Monthly Archives: April 2013

moving on and glancing back…

When the moving trucks were loaded, my car packed to the gills, and James’ pick-up truck literally overflowing with the possessions of our two houses, I prepared to the leave the home where I’d healed for 4 years since my separation. I stood in the foyer, key in hand, and allowed the feelings to flow. My mind wandered through various memories and emotions, sifting through them, noticing them and letting them go. I heard James’ voice, “Feeling a little sad?” “No,” I answered honestly. I was amazed, empowered, and excited, but not sad. No, not sad.

I stood remembering how many times I had cowered in that house – moments of sheer terror that I would not be able to do “it” – make the mortgage payment, recover from a broken heart, co-parent with a man who initially wouldn’t look me in the eye anymore, build a new life without having the slightest idea how one went about such a thing. So many “it”s that I went ahead and did. Sometimes I danced through the obstacles with aplomb, but more often I stumbled along semi-blindly, praying furiously for help from whatever source might be listening. But I did it. Over and over and over again, I did it.

One of the many casualties of my marriage was my faith in myself. Prior to meeting and marrying my husband, I had attacked the world with a kind of naïve confidence. I didn’t take a whole lot of foolish risks, but I evaluated risks without concern for my own ability to properly address the variety of obstacles I anticipated. I moved alone to a foreign country. I lived in a ghetto and pretended to carry a weapon in my pocket as I traversed to and from the local bus-stop each day. I came home to the States, got a job, and moved to a city I’d hardly ever visited. I applied to law schools without any knowledge of the process or guidance from mentors. I secured student loans and an apartment and launched my legal career. I chased down and landed a plumb job with a national non-profit. I had faith in myself to handle whatever came my way.

But Bryce changed that. At some point during our relationship, Bryce came to see me as weak. I’m not sure if it was my recurring depression or his honest assessment of my abilities, but he used to tell me that I had terrible coping mechanisms and couldn’t “handle things.” I’m also not sure why I ever allowed his opinion of me to change my own, but I did. Slowly, over time, I began to see myself as weak and incompetent. I viewed moments of evidence to the contrary of this characterization as anachronisms to my actual personality – outliers on the bell curve of who I really was.

I certainly had successes during those years I was with Bryce, but I felt that I was play-acting through them. Surely if the people around me really knew who I was and how weak I was, they would see that it was all just luck, just good fortune, that created the successes, I thought. When my small interior design business took off rapidly, I downplayed it as being “easy.” Giving myself any credit felt like false bravado.

Eventually, Bryce noticed that the bottom had fallen out of my confidence and he would make small attempts to pay me compliments, especially if others were doing so, like when I secured a big design client and my friends were so proud of me. Bryce would tell me how proud he was of me and, momentarily, my heart would fill. But quickly thereafter, criticism would follow and I’d realize that, on balance, I really wasn’t particularly special at all.

I can look back at this and see how destructive it was, and how readily I surrendered my power of self-identifying to his opinions and whims. I am not sure precisely when his opinion of me began to define my own sense of who I fundamentally was; I only know it happened.

In the brief moments that I stood in my little house’s foyer and my brain flashed through a million memories at the speed of synapses firing, I realized something: all those fearful minutes in this house had unexpectedly restored my sense of my own personal strength. I had entered this home convinced that I was incapable of being strong, and I was leaving convinced that I am incapable of being anything but strong. I am not perfect. I am not a constant work in progress. But I am absolutely, positively, most definitely strong.

And the truth is, I always was.

healing home

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the healing house

In anticipation of my upcoming move into a new home with James, I have been packing up my belongings.  On a cold afternoon recently, my friend Annie came over to help me crate my earthly possessions. As we wrapped my mother’s delicate china in newspaper and stacked books in boxes, Annie commented on how different this move was from the one that brought me to this little house.  I paused, looked around, and felt the past rush up to meet me….

In March 2009, I moved out of the house that Bryce and I had shared with our daughters and into a small townhouse a few blocks away.  I had discovered the little house a couple of weeks after deciding to end my marriage, and purchased it with the generous help of my mother.  The house closing was a blur — I sincerely don’t remember any of it, only my own numbness.  Moving day was a nightmare, truly. At the end of that long day, I slumped into a heap on my new living room floor and cried with grief and relief.

In the days since, I have painted nearly every wall in the house, imbuing it with an energy and personality that more closely matches the life I’ve created here with my daughters. I have acquired a few pieces of furniture, most notably a large orange sofa for the living room for which I had to save for many months.  I have painstakingly tended the xeriscaped back garden and the lush, flowering front courtyard.  I have hung photos and art, added rugs and curtains, and turned what was a pretty little house into a warm and loving home.

My daughters have come to prefer our little home to their dad’s much larger and more modern house, and my friends have all told me how comfortable they are here and how well my home reflects me.  These validations are gratifying, but more important has been the reality that, through the ups and downs of my separation, divorce, and subsequent dating experiences, through the parenting challenges that naturally appear, through the professional pressures and demands I endured,  I have always been glad to come home to my little house.  It has always felt good to me.  Safe.  Comforting.  Serene.  I shed more tears in this house than I could ever possibly count, and I railed at life’s unfairness all too frequently, but she has always answered back with quiet, constant reassurance.  She has granted me solace and shelter and peace from the storms raging inside and outside of me.

My sweet little house is far too small to accommodate me, James, our six children, and three dogs.   And so we have purchased a much-larger house in a neighboring town in which to create a home for our blended family.  As for my little house, we will keep her and rent her out until such time as my mother decides to move closer to us, at which time, she’ll be folded into the bosom of the house that held me safe while I healed.

I remember the day before my closing, when I walked through the house with my realtor — an acquaintance who’d become a friend.  I made an off-hand comment about growing old here, and he quickly grew serious.  “No,” he said. “This is only a stopping over place for you.  You won’t be here forever.  You’ll have another new beginning someday.”  I was very doubtful, and have never lived my life in this house as if it were anything but permanent.  And yet, once again, I was mistaken.  It was not my forever house.  Another new beginning is indeed upon me.

Annie and others have asked me if I will be sad to leave my house, but I am honestly not.  This leap with James — this wonderful, magical opportunity to create a home with a man I love more than I have known possible — this is precisely what my time in this house has been preparing me for.  All those sad and difficult times during which my little house protected me or her garden soothed me… it was all in preparation to launch me into the next chapter of my life.  I see that very clearly now.  I came here broken and fragile.  I will leave stronger and more fully myself.   This next move is a joyful one, buoyed by hope and love, and the promise of endless possibility.  How different from the move that brought me first in this front door….

The last time Annie packed my mother’s china four years ago,  she worked wordlessly in Bryce’s living room, while I shuttled boxes out of the house and into the waiting moving van and the tension around us thickened to the point of near suffocation.  This time, we packed the china together, the tunes from a favorite playlist filling the room as we chatted and laughed about our men and our children and how far we have each come since those dark days and how rich our futures look.  There was no sadness, no regret, no nostalgia.  Just friendship and gratitude and hope.

So, I shall move on with thankfulness in my heart for my time here.  The point, after all, was never to stay, but to know when to go.

IMG_1510

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the snowpack miracle

[Blogger’s Note: This is part of an on-going series I’ve titled “perfect little miracles,” a series of posts about moments that have inspired, reassured, or comforted me.]

When James and I got back together last December, both of our lives were, to a greater or lesser extent, in a state of disarray. We had each weathered a brutal year emotionally and were completely uncertain as to what the future might hold or even which direction in which to steer ourselves. We weren’t lost, just a little war-weary and unsure of how to best move forward toward our individual dreams.

Then we got back together. In the midst of trying to knit our fractured relationship back together, we let the rest of it kind of fall away for a while. We focused on nurturing our fragile union and taking good care of each other. Worries about work, kids, exes were temporarily back-burnered while we decided that whatever our next step would be, we’d be taking it together.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about my life is how, once I surrender control of my destiny, Fate (or Faith, if you prefer) swoops in and begins to sail my ship smoothly to a destination I might not have chosen nor even known that I could reach. And that is precisely what has happened over the last few months. One small, perfect miracle after another… gently, slowly pushing us forward.

I think the first time I was consciously aware of it this time was with the contract on our new house. As I wrote about here, the sellers accepted our offer a mere four hours before I was fired for the first time in my professional life. It was the second house we’d tried to place under contract, and there were multiple offers on the table, including a full-price cash offer. We nearly lost the house in all the wrangling, but a last minute strategic suggestion by our realtor allowed us to close the negotiations and secure the contract. Against all odds and all logic – and, some would say, all reason – we were buying a house together not even 12 weeks after getting back together and within days of my becoming unemployed.

So how in the world did we secure a mortgage, you’re asking yourself? In this post-Mortgage Meltdown world, what lender would be that crazy? Well, my mother stepped in and helped with the asset balance sheet, while our mortgage agent expressed strong confidence in the temporary nature of my unemployment. So ahead it went. It was painful yes, but that’s lending these days – a wild rollercoaster of will-you-or-won’t-you be approved. And we were.

And our house wasn’t just four walls – it was almost 5,000 gorgeous square feet of enough space to house our family of 8 (and 3 dogs) comfortably. We had been prepared to settle for a sad fixer-upper that we’d have to expand or renovate or otherwise fit to our atypical needs, but somehow we were buying a big, beautiful house that required almost no fixing or changing. True, the home is in a city different from the ones in which either of us were living, and the commute to my children’s schools isn’t a short bike-ride anymore, but those seemed like small sacrifices to avoid many years of construction dust and expense. We couldn’t believe our luck.

We were supposed on to move on Tuesday April 9th, but some last minute concessions on the sellers’ part gave us possession on Sunday April 7th, instead. April 7th was sunny, cloudless, and relatively warm. Our move went off smoothly and under beautiful blue skies. April 9th, on the other hand, ushered in the record-breaking series of April snowstorms unlike this part of Colorado has ever seen. The next 15 days saw 47.6 inches of snow fall in our town, annihilating the previous record of 44” from 1957. It was one cloudy, snowy, bitterly cold day after another, broken only by the occasional mild day that didn’t last. But not only had we managed to move before the terrible snows hit, but those snowy, impassable days gave us lots of time in our new home to unpack and get settled. James has a sprinkler and landscaping business that provides most of his income for the spring and summer, and, under normal weather conditions, he would have been very busy and not able to be home with me during that time. But the snows made outdoor work impossible, so he was home, unpacking boxes and doing various handyman jobs around the house. It was my own little slice of heaven.

As the snows turned from one freak storm to a series of freak storms, another path before us was smoothed. You see, in this part of the West, water from melting snow (known as “snowmelt”) provides our water supply to our reservoirs. That snow melts from the many feet of snow accumulated in the Rockies over the winter. That accumulation is known as “snowpack.” Those of us who live here watch the snowpack levels through the winter because low snowpack levels mean spring and summer droughts. And droughts mean bad wildfire seasons, like the one we had last year, culminating in the horrific Waldo Canyon fire outside of Colorado Springs. Wildfires are terrifying, and even if you aren’t near them, the communal anxiety they breed sucks the fun out of summer for grown-ups.

Droughts also mean government-imposed watering restrictions. Sprinkler systems are the only way to have a lawn or healthy trees or shrubs or flowers in this high desert climate. Even if you xeriscape your garden and lawn (meaning you employ plants and materials that are naturally drought-resistant), you still have to provide them with some water. This isn’t cactus country – we walk a fine line between green and brown. During the terrible drought of 2002, a neighboring town prohibited all landscape watering and everyone in town without a well for water lost their lawns. You could drive through that town in August and see one brown, dead lawn after another. It was awful.

For a sprinkler and landscaping business like James’, water restrictions are like a death sentence for the season. Every year, James watches the snowpack numbers and follows the water table and reservoir levels for clues as to what kind of season he’ll have. This year, more than ever, he needs a good season, to make up for the losses inflicted by the embezzling employee of last year. But all through March, the Colorado Rockies got little measurable snow. March is supposed to be our snowiest month, so by the time April dawned, James was getting nervous. Denver and two smaller municipalities in our area issued watering restrictions. It was getting dire.

But something told me it would be okay. Everything else was working out so beautifully, I felt certain that Fate wouldn’t forsake us now. It didn’t seem possible to me that Fate would have delivered us this beautiful home, only to create a financial hardship that would threaten our ability to keep it. Such a turn of events seemed unfathomably cruel.

And then the snows came. And came. And came. And finally stopped. The morning of April 24th dawned warm and sunny with only more of the same in the near future. The next day’s local paper reported that one of the cities with watering restrictions would be repealing those, which will likely prompt the others to reconsider, too. And the phones in James’ office started ringing off the hook.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Life sure is funny. You never really know when your next stroke of luck will come from or what your next perfect little miracle will look like. Sometimes it even comes in the form of cold, white, fluffy snowpack deep in the Colorado Rockies.

Who would’ve thought?

snowy mts

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