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Life Changing Decisions

Image of Deb Porter, a smiling woman with short hair and glasses

Change and decisions are a fact of life. While all decisions change your life in some way, some create seismic change. 

At 52, I’ve made my fair share of life changing decisions.  At almost every crossroads, I sought someone else out who I might be able to learn from by listening to their shared stories, or point me in a positive direction.  I’ve written this to be a helpful reflection to those considering big change.

Trust your gut

I had spent all the time, the money getting my education…and I was going to WALK AWAY.  My head told me this was a very BAD decision.  My gut, on the other hand, told me it was the only decision.

I knew I couldn’t live with my core values in conflict with my career.  

Three years in, I was at a church conference meeting where there was yelling and disagreement about same sex marriages. I spoke up and asked if we could listen to each other, and was told to take a seat.

I watched my colleague be put on church trial--this meant it was likely that he would lose his ordination credentials, his pension, his livelihood.  The end result of the trial was exactly that. It pains me to remember. I felt it was so wrong. So unfair.

Not long after, a family member came out to me. I asked myself, "If they ask me to marry them what will I do? If a congregant asks me?" And I knew the answer was yes, it didn’t matter who it was.  I believe love is love. I knew it was time to exit the church.

Find the Least-Worst

Our daughter was given advanced entry into public school, and after a positive experience at Montessori preschool and kindergarten, went to local elementary for first grade.  She came home after the first day and said, “Mom, I think I need to be in second grade.”  After a few more weeks of not learning, she flat out refused to get on the bus.  I made an appointment with her teacher.  During the meeting, I offered to send supplementation in the form of workbooks.  I asked about using online learning.  I suggested I could send books so she could read at the level she was reading at home.  And I heard a firm, hard, no.  “What will she learn next year if we allow her to learn now?”  

I had done my very best to teach my daughter to use her words, to speak her truth.  Now she was.

After a lot of discussion, we decided to homeschool.  

There was no good decision to be found.  It was the least-worst for our family.  

Experimental Treatments

“If we give your husband this medication, we have no idea what will happen.  It might help.  He might die.”   

We learned when our daughter was born that he had the same genetic condition his two biological siblings died of–though the doctors could not tell us why he was alive, or what to expect moving forward.  

We sat down with our two children to explain the choice.  They were 6 and 11 the first time.  

And then we had to do it again.

And again.

By this time, we only knew of one person who was older than he was living with the condition.  We heard about him from a doctor at a medical conference.  The man was 72, and at the time of his diagnosis told them, “Sick?  I’m not sick!  I’ve never been sick a day in my life!”  The doctors told us this was the reason he was alive - he’d never been sick or injured.

Ultimately, I told my husband it was his decision.  I would stand by him.

The last one we tried helped.  He got better.

Accepting That The Marriage Died

We went to couple’s counseling for two years.  

I didn’t want it to be dead.  

For 25 years I had poured into this relationship.  For 8 years I gave ICU level care on a daily basis.  

I floundered.

I have one brother. He’s 4 and a half years older than I am. 

We have committed to communicating with each other twice a year. We call each other on our birthdays, in March and October. When I was going through my divorce, I broke the tradition, and called him out of the blue. I admitted to him that I was struggling. What he said to me was this: Deb, you don’t keep going back to a gallon of milk that’s spoiled and expect it to be fresh. It was so profound. And funny. And him. And helpful. His hearing me, and offering his thought, which was nonjudgmental, allowed me to frame my experience in a new way. That wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t taken the time to listen to me. 

The divorce was amicable.  We filled out the paperwork online, and less than a week later it was official.  

I realized that I could feel bitter, resentful.  I also knew I didn’t have to be–even more, didn’t WANT to be.  I wanted to find joy and contentment. 

The Next Chapter–Life Changing Decisions

I’d found a job that I enjoyed working at a funeral home.  Most people who work there have a very amusing sense of humor. It’s needed in order to cope day to day.  I also found it extremely fulfilling helping others who were going through the death of a loved one.  Once again I was using my training to help others.

One day, in a full staff meeting, the owners announced to us that they were changing the compensation package that those of us at the cremation societies had been promised. They were doing this in order to make way for the pre-need company they decided to partner with.  Those of us in the cremation society asked for a meeting with the owners to discuss this.  We learned it was not a discussion, and their decision was final.  

This information meant I could not meet my financial responsibilities as my life stood.  I would need to find other work.  I began to ask myself, “What would I do if I could do anything?”  I allowed myself time to imagine.  

One day, when I was folding the laundry, the thought came: “What if I LISTEN.”  I deeply felt it was RIGHT.  The next day, I reached out to Linda Nielsen to ask her if she would join with me to create what I envisioned. It would be a service focused on active listening. We would hear people whose family, friends or co-workers were too close to the problem, or WERE the problem. We would do it confidentially, without judgment, and without offering unwanted advice. 

She agreed, and HOLD came to be.

This decision was scary and exhilarating.  Honestly, if I really knew everything I DIDN’T know that one should with a business, I probably would not have jumped in. But I’ve discovered that what I don’t know I can either learn or find someone to help me.

As I write this today, my intention moving forward is to choose happiness.  Though life changes are inevitable, making a decision and acting on it feels good.  Wishing you all the best as you navigate your life choices.  

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