body can heal.
Recently, I took a break to recharge, and spent that time attending classes, learning online, brainstorming my brand positioning, and product development. That – especially the brand positioning and marketing – is what revives my motivation. It refreshes my confidence in my abilities to excel, and fires me up to work with renewed gusto.
What refreshes you will be different than what works for others and that’s okay.
I’m curious – how to you recharge when facing obstacles?
The sun was shining, ground moist from recent rain, and I was ready to clear out tall weeds to reveal beautiful, black soil.
Down on my knees, as I pulled weed after weed, I saw a particularly large dandelion. Wanting to pull it out by the root to remove it completely, I grabbed my handy root-digger-upper tool and had at it.
Just when I thought I had it, I heard and felt the root snap off.
The dandelion plant and some of the root came up. I looked into the hole. There it was, deep inside, a portion of the root that would stay.
I continued pulling weeds out by the root and when I was finished, the soil looked black and beautiful.
But I knew that, underneath that beautiful, pristine surface, were roots that would sprout weeds again – especially that one, big dandelion root. I didn’t remove it, I didn’t kill it, the weed is still there.
And it got me thinking about us, about me, and how we can have a certain appearance of goodness or having it together, but still have issues. And if we don’t take care of those deep down inside issues by finding and removing the root, they will keep cropping up.
I tossed weed greens aside and continued pulling others as I wondered about one of my own issues. In recent months, I’ve been prone to feel angry inside. I don’t act on it, let me be super clear on that – I don’t retaliate when I feel wronged, I don’t jump to verbally defend myself, and don’t become offensive or defensive in my speech or actions.
I want to be clear because this is my blog as a professional, but I’m also a human who experiences emotions. And I want to share that with you. I want to be real with you.
As I pulled weed after weed, root after root, I wondered what could be at the root of my anger. Was it a healthy response to injustices? An indicator that I need to find a way to de-stress? A response to physical pain? I wasn’t sure. So I became prayerful about it, driven to search my motives. I want to grow, not just in my skills as a professional, but also in my faith and character as a woman.
Here’s what I know about weeds. They’ll always be there. Remove one, and another will crop up.
But if the weeds in our personal lives leave us in search of understanding of ourselves and others, they’ve benefited us.
When we discover hidden roots in our lives, ignoring them only makes them come back stronger. When we do the work of exploring and unearthing them though, we’ll grow stronger in faith and character. Our garden won’t just have the appearance of being weed-free, but it will, more and more, truly BE weed-free.
While we’re talking about faith and gardening, I’d like to let you in on something my friend Kim is doing.
In the meantime… what is one insight you’ve discovered in your garden this year?
After all, if others knew us, or even caught a glimpse of who we really are, they’d drop us like third period French. So we wear masks. We smile and pretend and post only the happiest, most winning comments and Facebook updates. And we most definitely avoid anything slightly controversial or off color.
The problem is not just the isolation it causes or how fake we feel. The biggest problem with our mask-wearing is that it keeps us from being ourselves, or even exploring who we are.
Years back, I used to berate myself a lot for the way I looked. I was embarrassed by my weight and size, and wished every day to look different. Younger and thinner like I used to. I didn’t like how my body had changed. It was difficult to look myself in the mirror everyday and dislike what I saw. And I didn’t really talk about it, either, because I was sure others thought about me like I did. I was afraid they’d say the hurtful things I said to myself. So I put on a smile and went about pretending I was okay. It was isolating, which only deepened my pain.
Leigh Brown is one of those people. She happens to be a Remax Broker and salesperson in North Carolina, and I had the chance to hear her speak a few times at the National Association of Realtors Conference. From the first time I heard her, I knew I was about to be blown away.
She is like no one I’ve ever met. Her personality is big and strong, and she lets it show. She doesn’t wear the stuffy masks like most of us do. She doesn’t filter her words through a bland sieve of diplomacy. As an example, one of her YouTube videos is called, “Sh*# Leigh Says”.
Her boldness and energy reminds me a lot of one of my favorite Bible teachers, Beth Moore. Both of these women are who they are, and they like it that way.
It’s women like these who inspired and motivated me to work through removing my masks and let my colorful personality show too. Now, as a (more) confident woman who’s (more) comfortable in my own skin, I (am still learning to) love who I am.
Accepting and loving ourselves as we are AND as we would be is important, but something even more wonderful happens when we can do that.
The time and energy previously spent on hiding, second-guessing, and maneuvering around our insecurities suddenly becomes available for other uses. Suddenly we can empower and encourage others, adding value to their lives.
And here I learn a critical, hidden cost I didn’t realize before. By wearing masks and avoiding rejection, we don’t just miss out on being the awesome people we already are – others actually miss out too! When we put down the masks and forget the fear, we can take all the good stuff we do have to offer and offer it.
So get out there and be awesome.
Like you already are.
If you are an agent reading this, you may want to listen to this video of Leigh Brown on personal branding called The Art of Being You. Be inspired to be yourself.
Vans and semis zoomed past me on the highway shoulder.
I sighed and dialed my client. “I’m sorry – I’m going to be quite late for the showing. I’m stranded with a flat tire.”
We can’t choose what happens to us. We do get to choose how we’ll respond though.
I could choose to be angry about the guy who fixed my tire last, or whoever left nails on the highway.
I wondered how my client would respond. He’d really wanted to see that house today.
“Where are you?” he asked. When I told him, he said he’d drive out and fix my tire.
I couldn’t believe it. Within a half hour, he arrived, fixed the tire, and off we went to the showing. My hero.
It was an additional bonus for me that he wrote an offer on that house and it was accepted.
The funny thing was that it wasn’t the only time I was rescued by the kindness of a client or stranger.
There was the frozen winter day when I had just finished listing my client’s country property and was about to leave. But my tire was flat. I was stuck. Again. Before I could even call someone about it, the man of the house noticed, and just took care of it. The wind was biting, and snow felt like ice pellets, but he rescued me anyway. I was so grateful.
Another time, I went to show a brand-new house in a new neighborhood in Oakbank. It was my listing and the person who asked to see it was a complete stranger to me. Just before arriving, I got my car lodged in a snowbank by the road right in front of the house.
We could have done the showing while waiting for a tow truck. Instead, this complete stranger started pushing my vehicle. Immediately one of the neighbors showed up too. It didn’t take long for them to free my vehicle from the snowbank. Their kindness blew me away.
Stuff happens. Sometimes a lot of stuff and all at once.
It can wear us down, making us bitter or jaded.
Life’s hard, and bitterness is contagious.
Down in Orlando for a super-awesome conference these last few days, I was having a blast.
I’ve been eager to check out this day of sessions about Team Collaboration and Tech Tools – I mean, did someone read my mind?? Team??Tech tools?? I L-O-V-E learning about both of those, and here they were, all in one dream day of sessions!
The eight-hour shift we spent in class flew by. I could have done another week of those!
(Especially when lunch breaks took place on a balcony overlooking a crystal-clear pool.)
The second day though, I skipped class. I did. I admit it. The session focused on a lot of accounting details – something I have an accountant on my team to handle. It sure reminded me of my earlier days though, when I ran this business as a one-woman show. Accounting, photography, writing, marketing, and every complicated piece of this business rested on my shoulders. It was exhausting.
Once I began adding people to my team though, (a photographer and Eniko, among others) I was free to focus on the aspects I was most skilled at – like marketing, and my favorite, helping people. That, my friend, is an energizing freedom I highly recommend.
So yeah, I totally skipped that session, extra thankful for my awesome team.
The next day, day three of the conference, we all made sure our Universal Studio passes were in hand. We prepared for an evening of strolling through the theme park and taking in the wonders…
Then the news came. My grandmother had passed away. I couldn’t believe it.
This is the woman who we’d watch Walt Disney with on Sundays, and whose house I’d stay at over summer holidays. I used to do Grandma’s hair. We had deep talks. Later in years, living at Fernwood place, I used to massage her feet and shoulders for her. I loved to pamper her that way.
I had just been getting used to seeing her on a regular basis when she moved away.
She’d been back for a few years now, and I wondered why I didn’t stop by to visit more often. I wrestled with guilt and shame. I resolved to spend more time with her. But how could I? Between family, health, and the harried, demanding pace of my career, it was difficult.
I did make time though. Somehow, I managed to squeeze in some time. Now I’m extra glad I did. Because now she’s gone. I won’t see her again until heaven.
So that night, I tucked my Universal Studios pass back in my suitcase, and stayed in. I needed to think. And pray. And cry. And remember…
Which made me realize a few things.
First, it occurred to me how vital it is to refuse to stuff down our feelings and to instead just feel them. There’s such health in it. It’s okay to sit in our thoughts and emotions and just experience them. When we do, we can actually sort things through and come to some conscious decisions. We can live intentionally rather than reactively.
Second, that life is brief, time is never enough, and priorities matter. I’m so glad I made time for her, even if it wasn’t enough. Even in a bustling schedule of work, family, and various crises, we can make room for each other. I resolved to continue to do so – to prioritize family and friends – and to invest in relationships, the only thing we can really take with us anyway.
Hold your loved ones a little closer this week.
While you have them.
When I arrived, I found her hunched over a box, in tears.
She had been packing, getting ready to list her house. Well, their house.
They had lived there for decades. Now the marriage had come apart at the seams, and she was left to tie up the loose ends. She would pack up the house and ready it for sale.
It looked like about the hardest thing she’d ever had to do.
There, with tears still streaming down her cheeks, she held a stack of photos in one hand and a wad of tissues in the other. She still wore her wedding ring.
When someone in a happy marriage looks through photos, it’s a refreshing, satisfying time of reminiscing. Laughter and tears of joy accompany the cozy memories. But when a person is in the midst of separation – especially one they don’t want to happen – it is anything but cozy. Each memory stabs the heart, leaving a gaping ache for what will never be again.
As I put a hand on her shoulder, a fresh wave of tears flowed from her eyes. Her head hung as though a weight were tied to it.
As I scanned the room I realized she would never get the house packed in time without some help. Little was packed, even less was cleaned. Grief overwhelms. At that point, a simple task like putting photos in a box or sweeping the floor can be too much to even think about, much less accomplish.
Just then, she looked up at the wall and sighed a heavy, hollow sigh.
I followed her gaze to a photo on the wall. There, in an ornately carved wooden frame, their wedding photo hung, looking as though nothing had changed since the day it was taken.
After a moment of thought, I removed my hand from her shoulder, walked over to the photo, and lifted it from the wall. For a second, I felt like an art thief.
“Let me help you,” I said, looking back at her for any sign of disapproval. Her mouth parted slightly, as though to speak. Then she closed her eyes, nodded, and hung her head for the next wave of tears.
The offending photo was turned to face the wall and tucked behind the sofa. Then, together, we packed a few boxes.
“See if you can get some friends to help you with this,” I suggested, “It’s a huge job on a good day but it’s overwhelming and feels impossible when you’re going through a separation. You need help.”
She nodded and, before I left, called some friends to help her pack up what was left of her married life.
People sell their homes for all kinds of reasons, but there is a unique dynamic when the sale is due to a separation. And it raises all kinds of issues for everyone – the sellers, buyers, and the agents caught in the middle.
Oddly, no one really talks about it.
Which is why I’ve written this series of posts about selling due to separation. It’s important to talk about it so we can understand when the issues come up, and know what to do about it. Maybe we’ll have some compassion or be able to avoid surprise attacks if we’re aware.
Wherever I’ve been, professionally or personally, it’s been because God has led me there. Helping sellers in the midst of separation is just another such opportunity I see Him giving me. I am not afraid of crisis. Lord knows I’ve had my share of it. And I’m honored that He uses me to serve others in their own crises. Whether it’s to help sell a house, pack boxes, or just pull a photo off the wall.
What is Virtual Staging? Virtual Staging is the use of software to stage the photos of a home. The key to doing this well is to have good quality photos to begin with and then have a skilled Stager do the decorating. When would you use Virtual Staging? Virtual staging […]
Where did all the open houses go? Open house attendance has decreased and there’s a good reason why. Once upon a time when buyers would want to view the inside of the home they would contact the listing agent and the listing agent would meet him at the property and […]