Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The person I was always meant to be

Like many women my age, my life doesn't look quite like I thought it would. Growing up my world was pretty simple, filled with playing baseball in the street, day dreaming, Trixie Belden books, skate keys and comic books. When I took the time to think about what the future held, which frankly wasn't often, I imagined a life that was pretty much more of the same. I would marry a fabulous man, raise some fabulous kids, work at a job I loved (which was fabulous), then happily retire at 55 with plenty of money, and grandkids running around my perfectly manicured, fabulously landscaped yard. I married at 20, had my first child at 25, bought a house, two dogs and a station wagon and was headed down the suburban road. Any glitches or hitches in that perfectly imagined and well executed life were smoothed over or smothered, buried deep where they could not see the light of day. Life was good, wasn't it?  Until one day when I looked around and realized, it was not. Don't worry, this isn't one of those stories where the mom runs off and leaves her babies in the care of others while she moves to a commune in Oregon where they throw pots and weave clothing from corn silk. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, but no, that's not what happened.

What happened is this. After almost 30 years of living the life I had planned (or perhaps had fallen into) I looked around one day and realized that this life was not the life I wanted. You might say I woke up, wondering how did I get here living a life that I don't like the looks of? It was not a bad life by any stretch of the imagination. But it didn't quite....fit. I had outgrown my life and I was finished pretending that I hadn't.

So at the age of 51, after nearly 30 years of marriage, I hitched up my courage and asked very politely if I could please find the exit. I agonized over the confrontation, imagining different scenarios with varying degrees of angst. That's something I do all the time.  Not a confrontational person by nature, I find it very useful to run thru scenes, if you will, where I say this and you say that and then I say and then you say, etc. That way, hopefully, I am not flummoxed by a response I am not expecting. That's the theory, anyway, but it doesn't always turn out how I think it will. Without getting too deeply into the TMI area, there was no agonizing or wailing or moaning or gnashing of teeth.  I didn't really expect that last one, but you never know. Although he didn't or couldn't articulate it at the time, my ex was feeling much the same way...trapped by 30 years of life where his ideas and my ideas and his values and my values just did not mesh.  Frankly, I am not sure they ever did, but I'm a little stubborn and having decided on that long ago day in 70s that my life and his life intersected nicely and therefore should be forever joined, I was determined that I would not admit defeat. It took me 30 years to understand that changing my life was not admitting defeat, it was thoughtfully choosing a different life than the one I was living.

My ex and I remained friends thru the dissolution (or what Gwenyth Paltrow called the conscious uncoupling!) of our life together. There was no name calling, no casting of blame, no asking our grown children to take sides, because we are just not that kind of people and because, frankly, not living together was and is a big relief to each of us. We got along so well, in fact, that several years after the Big D, one friend asked facetiously when we were getting remarried. I believe we decided on the 12th of Never.

This past Mother's Day, when my daughter and her husband, my ex and I all found ourselves in the same state for the first time in years, we all spent the day together at my ex's sister's house. My mom and his mom even came, and I am happy to report that no blood was shed by either of them. We had, of course, all been together at my daughter's wedding where there was also no bloodshed, but there was just something about gathering around a table sharing a delicious dinner (with plenty of wine), that made me feel...this is good.  This is how things are supposed to be. This is the very essence of family.

We may not be together any more but we are still family. We share memories and kids. We knew each other as teenagers, young adults, struggling first time parents and beyond to middle age. We were friends when we began this journey and we are friends now. I feel as though both my former husband (sounds better than 'my ex', doesn't it!) and I are now the people we were supposed to be. The future is mine...and it looks pretty good.