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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Mother-in-law ..

For years I had a handwritten poem on the front of my refrigerator from my former Mother-In-Law.  She had given it to us .. shortly after the birth of our daughter.

I love it.

And until then, I had never seen nor heard of it.

I saved that little handwritten note when I had to tear everything, photos, notes, etc off the fridge to ‘stage’ the  house when I put it on the market.  At the moment it is neatly tucked into a box in a folder in a storage unit.

But often, when I am bustling around trying to get everything in order as best I can .. I find myself saying ..

“Cooking and cleaning can wait til tomorrow
For babies grow up, I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So, settle down cobwebs, dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”

Since the day she wrote it down.. and I recall it vividly ..

Whenever I am able or think of that little note, I do what I can to bring my focus back around to what precious little time I have during any given day, with my daughter.  Even if it means watching her while she plays with someone else, or the dog, does her homework, fusses at me, goes off exploring ..

Or if it means I can just stay still for a few moments each morning and watch and listen to her breathe while she is still peacefully sleeping.  You know that moment.  There is nothing like it.

She may not be a baby anymore.  But it is a wonderful reminder for us in each God given day to slow down as best we can and appreciate the time we are given with those we love and hold dear.

…………….

As I was looking for who I might attribute the above words to, I found the following entire sweet poem:

Song for a Fifth Child

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
hang out the washing and butter the bread,
sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
and out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
but I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton