I was just sitting out back on my deck. It is Thanksgiving weekend. This year it was even earlier than normal falling on the ninth of October. The weather has been extraordinary. By chance, I had knowledge of the weather forecast before I had actually closed the pool for the season and knowing that I would have a full house for the weekend, I kept it open.
It has been around 80 F and cloudless. The view from the deck is spectacular with a deep blue sky and all of the colours of fall. There are still bold greens, but there are also yellows, dark reds and oranges. I was thinking about how to write this next part because it is a difficult one to explain and a monarch butterfly started to fly around just above the pool.
The colours of the monarch and its sheer beauty made me remember one of the core aspects of my experience of life. There is always beauty. There is always joy if you are willing to let it in. All of our lives have good days and bad and if we stop and look around, each moment does not need to be influenced by all of our histories and all of our loss. The serenity of this morning, with my children still sleeping up stairs is not diminished by the fact that there have been some trying times in my life, but I digress.
As little girls, probably preteens, in that age before we actually started dating and after the time that we think of boys as strange, there were always conversations about hypothetical situations. The conversations went something like this, “would you rather marry for love or money?” “If your parents disapproved of your true love would you choose to marry him, or someone of your parent’s choosing?” “Would you be able to love a man that you felt was ugly?”
Funny thing about life, it does not often offer up these choices. Outside of movies and fiction, it is not often experienced that you have two suitors. One is unsuccessful, but totally lovable and one is successful and sufficient. One is kind and romantic but ugly and one is gorgeous but not as freethinking. One is rich and you are in love with the other one.
In real life the questions are much less romantic and much less dichotomous. The question that faced me was not whether or not I would choose to be with Bob or some other, more perfect, fantasy man. The question was whether or not I wanted to be with Bob or to not be with Bob.
As I have matured, I have realized that if you do not leave a space for something to enter your life, be that a relationship or an opportunity, it cannot come in. But, since I am trying to recall what happened at the time, I did not already have confidence that “making the space” for someone better would prove to be fruitful. Making space, if you recall, had already been my experience a few times in my life. It had occurred when I left the farm job and found a waitressing job right away. It had also occurred when I originally left my mother’s place and found a safe place to live, right away.
But other factors were involved as well. I had a perfect daughter. She was gorgeous, healthy and intelligent. I knew that I wanted to have more children and I could not imagine finding anyone that could give me a child as beautiful as the one that I already had.
Also, I had spent the last two years as a young, single mother and I had a pretty good idea of what the prospects were out there. Between working full time and taking care of a two year old, my opportunity for social outings was quite limited. I was living in a decidedly industrial town that did not offer a lot of opportunity for extracurricular activities or cultural events.
I had joined the university women’s club to find out that I was the only one that had a science degree and that the entire purpose of the group was to raise money, by convincing their husbands of the value of each charitable organization, thereby securing money for the various causes. This was not my “tribe” as it were.
My job required that I drive long distances to visit various farms and I found myself rehashing the events in my marriage. Had I done enough to make it work? All of the books that I had read about marriage and discord had clearly explained that it takes two to have an argument. Each person is at fault for their own behaviours. You cannot make your partner change, you can only change yourself. You should not put undue demands on your spouse because it will just drive them away. What had my part been?
I also knew from reading a lot of this literature, that people developed bad habits in order to get attention. These habits were the very reason that the partner got driven away. In order to repair a relationship you had to identify your contribution to the strife and fix it. When you changed, your partner could not stay in the same patterns so they were more or less forced to readjust how they behaved.
I criticized myself for not knowing what I had done wrong in our relationship. I felt that I must have done things to push him away. I must have been unlovable in some way and I spent these long drives pondering the arguments, the day to day life we had created together and I came up at a loss. I could find fault in some things that I had done, but I truly was not taking responsibility for what happened. My entire focus was still what he had done to me and I knew that that couldn’t be right. The books had said how difficult it was to see your own failings.
So what is a girl to do?