Just One Upside to a Life ..

.. That Has Not Gone ‘According to Plan’.

When you’re young .. you can’t wait to grow up.  When you ‘grow up’.. we’re taught you go to school.  Find a job.  Find ‘the one’.  Get a dog.  Get married.  Buy a house.  Have children.  Save for retirement/college educations/and the little things.  Grow old together and live happily ever after.

It is a wonderful picture painted .. a great thing to strive for and would probably be a beautiful life.

I know and am close to a number of families who are older, who have had this life and have great stories to tell .. or who are currently living it out well.

On the flip side, I probably know more who are challenged to ‘live the dream.’  To follow, for so many reasons, the path that has long been considered our ‘societal norm.’

What is the norm anymore?  Kind of scary to think sometimes.  While it may not always be what we want or were hoping for .. while we may be disappointed we didn’t do better .. wished we had made better choices .. or done things differently ..

Relishing where we are at, is also one of the best things we can do in the face of adversity and change and disappointment over not being ‘where we are supposed to be’ at any given time in our adult lives.

For instance …

I had a house.  I loved my house.  I loved both my/our houses, actually.  The first one my ex and I lost to toxic mold, which meant we spent two years in and out of temporary residences with a newborn who knew nothing different and could handle it far better than perhaps her parents did.  But we made it through.  And then we bought a second home, far more home than we should have bought, but after a catastrophic loss on the first, insurance dictated what kind of second home we could buy and where it had to be located.  And we did the best we could, given the restrictions.  But it was tough.  And that was before the divorce.  In the divorce, I kept the house because I wanted to do what I could to give our daughter stability through what was another tough time for us all.  But it sank me, financially.

Don’t sell yet.  Don’t sell yet, friends and acquaintances in the real estate industry would tell me.  Let the market recover.  But little did we know, the recession was about to hit.  All I could do was try and work more, work harder, to make ends meet.  I was home less and less.  My gardens became overgrown.  The dogs had to entertain themselves while I was away.  And rarely did I see or have the chance to spend a few minutes chatting over the back fence with a neighbor.

………………..

A year and a half after selling the house, we find ourselves in a tiny two bedroom apartment.  We sold many of our things and I can’t wait yet to give away/sell more.  I’m tired of stuff.  I don’t want things.  I want time.  With my daughter.  With family, friends and others I love.  More savings.  Less debt.  Less house to clean.   Yard work, but only as much as I want.  And time to hang out with the neighbors.

Which for the first time in I would say most of my adult life, most of these things, I’m finding I am able to do either for the first time, or again.

I am loving the upsides of us downsizing.  And the things I’m rediscovering about life or myself or what’s important, I’m not sure I would have learned, not this quickly anyway, had everything just gone along according to society’s ‘master plan.’

Last night after my daughter and the ten year old next door took the dog for a walk, which they do most every night, I got to walk into their apartment to say, it’s time to come home and get ready for bed.  They were totally just hanging out, like I did with neighbors when I was a kid.

The adults spend time chatting out back, over a beer at the end of the day or the garden beds the landlord allowed to be built and who’s growing what.

We were talking about getting a whiffle ball game going some night.  A ‘community yard sale’.  A badmitton net put up.  The hula hoops were out.

The kids were learning some skateboard moves from one of the guys upstairs.  He’s a researcher in genetics.  His girlfriend a nurse.  Their roommate a chef.  Our other neighbor, a professor.  A teacher and nursing assistant live next door.  We’ve met and spent time with some of their families .. last night the woman who’s apartment I moved into, came downstairs from her now 3rd floor apartment and introduced us to her sister, who is deaf.  She may now give my daughter and the boy next door lessons in sign language.

Conversations I was rarely able to find time to have with my neighbors when I would come home each night to my actual home.

“Can we grab the dog,” is the text I find on my phone now almost daily from the neighbors in the apartment next door, knowing I’m still at work.  Then comes another, in jest, I think:  “We just looooooovvvvee her, you might not get her back.  Do not call the police.”

“What are you doing for dinner, we have extra food, come on up!”

“Grab a seat, stay!”

“Can I help you with that?”

“When’s the Cowboy coming back?” 🙂

“Do you want us to put something on the grill for you?  It’s hot ..”

I miss my old neighborhood (and neighbors), which isn’t too far from where I’m at in terms of physical location.  But while .. where I’m at in life isn’t necessarily where I’m supposed to be if you look at ‘the plan’ .. I couldn’t be in a better place.

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A good marriage …

The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence.  It is the greenest where nurtured and cared for.  If your grass is not green, what are you doing – or not doing – to have it that way?‘  –  Wedding Ceremony Sermon

…………….

The Cowboy and I had a wonderful weekend together .. filled with family and friends and more friends and family.

And some drama.

Fortunately, not between us.  But it was .. surrounding us.  And as we were caught between conversations (and this is just in one 48 hour period); 1) of a friend miserable in their marriage, wanting to know about a single friend 2) of a married couple we are close and spent time with but who were at each others throats 3) of a single friend over the phone wondering why the only people who want to date her are married 4) catching up with another couple who plans their week scheduling as much time apart as possible because its easier than being together and 5) of another couple in the midst of an affair and very open about it ..

The Cowboy asks me as we’re trying to navigate phone calls and how to respond to any of it, “Who do you know that really has a good marriage?”

I paused .. and when I went to answer, I paused again for a long time.

…………….

Thinking about the question posed, now almost a day later and as I write, I do know quite a few friends who are in wonderful marriages.  Not that any union is ever without its challenges.  But when challenges come, from what I have ever witnessed, they face them together, with respect, love for each other and a commitment to stick together.  And they have come through it stronger.

Far too many of us know …

… That’s not always possible.

Having been through divorce myself though, I get it.  I know the feeling of hopelessness. Years of it.  Of, no matter what you do, it’s not right.  Of defeat.  Of trying everything you can to save it.  Then being told its never enough.  Of counseling.  Finding hope.  Of a few months of things going well only to have the cycle reverse itself again.  Of knowing there is more to life than the misery it seems two people bring out of each other.  Seeing the pain in a child’s eyes of what the two of you are when you are together.  And imagining the sorrow and confusion in that same child’s eyes, of what it will be should you part.  Of wanting to run your car into a tree versus return home at night because it would be easier than making that decision.  Of knowing that’s not the answer.  And then, of getting to the point you know the pain of staying is worse than anything else you will have to go through to get to the other side.

My ex still says he wishes we had never married in the first place.  That it was the biggest mistake of his life and he should have known better.

While I don’t feel the same .. I get it.

And I’m not going to lie ..

There are so many reasons why one might choose the option of divorce over staying married.  Statistics show over half of our population now does.  While I was devastated to be the one to finally force that step we had both talked about for years, I have not regretted the decision to separate from my ex for one day.

But had there been any chance for us .. any .. to live in harmony and have the life we both wanted, I would have continued to try and make it work.

…………..

Marriage .. even just a committed long term relationship, is hard.  And as the Cowboy and I talk about where we go from this place we are at .. in life .. in location .. in any of this and we look at the challenges being faced by so many around us and the situations they are creating for themselves as well as having been in some of those places in one way or another ourselves, the question posed stumped us both.  At least momentarily.

We have something good.  But at one point, so did we with our -ex’s .. and so did all of these family and friends ..

How do you hold onto that, the good?  Or the great.  We have talked about this before.  Many times.

I asked the one married friend who was calling to ask about my single friend and if I thought they might have any chance to hook up with them .. first, I think I said, ‘Are you kidding?’  Second, I know I asked if they were willing to work on their own marriage.  Tend to the grass.  Work on making it green.  Had they even talked with their spouse about how devastated they were.

“No, not really,” they said.

“Wouldn’t that be an important first step?  Do you want to save your marriage or are you just done?  My ex and I went to counseling on and off for almost 8 years, you know that,” I said.

“I think I’m just done.  There is no love.  There hasn’t been for a long time,” this person replied.

……………

How .. how do you bring it back?

How do you make sure the grass is greener on your side of the fence than what it appears on the other.  And what can any of us do to regrow the lawn/a relationship when it seems so far gone?

Or are we just a throwaway society anymore and it doesn’t matter if there is still some life in the yard .. we just want to rip the whole thing apart, and start over with some fresh sod.  Because sometimes that is all you can do.

The Cowboy and I have been pondering all of this …

And they have been good, ongoing conversations for us, as we work to keep our own relationship strong and green and help others we love and care about through some pretty rough patches.

Something I need more time to think about .. before I write any more.  That will be tomorrow’s post.  Your thoughts in the meantime?