This personal essay was first published on July 4, 2016.
Happy birthday America! What a wonderful holiday – the celebration of our Independence as a nation! The 4th of July represents the birth of our country and the birth of our freedom. Hallelujah to that!
Being a bicentennial baby, the 4th of July has an extra-special meaning to me. As a kid, I loved that all I had to do was add my age to 200 years to figure out how old America was. But, besides that silly parlor trick, the 4th of July also represented a positive turning point in my husband and my life. As a couple who owned a moving and storage company, we were a slave to work during the summer. Taking off time from June to August is laughable in the industry. Sort of like an accountant taking off a week in March.
Despite the necessary commitment, several years ago, we made the decision to take off the 4th of July and give it off to our employees. This “move” gave us a bit of freedom from work, allowed us to enjoy our boys, and made for rested and happy employees in the middle of the busy season. Honestly, the profits of one day didn’t outweigh the benefits of a mid-season break.
4th of July 2011, pregnant with Vincent.
By 2012, life was finally working for us. Our business was established and we had just hit a perfect stride of working and enjoying time on the weekends in Minot or quick trips to the cape and the islands. But, for those of you who don’t know, sadly in August of 2012, Garry was diagnosed with stomach cancer, breaking that beautiful stride, and taking away the freedom to make our own decisions. Our time was now spent in hospitals, dedicated to treatment regiments. Garry’s heart broke over the fear that he would never see another summer on the beach with his boys. (He did, and it was a major triumph given his ominous prognosis. However, six months later, in January 2014, cancer won and Garry left us.)
So, here I am today in 2016, celebrating the 4th of July with our boys and Garry’s family; but for the 3rd year in a row, with Garry only in spirit. But, if he is able to see us, I’m pretty sure he’s proud.
I’ve always considered myself a very independent person. In college, I never had a problem eating alone at the dining hall if it made the most sense with my schedule. I will always rock into a party or attend an event alone if needed. I can certainly take care of myself and my home. And just like in college (only this time at a bar) I actually revel in eating alone while writing or reading.
But, being confident enough to stand alone and being free from your emotions are two different things. Over the past year, I’ve come to learn there are many aspects of being truly independent.
When someone you love so dearly dies, a knife is stabbed into your heart. If you can find the strength, you can eventually pull out that knife. However, you’re left with a gaping hole. What you do next and how you handle that wound is of the greatest importance.
This is where I was in the fall of 2015. To many people, I probably looked like I was in the clear. I was going out more, smiling, and seemingly living life. But, those who knew me well, knew differently. They knew on the inside I was entering a very dark phase; engaging in impulsive behavior and feeling lost. The knife was out and the everyday heartache became less sharp, then why was I so miserable? Why was I so lost?
I was still trying to live the life I had with Garry. But, it didn’t exist. I needed to give myself permission to move on with a new life plan.
I’m a very hard worker; some might say obsessive at times. I worked through Garry’s illness and after his death without a break. But, the business that Garry helped to found and that we grew together became too much for me to bear.
I hate to admit that, but it’s true. I made sure I had fantastic support staff, yet still, the responsibilities of caring for employees and customers were becoming oppressive after all that we had experienced. You have to understand there was a time when I lived and breathed Mercury. But now, my broken heart was disconnecting me from the business I once loved. I wasn’t happy, and it was affecting me on all levels, which directly affected my children. My inner voice found this unacceptable.
But, what could I do? I couldn’t sell Mercury. Even though Garry encouraged me to sell it, I felt obligated to keep the business rolling. I was tied to the business by guilt and worries. If I sold, wouldn’t I look like a quitter? What would happen to my employees?
The ties quickly became chains, and I became more resentful and cynical. I couldn’t stand that my dedication was wavering. But worse than worrying my work might not be perfect, I was afraid I was going to have an emotional break.
And so, I made one of the hardest decisions I have ever made; I decided to sell Mercury. I have known and loved some of our employees for 16 years, and many for several. I’m always grateful for their dedication. They stood by Garry and me through his illness and his passing. Santiago, Mel, Lenny, Junior, Alexis, Chris, Kerry, Jose- Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have hearts of gold and work ethic that always made Mercury shine. I’ll keep you in my heart for the rest of my life. But, I couldn’t do it anymore. The emotional ties were keeping me from being my best; I wasn’t free.
I found a buyer who was kind and respected Mercury and enjoys moving. Someone who I felt comfortable handing over the result of 18 years of hard work. And in doing so, I took a gigantic step toward emotional independence, and another big step toward healing.
It’s been 2 and a half months now. The first month was unbearably hard. My boys were still in school, and I’m so used to answering text, emails, and calls constantly that the silence was shocking. And in all honestly, I gave away our baby. It was horribly sad. I missed it. But, then, I had this writing thing happening. And, I really enjoy it. In fact, I would say I’ve rediscovered my passion. It’s a huge risk. But, if you knew Garry, you knew he was a risk taker. In part, that’s how he ended up owning his own business. I’m pretty sure he would approve of me finding and doing something I love. And the best part and biggest motivator for the decision is that I get to spend the summer with my boys. And in reality, that is the most important part of all of this. Allowing myself the freedom to find happiness is making me a better mom. For the first time in what feels like my life, I might actually be able to relax and focus on my self-improvement and on the boys.
As I had said in the New Year, if your current life plan isn’t working, give yourself permission to change course. Our course has been changed, and where my boys and I are headed, I’m not completely sure just yet. But, what I do know on this 4th of July, is that we are having a great time. As with any holiday, there’s always a bit of melancholy that Garry isn’t here. But, I do think that once again the 4th of July will represent a positive turning point in my life. As we celebrate America’s Independence, I’m also celebrating my freedom to create a new future for myself and my boys. For this, I feel incredibly grateful.
Happy Independence day everyone! Have a safe and happy 4th!