This post is longer than most. It is a story of acting from intention, even when it breaks your heart. It needs to be told in full.

Strange Romance

Young love is full of so much excitement and anticipation. My husband and I were no different. Since we worked together, we kept our relationship a secret. Our early anticipation was simply for time we could actually act as a couple.  But, as our relationship grew and we began to see it had a future, we started dreaming of a life together. I’m certain we discussed getting a house, a dog and having 2.5 kids (I say three kids, he says two). But, my most vivid memories of those passionate conversations about what kind of a life we wanted to build were always about one thing – starting our own business. Romantic, huh? Well, somehow it was.

After getting engaged, we started planning the typical wedding. I bought bridal magazines. We booked the reception hall, started premarital classes with our pastor, and agonized over the guest list. The wedding talk was important and necessary, but it lacked the passion and enthusiasm that characterized the conversations about our entrepreneurial aspirations. My husband’s face would light up when we’d dream of our business. And that light set my heart aflutter.

Us and ALL of our Wedding Guests

As the wedding price tag went up, the dreams for our life seemed to get further and further away. Then, one day I realized, I didn’t want the big wedding. I wanted the life we had been fantasizing about. So, in just 12 days, we cancelled all plans for the wedding that was ten months away and planned the wedding that would start our life together right away. It was simple and wonderful and totally us. Within a week we were taking real steps toward starting our business.

Dreams Come True

Just six months into our marriage, we opened the doors to our business, a studio for martial arts and yoga. While we both had a passion for our respective arts, our real hope was that the studio would be a place of refuge, relationship and restoration.  We believed that so much pain we saw around us resulted from a lack of connection. Many people looked to martial arts and yoga to deal with pain. If the studio was to be a place of healing, connection had to happen.

And it did, in the most beautiful ways. We watched friendships grow and flourish. We shared our hearts with our customers and the doors to their worlds flew open. Within the studio walls, shyness dissipated, confidence grew and healing transformed lives. It wasn’t us, it wasn’t our teaching. It was the connection. It was beautiful and amazing and everything we had dreamed about.

Well, almost everything. It wasn’t a cash cow. So, in order to pay our bills, and fund our growing business, we both continued to work as tax consultants. Life was busy, but very rewarding. We worked demanding, full-time jobs, and then ran to the studio to teach our daily classes. We operated on little sleep. We didn’t have an evening or weekend free, ever. But, we had a huge family in our patrons, and it didn’t feel like work to be at the studio.

AE at 1 Week Old! (Photo Credit Falck Photography)

Six years later, the studio was getting better at paying its own bills (though it still wasn’t paying ours), and we decided it was time to put some energy into those other life dreams we had, specifically the 2.5 kids. About a year-and-a-half later, we welcomed our daughter. Meeting her brought every cliché about babies and parenthood to life in 3D. She is truly the most amazing blessing.

With her in our life, we should have been reaching for trumpets to sound a victory call. We had
everything we ever dreamed of – a loving marriage, a beautiful house, great jobs that afforded us a nice lifestyle, our very own business that was instrumental in transforming lives, an amazing daughter and two fantastic dogs! How blessed we were to have everything. But, we weren’t reaching for the trumpets. We weren’t celebrating. Instead, the reality of having it all was setting in. And, it was painful.

The Truth About Having It All

Up to this point, I really believed a person could have everything he or she wanted if they just worked hard enough. I subscribed to the mentality that if you
could dream it, you could have it. I had put in the hard work, and I did have everything. But, having it all was not what I had imagined. I was learning that when you have everything, you have very little to give to each thing.

There was no time for romantic date nights to foster my loving marriage. My beautiful house did not feel like a home, it felt the base of operations for chaos. I wasn’t meeting my employer’s expectations. When I was teaching yoga at the studio, I would say hand when I meant foot or right when I meant left because I was constantly battling distraction. I was sharing my daughter’s milestones with my husband via Facebook, because he was never home. And, more and more I could feel this growing ache from deep inside my body for some empty space, some margin in my life.

It would have almost been easier if we were on the brink of financial ruin or something like that. If there had been no choice. But, there was a choice, a heart-breaking one. We could keep going along as we were – running, hurrying, getting by but having everything. Or, we could let go of something. We could acknowledge that nothing grows in the shadow of exhaustion. We could admit we had limited time and energy and really be intentional about how we were going to invest it.

In all our fantasizing early-on we never talked about an end to the studio, but that’s exactly where we found ourselves, saying goodbye to it and the family that had formed there. I’ll never forget the moment my husband and I stood, with our seven-month-old baby girl in our arms, in the middle of that wonderful studio, emptied of everything but our memories. The moment was so painful; my heart literally hurts as I recall it.  As I stood there, sobbing, I forced myself to acknowledge that although the season for this dream was over, it was amazing and so worth every ounce of energy, love, and money we poured into it.

That day was over a year and a half ago, and the pain of saying goodbye to the studio is less but still real. However, I now enjoy a sense of ease that can only accompany a life that is not filled to capacity, but instead marked with a margin of empty space. I have found joy not in having everything, but in the ability to give my everything to what I do have. We now spend evenings and weekends together as a family. And, that light that used to fill my husband’s face when he’d talk about the studio, now shines brightly as he plays with our beautiful daughter. Happily, it still sends my heart aflutter.  I may not have everything, but I am indeed blessed. Sound the trumpets!

Have you ever had to give up on a dream?  How do you ensure your life has a margin of empty space? I’d love to hear from you!

This article has 13 comments

  1. LizH Reply

    Love the article! I didn’t know that you guys cancelled the big wedding in lieu of the small wedding. What a beautiful story – your happiness shines through!

  2. marilyn terzian Reply

    Beautiful, meaningful story…makes us know we are not alone, we are all in this together. Thanks so much.

  3. Bill W. Reply

    It is painful to close chapters in your life. I have done this several times in life, but I can now look back and smile at each of those times – friends, places, memories, and more importantly things I have learned – everything that makes me who I am.

    Thanks for sharing your lives with us. Enjoy now!

    • Jennifer Hoffman Reply

      Thank you, Bill! As someone once said to me, sadness at something’s end is the truest sign of your love for it. We really loved our time there. But, as you suggested, we are enjoying now! Hope you are, too!

  4. Nena Reply

    When the studio closed it felt like a death. The grief and sorrow was overwhelming. I had watched my children grow and thrive there. My dream to one day earn a black belt along with my children had ended. My biggest concern was for the studio’s owners; two of the finest people that I have ever met. What to do? If I was stoic, would they realize how much our family truly loves their family? If I openly grieved would this cause them pain? Occasionally we run into other former members of this incredible studio. They, like us, haven’t found a studio that could come close. Despite any of the preceding I would rather the studio closed than to have the owners suffer as a result of keeping the business open. Why? Because we love them.

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