When Waste and Ceiling Fans Collide: Dealing with Hard Times


Today marks the sixth anniversary of my roommate’s suicide. The memory is never easy.

Since my wife and I left home in 2012, we have lost two of our family members. We missed both funerals.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries? We were gone. Give everyone our love.

Marital disagreements and difficulties – magnified by the fluxing nature of the road we’ve chosen.

Visa confusion, broken down cars, losing stuff, busting stuff, worrying about stuff.  Check, check, check.

Is this article a bucket full of sunshine or what?

In our Facebook world of ideal digital characterizations and witty updates it’s easy to be inundated by the best versions of everyone else’s ‘grass-is-greener’ lives. Especially when it comes to the exotic nature of travel versus the noble, yet often routine quest of living everyday life: going to work, building a family, showing small kindnesses. We each make our choices, don’t we?

Now it’s time for our confessions.

Because that’s life, isn’t it? Full of heartache and loss and compromise and sacrifice and exhaustion and selfishness and jealousy and hurt. None of that changes because you decide to buy a plane ticket.

Waste still collides with ceiling fans. Hard times still come. And there are healthy ways to handle them when they do, regardless of location.

Live honestly. I tend to get in the habit of telling people I’m fine when the truth is, I’m not always fine. Maybe I don’t want to have the conversation. Maybe the person isn’t someone I know to trust. At the very least I can practice sharing more honestly than ‘fine.’

If we’re going to thrive in this life, or even survive well, we need to start with being honest with ourselves and with others. Being honest with our words and actions is refreshing to receive and to impart. Honesty frees people to share in truths they thought were secrets. Lies and deceit are rampant in our modern psyche. Shedding that which isn’t true, no matter how it makes you look or feel, is like burning lungs, desperate for the first breath of fresh air after breaking the surface of the water. Coveted. Needed. Life-giving.

Practice it in your conversations. Don’t agree with everything being said. Criticize someone’s reasoning. Admit your failings. Insert your honest opinion. And stick it to the fear that keeps you complacent and silent; hidden and alone. Because that’s a lie. You are none of those things.

Get support. Not always easy to do when you’re on the move. You make some friends along the way, but depending on your movements, it’s easier to keep yourself isolated from any meaningful relationships. Community can be difficult to come by and good community takes time, effort, and initiative. You’ve got to work at it.

But it’s worth it.

Living honestly should lead you into some authentic community. People who get to know you for who you are and people with whom you can reciprocate such. Otherwise, the weight of difficult times sure to come will crush you without anyone around to help carry the burden. You need more than a drinking buddy sometimes. You need someone who can speak into your life. Someone who is willing to walk with you when nobody else does.

Someone who is more than a Facebook friend.

Since we’re being honest with each other, let me say that there are times when you need a professional someone to talk with. And there is no shame in dealing with life’s occasional dung with the help of people who have seen it, been there, and know what they’re talking about. The investment into your health and sanity will be rewarding.

hard times

Let go. You’re not a robot (I assume). Feeling is not a crime (thank goodness). Expressing whatever you’ve got bottled up has its place (can I get an Amen?!). Find the time and space and people to disclose those emotions and let them run their course.

Cry. Fume. Curse. Sleep. Breathe. Pray. Ache.

Honesty demands we seek to understand the source of our current state, acknowledging whatever demons may have their grips in us, hold them close, then let them go. They only have the control we allow them. And it’s no use pretending they’re not there. Travel is discovery, even if those discoveries look different than we first imagined.

So when the grief is overwhelming

and you are homesick beyond reckoning,

when all you know how to feel is alone

or fear has you frozen in your tracks,

recognize that and cradle it near you.

Embrace your emotions, get out what you need to get out, share what needs to be shared, then let it go. Take courage, my friend. There are great things in store for you and many lessons to be learned. Yes, the journey is hard, but trust also the journey is good.

Seek solidarity. As I write, Brooke Fraser sings of someone she lost, “Oh Annie, I still think of you each time I see the sun. I didn’t want a year without you, but somehow I’ve lived through another one.” The song moves me. Her voice and that drumbeat and those strings. They combine to create for me a companion who understands. And in understanding, offers comfort.

I assure you no matter what life has brought your way, you are not alone. Whatever seizes your heart has seized the hearts of others the world over, throughout history. Knowing so can often be a relief in itself.

Find ways to hear the truth from the hearts of others. Like I did with Brooke Fraser’s music. Or read books and capture quotes. Perouse inspiring YouTube clips. Watch a movie. Look at art. These are all stories of people who have encountered the hardships of reality and have walked through the darkness to share the hope of light.

You are not alone. We stand with you. A new day comes.

Hear me out. Travel can certainly change your life and with no hesitation I recommend checking out this big, beautiful world of ours with all its boundless diversity and brimming majesty. But please don’t confuse transformation with automatic perfection. Life has her absolutes, no matter what disguises she may also adopt. It is wise to occasionally step back from our chosen paths and assess the decisions we’ve made, the experiences we’ve endured, and the hopes we hold which make us who we are.

Hard times are made all the harder when home is far away. But you are strong and have been equipped to handle all that is put in your path. Live honestly, lean on the support of others, feel what you feel, seek solidarity, and no matter what hits the fan, you will be able to endure. And when all is said and done,

to stand.

Please share!

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