The year 2017 did not go gentle into that good night. It was amid high winds and rain that this past year passed into memory. My husband and I stood side by side as did counted down to 2018.
As our iPhones “struck” midnight, my husband invited me to lift my right foot with his so we could step together into the New Year.
Now we have to step with our left foot, too, I said. I like to do things evenly, and so I feel my heart lifting at the thought of entering an even year after one that it would be an understatement to describe merely as odd.
I experienced a dynamic, stormy 365 days from the very start of 2017, which began when my husband and I were visiting with dear friends in France and I received text messages from my tenants, informing me that they would no longer be purchasing my house and were also breaking their lease and moving to another town in Alaska.
Next on the calendar of events, we went through the process of working with our rental management company for the house we had just left behind in Arizona in order to begin a new chapter of our lives in Belgium to evict our tenant, who had caused upwards of $15k worth of damage to the house.
Over the course of the year, I learned far more about the Alaska legal system and the challenges of renting houses and selling a house from thousands of miles away than I anticipated or cared to know prior to enrolling in an expensive crash course.
I can still vividly recall the moment I received a text from my dad in mid-June, informing me that I had received a court summons for Homer, Alaska. I was in Darmstadt, Germany (where I had accompanied my husband, who was there to offer a presentation on his doctoral studies at a conference), and I had just returned to our hotel room with a falafel salad and bright, neon green Exotic flavored Fanta. Suffice it to say that the falafel did not fulfill its intended destiny of being eaten, and I traded the Fanta for Jack Daniel bourbon.
Months were spent in anticipation of a trial, which I would join by telephone from Belgium. During these months, I also worked to repair the damages inflicted on my house and property in Alaska and to try to find a buyer for this house, which had been sanctuary so many years ago.
At the tail end of the summer selling season (the darkness of winter does not tend to bring too many house sales, at least not in the town of 300 where my house sat, patiently waiting), a couple who had just moved to the town made an offer on the house. I was ecstatic and relieved, two emotions which quickly soured into something far less enjoyable as I did my best to work with the buyers to meet all of the requirements for a VA loan.
After a seemingly unending nightmare of 3.5 months, the sale dissolved when a water test came back showing coliform in the water. I paid for a follow up test, which revealed that there was no coliform present, but it was clear that the sale was over.
During this 3.5 months, my stress level rose steadily to an alarmingly high level, due in great part to the onslaught of communications I would receive right before bed and first thing in the morning, thanks to the 10-hour time different with Alaska.
After a series of particularly unpleasant missives, I found myself teetering on the brink of emotional collapse. When several glass-framed prints were knocked over, sending shards of glass flying across the floor, I snapped. Two days later, I bent over to pick something up and threw my back out, spending the rest of the afternoon lying supine on the floor.
What is up with the universe? I bemoaned to my husband.
My husband suggested that the house was making its own intentions clear.
I had to agree. The house had been my dream and a safe haven in a stormy time in my life (2017 was not the first challenging year I had experienced in my 36 on this planet). Such a sacred space must indeed be seeking certain energy from its inhabitants.
Still, I could not understand why everything had to be so difficult. Was it because of my own karma? Surely after so many years, I had managed to absolve myself of my sins from my brief but rocky time in Alaska.
A dear being sent words of comfort to me:
Most of all, don’t question why this is all happening with your house. It has nothing whatever to do with you.
Perhaps, I was simply being affected by the tsunami brought on by being in such close virtual proximity to other people’s karma?
I will never know. All I could was try to avoid sending the first emails I crafted and do my best to cope with the extreme stress without losing myself completely.
How did I cope?
I practiced a lot of yoga and regular meditation.
I ripped out all of the blackberry and morning glory from the entire plot of land behind our house.
I drank a lot of wine and bourbon.
I resorted to retail therapy, spending much more than I should have just to have something to look forward to in waiting for packages to arrive.
I engaged in long discussions with my husband, and I reached out to friends and family for love and support.
I invited chaos and love into our life by adopting a dog.
I did not write or play music nearly enough, missing two months in my otherwise perfect record of posting at least one entry a month since I created this blog in the summer of 2009.
In short, I lived my life, creating some semblance of balance and perpetually sending my desire for peace and closure out to the universe.
One evening, while my husband massaged the tangle seized of muscles that used to be a relatively healthy, functioning back, I asked him what I could do to stop the pain.
Let everything go, Marieke. If you hold onto anything, you are excluding everything else. It’s the Buddhist attachment idea. By becoming completely unattached, you become connected to everything else.
I should write this down, I replied. I am always joking that my husband is my guru, but it is humor based on truth.
Let it go. Let go of all thought, release it all into the universe. We are not stand-alone individuals. We are all connected. We are always in relation to everything and everybody.
I tried to let it go and set my intention for positive tidings from the universe. I envisioned receiving an email from my lawyer with the words “congratulations” or “good news” and wished for an amicable end to the failed house sale.
Just before the end of the year, the universe responded.
On Friday, December 29, the final business day of 2017 (as my dad later noted), I received an email from my lawyer’s legal assistant. When I saw the case number in the subject heading, my stomach dropped and my anxiety level spiked.
I clicked on the message and read the following words: Good Morning Ms. Lewis, Happy New Year to you!
I scrolled to the end of the ruling and breathed a sigh of relief. Not only was the ruling in my favor, but I had also been saved from the stress of having to wait and call in to hear a verbal ruling.
Two days later, I signed a termination agreement, which freed both the buyers and me from the house sale. I signed a new lease with new tenants, beginning a new chapter in house renting and selling.
After three months of hiding upstairs since the arrival of a large white husky into our family, one of our two cats finally got fed up and ventured downstairs. Fin the cat is sitting on my husband’s lap as I typed white Atticus the dog does his best to convince him to get down and play.
Atticus the dog puked up a small round plush toy we had found on a walk, which I had washed and set up on the radiator to try upon our return home. I had then gone upstairs to take a shower, informing Atticus that he was not to eat the toy. When I came back downstairs, the wee plush was gone.
As fireworks went off around our cozy home by the forest in the Coin du Balai, Arwen the cat hid underneath the bed and my husband and I shared all of the positive events of 2017, of which there were many.
We then did our ceremonial synchronous stepping into the near year 2018 and slept for nearly 10 hours. I awoke with a 2017 hangover in the form of a headache and the feeling of being exhausted, but I felt hopeful as I took Atticus for our first chilly walk of the day beneath a sky filled with sunshine and blue.
I am reminded of a quote from Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption:
“Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
For this great earth and all of its inhabitants, I hope for beautiful beginning and peaceful endings in this New Year 2018.