I spent the day today with a friend who is looking for a new home for himself and his kids. The home he currently lives in is very beautiful and suits him perfectly, but he was forced to sell it in his divorce settlement, so at some point in the not distant future, he and his children will need a new home.
Property in our area is quite expensive, so our scouting expedition took us practically the entire length and breadth of our county, plus some short forays into neighboring counties. We climbed roads accessible only by 4×4 vehicles. We rode switchbacks that made me carsick. We got out and walked through high prairie scrub to views that were truly breathtaking. And then we’d get back in the truck and keep looking.
Last month he had a contract on a house that, almost as soon as I saw it, I pictured him comfortably in it. He withdrew the contract because the house — once owned by the infamous “Marlboro Man” of advertising history — is seriously dilapidated. Too unique and perfect in some regards to simply scrape, it would require mountains of cash and construction expertise to rehabilitate. Even so, there is something about the property — the house, the barns, the trees, the views all the way to the Back Range of the Rockies — that makes me think he may yet wind up there.
The interesting thing about making these drives with him is that I have watched him building new dreams, post-divorce. The house he lives in now was a boring, dark ranch-model home when he bought it for his then-new family. He lovingly turned it into a dream house, complete with a man-made freshwater pond in the backyard for swimming and a giant deck for entertaining. But that home is no longer his, and his family is no longer what it was.
Over the last year or so since we’ve been looking at properties together, I’ve watched him become increasingly comfortable with the idea of letting go of his current home and starting afresh. I watch him survey a prospective piece of land or house, his arm arching the sky, describing what he’d build and how it would look. I can see the memories he’s imagining that he and his children will make in each place. I observe him moving forward, onward.
On our drive today, we passed a large farmhouse that is probably close to 100-years-old. It sits solidly on its flat lot East of the foothills, facing the looming mountains across its fields. The trees surrounding it are large, probably nearing the end of their lifespan, and the house itself has seen better days. But it is solid. It has, as we like to say, “good bones.” As we motored past, I stared at it wistfully. Renovating an old farmhouse was something I’d always dreamed of, and it was one of those dreams that seemed attainable, especially after I started my own interior design business. I think I always kind of thought that someday my ex-husband and I would do that together, and then grow old in that mythical house, with grandchildren running about the yard.
But it turns out that Bryce never really liked home improvement projects much, and so that work fell to me. And now, given my markedly different financial situation, the likelihood of my ever having a little farmhouse to renovate is decidely slim. That dream is yet another casualty of my divorce.
Rolling along today in the sunshine, I experienced a moment of deep melancholy. Perhaps that is the most difficult part of divorce — relinquishing dreams that you held so dear, some of which were so close, but only just out of your grasp. Some of those dreams are huge and profound — like the idea of celebrating a 50th anniversary with your partner for life — while others are simpler and smaller — like being able to sit together as one family at your daughter’s wedding. But big or small, they are the dreams that we pin our hopes to, hitch our stars to, and throw ourselves headlong into life in order to — just maybe! — grasp them.
I think sometimes we don’t even realize that the dream is gone, until it suddenly hits us on a sunny spring afternoon, with the truck kicking up dust on the unpaved road. As I craned my neck to look back at the farmhouse, I silently said goodbye to yet another small dream from my hope chest that slipped quietly away when I was wasn’t looking.
It’s easy to hold too tightly to those dreams that evaporate when we divorce. We could spend years, or even a lifetime, looking back on what was lost. But in doing so, we lose all possibility for creating new dreams and chasing those down. I had to remind myself of that as the road turned and I lost sight of that old farmhouse today. There’s no use looking back and pining for what might have been. Not when I could use that energy to manifest dreams that are possible on the road in front of me.
I asked my friend once if he was going to be sad to leave the house he’d built as his dream home for his family. He was quiet for a just moment, and then he said, “Sure. I’ll probably cry like a baby. But then I’ll move on. Because that’s over, isn’t it?”