A year can be a funny thing. It can seem like an eternity if someone you love is ill, and go by at lightening speed if you forget to sit back and enjoy it now and again. A child can change into a whole new person--go from gurgling to talking, toddling to a full on run. Their hair color can change, they can double in size and go from 6 diapers a day to training pants (well, unless your the world's worst potty trainer, than it takes a little longer than a year).
Today I came to work, opened the bills, started making phone calls, updated the accounts, requested an insurance certificate, printed some new file labels and created three new vendor files. That's when it hit me--a year ago, I didn't know how to do any of that. A year ago I was getting ready to take over the books for our company which, back then, I still referred to as Lee's company. I was not learning how to apply vendor credits because I wanted to, I was learning how to do it because we were scared to death about what the next few months held for us and our family. We couldn't afford an office manager, and I had the time...sort of.
So I took a Quickbooks class, and cried at least once a week on the way home. I didn't WANT to do this! It wasn't fair. My youngest was finally in school all day, I could be a real writer, I could keep up on the housework, I could read every day. On March 24th, I went to work and kept crying on the way home; drowning in my own self-pity.
I resented it for a long time. I didn't know what I was doing, and what I did do wasn't done well. I wouldn't say I'm a perfectionist, I just like to do everything right :-) and numbers have never been my friend. The situation also put me 'in the know' of where things really were. It wasn't good but I realized how much of the burden Lee'd been shouldering on his own, realizing that because I didn't understand how the buisness worked, I didn't have any way of really understanding the issues we were facing. We were involved in a lawsuit, we weren't making any money, we were in disputes with a landlord, and I wasn't very good at my job. It was a heavy load to help carry and I longed to not be so aware.
For awhile I whined about every little thing I had to do in order to make sure Lee realized this was a sacrifice. We kept waiting for things to turn around...and waited...and waited. In August we had a long discussion about whether the company was even viable to keep going, but we'd put so much into it and we still had the lawsuit to contend with--quitting wasn't an option, and I don't say that in a romantic "Aren't we heroic" kind of way, I mean we really didn't have an option. It was at least paying the legal fees.
In September a key employee in our Vegas office quit without notice. I cried some more. I thought there was no way we could do this without him. We interviewed and hired a woman we thought would be prefect--she quit after two days. I went to Vegas again. I missed my deadline with my latest book. We called our second choice and I did my best to train her, but held my breath. During training we'd realized that we had a huge number of jobs that hadn't been billed--and the companies had filed bankrupcy since then. We were out $30,000.00 and still had never recieved a paycheck. It was dark, ugly, and really discouraging. I was six weeks past my deadline before I turned in Devil's food cake and I wondered how on earth I was supposed make all this work? It had been 6 months and I was still trying to figure out what I was supposed to do.
And then, finally, the change began to take place. The new employee was AMAZING. She was diligent and detailed oriented and anything she didn't know, she figured out. As she got settled she took over billing, and found dozens of jobs that hadn't been billed but, unlike the ones I'd found, they still could be billed. We collected on these jobs and found ourselves in the black for the first time in months. The economy, though nothing like it had once been, stablized in Vegas a little bit and we realized that a lot of our competition hadn't made it through the year. We felt horrible for them, knowing what it felt like to lose your business, but it left more of the market share. Our salesman in Vegas never gave up, even when he wasn't pulling any commissions, and he hit the ground running now that there was work again. I didn't have to negotiate extentions on the bills anymore and in January Lee got his first paycheck from the company he'd owned for a year and a half.
Today he asked me a question about the attorney bill--something I take care of without discussing with him because it raises so many ugly feelings. I told him it wasn't too bad and not to worry about it. He looked at me and said "Gosh, you take really good care of me, don't you?"
He left to run some errands and I reflected on that statement and realized how much had happened in the last year. I went through my own process of accepting my role, and Lee went through his processes of pushing forward and making this work. But we did it together and it brought us together and while I was given a bird's eye view of the burden he's been lugging around, he got an up front seat to the sacrifices I was making too. I came to understand what he meant when he was venting about something, and he came to understand how necessary my writing time was and worked hard to give it to me because he could see how hard I was working to do my part. My kids have learned a new level of independance and they've learned that they are an essential part of our family. We need them to be responsible, and they've risen to the challenge.
It's been a hard year, one of the hardest we've faced in our marriage, but we made it! We'll celebrate our 17 year wedding anniversary in a few weeks. I have officially been married to Lee longer than I lived without knowing him. I can see this last year as a gift to us, a means of drawing us together in a common goal and remembering that we are people and partners and parents and really, truly, very best friends.
Would I wish for the hard things we've trudged through this year? No, and yet maybe I prayed it into life all those times I prayed for the Lord's help in keeping my family strong, in helping me support my husband, and in asking that He help me overcome my weaknesses. Either way, I can look back and be grateful for what I've learned, how I've stretched myself, and where we are now. That is something I'd have never imagined a year ago.
I was at a bookgroup a few weeks ago, talking about individual gifts we all discover about ourselves throughout our lives. One of the women said "And don't you think it's our trials that lead us to those discoveries?" I had never thought about it like that, but I've pondered on that theory a lot since then. I learned to cook because I was tired of Tuna Helper. I learned to write because I was on bedrest and falling victim to depression and self-pity. I learned patience because I had toddlers that didn't understand things the first time. I learned faith when I had nothing left within myself to push me forward and needed to believe in Him.
Yes, a year can be an amazing journey, and each time one ends, another is just beginning. I wonder what the next year will hold...