I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning. I have so much to do today, so, of course, I’m still using Facebook and writing. It’s almost lunchtime and I need to get up and finish packing.
We should have attended Mass, but the weight there is heavy. We both need to go to confession and to talk with our priest. The plan is pretty simple and straightforward, for us it is anyway.
We can either fall apart, or we can move forward with the possibility of getting closer to where we need to be.
There are the physical things, like that we have always wanted to live in the city, closer to the Executive’s office and now the girls’ school. For a while he has expressed wanting to be closer to us during the day, so that he could make sure we were okay and to be close by in case we needed anything. He also wanted to have the time to run in the morning without the commute, perhaps in a house with space to set up his drums because playing always made him feel happy.
But then the years passed and passed and passed…
…until we ended up not really knowing how to get back to where we needed to be.
Last weekend was hard. I left. I was done, completely finished with everything. For years the hole in my heart had been ripped wide open, allowing the love to trickle down slowly as it landed at my feet.
I told our family, and I even put something suggestive of being pissed off on Facebook. It was an earth-shattering feeling of accepting WHOLLY the finality of everything!
I was done. Confused by what in the hell happened, who we had become apart from each other while occupying the same space and raising three children; I couldn’t remember how life had gotten this way. The years just come and they come faster and faster. We moved much too quickly.
But he didn’t change. You did.
He had been working a lot.
Yes, I know.
He works so hard for your family. He takes care of you every single day in his own way.
Yes, I know. But still…
I don’t think anyone understood what was going on, but the Executive did and so did I. After all, we got to this point together, where we were questioning ourselves in the midst of knowing that we needed to desperately change something.
The relationship didn’t change, so you did?
Yeah. But I’m not sure either of us even know who we are together anymore.
The point came about a year ago when I had decided, ultimately, that I was going to make life look how I always imagined it would be. I wanted to smile again and face hardships optimistically with the kind of hope and grace God was granting me each day. Because I learned, rather quickly about this time last year, if we don’t do that, we give ourselves no better option than to be miserable and always complain, never having a reserve of joy built up for life’s less desirable, unexpected things.
Still, I didn’t apologize, and I wouldn’t this time…
…for the woman I had become.
But, my God. It has been such a long time since I have even looked at him.
Long ago parenthood came in like a freight train barreling through the house, shattering the windows and bursting through the walls; somehow we ended up on opposite sides of the track. So, we stood there, flabbergasted by the smoke and the noise, trying to remember who that familiar person was coming into view every few seconds between the passing cars; it was like watching each other on an old, flashing movie reel; and, before we knew it, more than a decade had passed.
The kids have grown…
…and now they are pouring their own milk, giving themselves a bath, and putting themselves to bed.
Then the train moved out suddenly?
As quickly as it came.
The house was completely silent, and we stood there staring at each other in full view. We had forgotten how to look at each other, it was so bizarre and we had no idea what to say.
My God he’s a man now. His hair is sprinkled with white and gray; there are new creases across his forehead and his eyes look a little vague. He’s as tired as I am, and we both realize that we can’t keep going on this way.
“So. You’re that guy who helped me with diapers for 12 years?”
“You look familiar.”
“You do, too.”
“It’s been a really long time.”
What got in the way?
Kids. Mortgages. Cars. Schools. Doctors appointments. Too many late dinners. Soccer practices. Mass on Sunday morning. Volunteering. My long runs. His waiting for me to come home. His brain always at work. Me needing to interact with someone present and vital to conversation instead of simply being. Our phones. The TV. Repairs. Friendships. Obligations. Obligations. Obligations.
“I need to feel happy with you,” I told him. “I can’t be solely responsible for your happiness in life, but that goes both ways.
“To be happy in our relationship, I need you to protect my love, filling my heart with your smile and your being. I need you to laugh and respond, to be less robotic and more a part of what we’re doing. I also need to write now; I need time to be the woman God has made me to be. It makes me happy to write all of the stories, and I know I can make them into something…
“Without joy there can’t be anything sustainable. Without reserves of it, we can’t handle the bad things that might one day come our way.”
“Then look at me and tell me what I have done for you for all of these years; help me to remember why I’m here and tell me of why I should stay.”
He shifted a little, coming closer to me and pressing me up against the stove. I leaned back a little to make room for him to fold into me. “I saw you at a cafe,” he said. “I knew it even then. You were full of life and energy. Your smile was captivating. You made me feel better about life just because you existed.”
My heart jumped a little. It wasn’t much, but still…
…it was something.
“You need me to find your keys and your glasses. To take care of you and always make sure you’re going to be okay.”
“I need you to light up my world every single day, to paint my canvas with so much color, beauty, and vitality. Because that is what you do for me. I can’t live my life without you doing that for me.”
“Did I stop taking care of you?”
“I think so.”
“Then let go with me!” I told him. “I’m not going back there with you where we skip around on circular-set stones. I can’t keep doing that with you. I need to grow as a woman, and I have to fight for that right now; otherwise, my entire identity will slip away.”
“I know. I can’t let you do that.”
“Then you have the choice to let go and drift down here with me, where we are so unsure about where we are going, but we have to let go of things we can’t continue to float around, like being so miserable every single day when we have so many things to be grateful for. We have to see wonderful possibilities in every opportunity, being glad in it instead of worrying about all of the things that can possibly go wrong. Life is too short to live it that way.”
He put out his hand, and I hesitated. We had done this before countless times, but he really seemed different inside this time, like it had to come to this for him to decide that I was worth the effort to step out of life’s dank rut, to join me in wanting to be happy and fulfilled even from life’s simplest, every day things.
I thought about God and our girls, the promise I had made to all of them. I thought about how for years we had become so lost in things like work and technology, figuring out what we needed to do for the girls – soccer and swimming, piano and softball – when our weekends and weeknights were centered around being everywhere we needed to be with no time left to go where we wanted to go…
Like to the city? Where you had always talked about living? Closer to work for him, so that he can reclaim time to enjoy his life with you a little more happily?
I thought about us leaving for the concrete pastures of the city, a place we had always wanted to be, but we couldn’t transfer problems. It had to end, finally. We were going to go all out like we did when we were just kids, when we dreamed together about life and all of the wonderful possibilities.
“I don’t want to be stuck anymore either,” he said.
“Then let go,” I told him. “Like all of the times before, remember? I always had to move ahead and coach you along, telling you that it was okay to jump as long as you were brave enough to at least try to land…
…and I know it’s scary this time.”
“Before it was a job, or a move,” I continued. “Those are all material things. This is our marriage, the very foundation everything we are was built upon, but we have let it weaken and cave in at the seams. The only way for this to work is if you let go of all of that pressure you put yourself under every day. It doesn’t change anything. It only makes life harder when you can’t stop long enough to appreciate all of these wonderful blessings…
“…and I can’t feel them by myself anymore.”
So, what happened? Is the story over?
I hope not. For now, we just need to look for a new beginning.