choosing a path and finding adventure

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I’m not sure what is going on. I didn’t feel much like writing for a long time, and for the first time I seriously considered shutting my blog down. Things have changed so much in the ten years I’ve been doing this, and it seemed like maybe it was the end of an era. And maybe it is, but I’m not ready to call it quits yet. There is good stuff yet to come, and I like the motivation to write that having a blog gives me. Without it, I will only scribble a few journal entries occasionally, which typically end up in the trash because they feel too unfiltered and if something happened to me I wouldn’t want anyone to see them.

There has been so much struggle to get to the place I’m at, and now that I’m here I don’t take any of it for granted. I made mistakes when I was young and had my whole life ahead of me. I couldn’t see that until I had young adult children myself, and can see how differently they are living in their twenties. It put it in perspective, the difficulties we’ve faced building this family, how precarious it was at times and how much it wrung out of us just to keep it going- and not just going but moving forward in a positive direction.  Life is hard for most people, and to be responsible for these four beautiful children and somehow offer them a better life than we had without a whole lot of help or resources was something that I now see, in hindsight, as a monumental task,

This is hindsight speaking, and I didn’t see it so clearly as it was happening. It’s only now that I’ve been able to slow down and reflect, now that we have enough margin in our life, both financially and emotionally, that I understand. I understand why life felt so hard and I’m grateful that we hung in there and eventually it got easier. The life I have now is precious and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I’m glad my own kids are making different choices. My daughter is dating an engineer who treats her like a princess. They are moving slowly in their long-distance relationship, living separate lives while they build their careers and finish their education, enjoying being young and relatively free. This one thing makes me incredibly happy, seeing the way my daughter chooses wisely and values herself.

I wrote a little while ago about our next move, that I was tired of wandering and wanted to put down roots (aka, buy a house). Well, maybe that’s not going to happen. We’ve had the winter to think this over, to see how my husband’s new job is going and figure out our next step. We still have two more months, and I haven’t been in any rush to decide. I was open to the idea of staying in New Hampshire and buying a house, and I looked actively for several months. But my heart wasn’t in it, and I didn’t find anything that seemed just right. At this point in our lives we are old enough to be downsizing even more, and a large mortgage is out of the question. And the cheap homes, the fixer-uppers, felt dreary and depressing and like they would require a ton of work and energy that we don’t have. We’ve done it before, but we were younger then.

I didn’t even find anything in our desired price range that I wanted to go see. And I knew that we weren’t committed enough financially to buying a home- instead we chose to take a family vacation, which is something we wouldn’t have done if a home were our priority. I mentioned to my husband that I wasn’t sure anymore about anything, and that I was willing to try living closer to NYC for a year if it would benefit his job. He agreed right away. He doesn’t need to be in the city every day, and hopefully it will never come to that, but being able to get there more easily (as a day trip) will be a good thing for his job. It’s expensive to live within two hours of Manhattan, so it will have to pay off financially to be worth it. We’ll give it a year and see how it goes.

Meanwhile, I’ve got my own dreams to work on. Now that my life is easier I am craving adventure, wanting to do the sort of things that people normally do in their twenties. Physically I feel good, better than I felt ten years ago in fact. Stress can make you sick, and as I’ve become more relaxed I’ve started to feel better. Menopause is coming, but I’m not scared. I want to do something special to mark this new season of my life, but since I’m not wealthy and I still have two kids at home it will have to be something that fits into the parameters of the life I have. No Pacific Coast Trail or trips to India (not that I’d want to do anything like that anyway).

I suppose that in its own way, moving to New Jersey will be an adventure… but I know the reality of day to day life there, whether we end up in the quieter northwestern part or in a shore town, won’t be that different from life here in seacoast New Hampshire or life on the Front Range of Colorado. I will explore and find cool things to do, for sure, but I’d still like to do something that feels like more than day to day life, the suburban homeschooling mom thing.

I had told my husband a while ago that I wanted one of two things to happen by my fiftieth birthday: either to be settled in my own home, or to be okay with the fact that we live a wandering life. I truly wasn’t sure which path to pursue. But I’m beginning to be more comfortable with the nomadic aspect, not feel like it’s something to be embarrassed about. Once I realized that I didn’t have to explain or apologize for the way I am, I began to embrace it. That feels freeing.

spring fever

So we came home from our vacation in the sunny south to some depressing New England weather: snow, rain, wind and a week without the sun. It’s always hard when I say goodbye to my oldest, knowing I won’t see him for several months at least, and this time I had to say goodbye to other family as well. The dark days that first week of April just seemed fitting, and I hibernated and got back into our schooling routine and enjoyed sleeping in my own bed and cooking in my own kitchen. Traveling and eating out for a week is the best cure for the cooking blues, that’s for sure. I’m inspired by food again, which is great since I spend most of my time feeding people.

But then the weather began to improve, and my spirits have lifted as I’ve been able to be outside more. Temperatures started to creep into the fifties, and the sun came out. That’s all it takes, for me. I sometimes force myself to go out when it’s dark and cold, but I don’t enjoy it. And it seems like everyone in my family now craves the warmth- no one likes the cold days. The boys did get really into snowboarding in February and March, but Jesse still said he would trade it for a more tropical climate in an instant. Didn’t even hesitate.

But I grew up in Florida so I know that everything has it’s price. The endless heat and humidity wears on you, and you hibernate in the hot months the same way you do in the winter up north. We’ve visited California and we all agree that the weather was probably the most perfect of any place we’ve been, but that state has a whole lot of problems too. It’s good to learn to be content anywhere I guess, but I do see us eventually migrating toward a warmer climate over time, given the fact that no one really likes winter.

I’ve realized that part of my sensitivity includes weather, which is why I tend to write about it. I’m like Goldilocks- I don’t want to be too hot or too cold. When it’s just right, I’m in heaven. And I make the most of it, throwing open the windows and humming to myself, going outside with the kids and being thankful for the blessing of a beautiful day.

There are some disturbing things happening in the world- I try not to get too worried but the news feels frightening. Yet I know there is nothing I can do. I have a family to care for. I have a faith that guides me, a belief in the idea that good will ultimately prevail. I also have lots of doubt and questions, but what works for me is to simply get up every morning and do the best I can with the life I’ve been given. I find so much joy in the simple things, the everyday moments. This is the gift that age gives you, the ability to appreciate what is happening right now, knowing that it will soon be in the past and may or may not even be remembered.

The last four days have been nice. Warm enough to turn the heat off and throw open the windows. We unfurl, like buds seeking the sun and growth of spring. Our clothes change, our attitudes become lighter. Just when it seems that we can’t take one more minute of winter, spring arrives with the promise of new life and green plants, of flowers and long barefoot days, of swimming and ice cream and those glorious summer evenings.

Today we had a little taste of that. It was the warmest day so far- not really a beach day yet, despite the crowds and bathing suits, but a good day to be outside. We walked the beach, went for ice cream, walked in the woods. Now I am sitting here with a glass of wine, enjoying the sound of the peepers, happy to be alive.

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Florida/Georgia trip

We went on a family vacation last week, mostly to see our oldest son in Atlanta but we  combined it with a trip to Florida. A bit of history here- I was raised in south Florida. We moved there from Maine when I was about four, and although we continued to spend our summers in Maine I went to school in Florida and lived there most of the time. I pretty much hated Florida, and thought Maine was perfect. As an adult, my opinions are a bit more nuanced.

I tried living in Florida again as a very young adult, and my daughter was born there in 1993. She was my first home birth, and we were profiled in the Palm Beach Post for an article on home birth. Which meant that I had a newspaper reporter and photographer hanging out in our tiny apartment throughout my long day of labor, in addition to the midwife and her assistant. It seems crazy to me now that I agreed to that, but back then I would say yes to almost anything anyone asked of me. And they were cool- it was all women and everyone left me alone to walk around the neighborhood and lean on my husband. We also got some professional pictures of the birth, not that anyone seems to want to look at them besides me.

Those two years we lived in Florida were a tough time for me, the lowest point in our married life. We left in the summer of 1995 and I said I was never coming back. Well, I did get back there but it took me over twenty years. And Florida is still the same, but I have changed for sure and it felt good to go back and be able to see it with new eyes. I still wouldn’t want to live there full-time, but I would consider being a snowbird if the opportunity presents itself.

Emily was able to join us for the Florida part of the trip, so the five of us flew into Orlando. There is another reason why this trip was significant- I haven’t been on a plane in about 23 years.  Since before 9/11. When I last flew you could still smoke on a plane (maybe- you definitely could when I was a teenager). It was free to check your luggage. “Airport security” wasn’t even something we thought about.

The craziest thing about this is that I was the more adventurous one when I met my husband, and then he ended up flying for work all the time while my years as a non-flyer  began stretching into decades. There wasn’t any big reason, just life with four kids and a single income and a lack of interest. My older two are well-travelled, and my younger two have been on numerous road trips, including cross country ones, but it was time for me to fly again. It was a symbol of something, this new stage in my life I suppose.

We only had a week to do everything, so it was a whirlwind trip. We went to Cocoa Beach on Sunday (the closest beach to Orlando), and stayed overnight in a hotel right on the beach, by the pier. It was way too touristy for my taste, a bit like Old Orchard Beach in Maine, but it was the beach in March and compared to New England it was heavenly. On Monday we drove south a bit to see some quieter beaches, and everyone agreed that it was great and we should figure out a way to spend some time there next winter.

Then we drove to visit my mom in Lake Wales (inland Florida), and had a mini family reunion at her place. My oldest sister and my niece and her family all made it over to see us, and we hung out by the pool and then went out to eat at a local restaurant. It had been a long time since we’d seen everyone and I had never met my niece’s husband or children. My niece holds a very special place in my heart- lots of background there but it’s not my story to tell, so I’ll just say that I’m very proud of her and the life she’s created for herself.

Then back to a hotel in Orlando late Tuesday night, and Emily left early the next morning to go home to Maine. We continued on our way to Atlanta on Wednesday, and then spent the next three days with Alex. He has a new job- head chef at a small seafood restaurant in the very cool neighborhood of Virginia Highland. He’s been in restaurants now for about ten years, and this job was a dream come true for him. He was able to get three days off to spend with us, and I treasured every moment. We mostly ate- which makes sense when your son is a chef! Lots of good food, good weather, nice hotels.

But he also needed help moving, and my husband is the person to have around if you need to get something done. He’s at his best when he has a project. Alex wanted to move but hadn’t found a place yet, and his lease was up on April first and he was going to have to start paying month to month if he stayed. His apartment was too expensive, too far from his work, and the neighborhood was too gritty. I’m proud of my son for moving to Atlanta- he loves hip-hop and black culture, has a passion for social justice, but unlike most of the privileged (white) people I know, he actually chose to just go live a different lifestyle. Around here people talk, but they stay in their comfort zones. Nothing wrong with being comfortable, but you probably shouldn’t pretend that you care so much about diversity when you live in a predominantly white, middle to upper class area, and all your friends are just like you.

I don’t pretend to have a passion for it- I acknowledge that racism is very real and continues to be a big problem, but I focus my energy on other things. Like having a happy marriage and raising children who are decent people and will hopefully contribute something positive to the world. But my oldest has done something unique by moving to the south and immersing himself in a completely different culture, and he’s done it all on his own without being part of the bubble that wealth and connections can provide. It’s real, what he’s doing. I don’t know how else to describe it.

Not that I don’t worry- I worry all the time! And I’m glad we could help him out. We had rented a huge passenger van because it was the cheapest vehicle to rent in one location and return to another. It was part of the adventure, driving this giant van all over the place. So Scott figured he had a moving truck. He helped Alex find a place on Thursday, and Friday he and Jesse helped him move. A friend of Alex’s came to help too- that’s how you really know who your friends are, the people that just offer to help you move because they are amazingly good people. Nick and I hung out at the hotel- it got a little boring but I knew that moving was harder than waiting. And so it was all accomplished in a day.

His new place is still in a non-gentrified neighborhood, but it’s affordable and seems relatively safe, and he can walk to all kinds of places. He has a dog, a pitbull, and she is the sweetest thing. I wasn’t sure what I would think, since I can be fearful of dogs. But as soon as I met her I knew she was fine. And once we went out walking I decided I liked having her with us and now I’m glad he has her. Fortunately I’ve had several friends who are pitbull owners and defenders of the breed, so I do have an open mind about them. It depends on the dog and the owner.

Saturday came all too quickly. It’s hard to say goodbye. But that’s what it’s all about, this life. Loving and letting go, making the most of the moments you have.

 

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snowboarding!

So this is what we’ve been up to lately…

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The boys are learning a new sport, and they’re loving it. I don’t know why we waited so long. Our older kids both learned to snowboard when they were young- around here the ski mountains have deals for homeschoolers that make it affordable. Jesse went a few times when he was around seven but didn’t really like it, and we didn’t try again. When people hear that we lived in Colorado, and know that we have active boys, they assume that skiing or snowboarding was part of our life, but actually out there it was less accessible than here in northern New England. The mountains are far away from the Front Range and very expensive. As it turned out, I was scared to drive in the Rocky Mountains and my husband was so busy with work it just didn’t happen.

I grew up in Florida and don’t ski at all, my husband’s parents never did things like that with their kids and although he did learn to snowboard as an adult he doesn’t do it any more; so it’s not like it came naturally to us to do this with our kids. But I knew I wanted all of my kids to at least have the opportunity to learn, so finally this year we got motivated to take them. We got a late start- February!- but better late than never.

Actually, the final push came when I tried taking them sledding and they complained that it was boring and broke their sleds going over jumps. I came home and said to Scott: okay, time to snowboard. And just like that, they are hooked. We’ve been fortunate to be able to participate in a homeschool program that didn’t require signing up at the beginning of the season- you can just sign up for individual days. My husband took them the first few times, on the weekends, and now I am comfortable going with them during the week.

It’s been nice to see them get along so well while they learn together. They’ve often had a contentious relationship, but this sport seems to bring out the best in them. Since we’re house hunting anyway, proximity to a good ski mountain has now moved to the top of the list. Which I’m fine with, since going inland is my preference. The coastal areas are expensive and crowded, and since Scott can work from home as long as he has a good internet connection, being in a more rural area makes more sense both for financial reasons and quality of life.

coming full circle

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This is one of those posts that I’ve been writing in my head for a while, worried that it’s going to sound a little nutty and then thinking how silly that thought is… if it’s my blog, I shouldn’t worry about it too much, right? If I’m going to write, I’m going to do it with a minimum of constraint and just pour it all out. This has always been a place for me to try to make sense of the journey and hopefully gain some perspective, and sometimes that requires a willingness to not hold back too much. The path may not be linear and the lines are often blurry, but every once in a while it all comes together and that is something worth sharing. So I’m going to just write, going back in time to explain the present. Will it be one post or ten? I don’t know. I’ll know when I’m done.

I haven’t been writing lately, the longest break I’ve taken in many years. I’ve set a goal for myself as the decade of my forties has drawn to a close, and that is to have my life settled by the time I turn fifty. My birthday is in late October, so there has been a little more urgency as the months have gone by. It’s good to have a goal I think, something concrete.

I started blogging around the time I turned forty. I had four children at home, two teens and two little ones. It was something I wanted so much, those four children, and it was dismaying to realize how hard it really was, how ill-equipped I seemed to be to meet everyone’s needs. Every day was a struggle just to stay afloat. Not that I admitted that, or that anyone even knew. Like most people, I was always fine. But inside, I was lost. I went to find myself through mothering and as it turns out, children take a whole lot more than they give.

Which sounds terrible, and I don’t mean that they haven’t given me plenty, just that it’s not enough to make you whole if you’re missing some parts and pieces of yourself. Many young people find themselves (so to speak) in their twenties. I see my own kids doing that now, and it makes me  happy that they have that time and space to learn who they are before they build a life with someone else and become responsible for the happiness and well-being of others.

Maybe this sounds judgmental of those who make different choices, and that is not my intention. I am only sharing my personal experience as someone who spent my twenties nurturing a family instead of figuring out who I was and what I wanted out of life. My thirties were just my twenties times two, and then I turned forty and started to breathe again and all those buried things rose up to meet me, and I set out to do the work that I should have done when I was young.

It was an uncomfortable time, in many ways. It’s not easy to face yourself, to see things clearly. My husband had his own stuff to work through- yes, we raised each other, but at some point you have to accept that no one else can fix you, that it has to come from inside. Writing helped. Moving far away helped, even when it didn’t work out the way I planned. My kids growing up and needing me less helped a whole lot, particularly being able to watch my older two move into adulthood and see the love I poured into them bear fruit.

Doing this inner work meant letting go of a lot of dreams I had. I got the family I wanted, but it didn’t always look the way I pictured. There were many things I just had to stop doing, simplifying more and more until I got to the point where my life felt manageable. There were tough times in our marriage, angry words and tears and apologies, promises to keep trying, to do better. We both had a lot of emotional baggage from our chaotic childhoods, and it’s not always easy to just put that aside while raising your own children and trying to make a life together with all the commitment and compromise that marriage entails.

But it was always just the two of us, learning as we went, having faith in each other and hope for the future. It has been so far from perfect. I pray that my kids will have an easier time of it, that they will choose well, have a better foundation and more support than we did. We did the best we could though, and I’m glad that we’ve set the example for them that you don’t give up. No matter how tough it gets, you keep loving and you keep going. And the funny thing is, one day you wake up and it’s a whole lot easier. You get better at being a parent and a partner. You get better at life.

So my forties were all about finding myself, except not in any kind of twnety-something way. It’s been a quiet journey, something I’ve managed to integrate into my life pretty seamlessly. I pared so much stuff away to give myself this space, this time to grow into the person I’d like to be. Lots of time with my kids, fully engaged and present with them, because I know now how quickly the time goes and how all you’re left with is a memory of their sweet faces once they’re gone and living lives of their own. Long walks, good books, time for contemplation and writing when the muse strikes. As much travel as I can possible manage, always pushing myself to try something new and do something different, because my life became really narrow at one point and I don’t want to live that way.

In my last blog post I mentioned that we were going to keep moving around, possibly heading closer to New York City for my husband’s job. I know that was only a couple of weeks ago, but things have changed. I didn’t give all the details in my last post, because it’s impossible to share everything. All I’m trying to do here is give a little slice of life, and of course that will never paint the whole picture. I’ve been thinking hard this winter about what we should do next, because we do have some flexibility within the larger parameters of my husband’s job. He works from home, so we can pick where we want to live, although for now his territory is the northeast and he has to travel to New York City a few times a month. So he needs access to an airport and can’t really be any farther from the city than we are now.

It sounds exciting to be able to pick where you want to live, and it’s awesome- I’m not complaining. But it’s also a little overwhelming, if you don’t have clear ties to a certain area and your kids aren’t tied to a school system. Then there is the fact that the New York City area is incredibly expensive and busy and just a crazy kind of lifestyle that isn’t really us. We’re not hicks, but we’re not urbanites or even suburbanites. I’ve tried over the last five years, but I miss the way we used to live and the ideals I once had. We’ve been blessed with a great job and a larger salary than we ever imagined he would make, but it’s not so much money for a family anywhere within two hours or so of Manhattan.

Then there’s the homeschooling laws, and the taxes… I’ve researched our options carefully. Nothing is set in stone yet, we’re still in the deciding phase. We’ve made exploratory trips to Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey. We did our first family trip to Manhattan (my husband spends a lot of time there and wanted to share it with us) and I actually liked it just fine as a place to visit. But I wouldn’t want to live there, and I don’t think the boys would either.

There are nice places everywhere, and life is what you make of it, but ultimately New Hampshire is our very best choice among the states we could pick to live in. I just needed some time to come around to the fact because I’ve grown so used to thinking the grass is greener somewhere else, that change is something that will make me happy. At the same time, I’m tired of change. I’m tired of moving, cleaning up yet another house, the impermanence of it all, my husband fixing things for someone else, taking care of something that isn’t mine. It’s been five years of renting and moving around, and I think I’m done.

I need a place of my own, I need to paint walls and plant a garden and give my kids the security of one home for the few more years that they are with us. I need a wood stove and chickens. I need to go back to where I began, all those years.ago. It’s time. So we are actively looking for a house in New Hampshire, but on the western side, near lakes and mountains, where the pace is slower and the cost of living is less. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack- I’ve done this so many times and I’ve got a good sense of what I want and what I don’t. It’s a little scary, only because I’m fully present in this decision, unlike all the other times. But mostly, I’m more excited than I’ve been in a long time. And that’s a good thing.

you can’t go home again

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I have no excuse NOT to write, so maybe that means it’s a good time. We’re having a snowstorm here in New England, my husband is out of town, the kids are fed and entertained and the house is warm and cozy. I’ve got music playing on Spotify (Jason Isbell is a new favorite, and I’m able to listen to all kinds of similar artists). I really hate winter and snow in general lately, but today I was prepared for the storm and it’s actually been a nice day. Just one of those days where the flow is good, the energy is positive despite the weather and cold and the fact that February is my least favorite month.

But February isn’t all bad- my third child was born this month, so it has some redeeming value. And I’m still dreaming of the time when I’ll be able to escape to a warmer climate for the dead of winter. I’m getting closer to being a snowbird, I just know it, but I’m not quite there yet. My time is coming…and when it does I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.

So many things have changed since my last post (July! where does the time go…).  It bothers me that I left things here on such a low note. It was a crazy summer. We were uncertain about the future and stress is always hard on relationships. We had moved back to Maine (from Colorado) in the spring of 2015, and my husband had gone back to work for his old company. I’m not going to go into all the reasons why we came back, it’s all here in the blog somewhere, but let’s just say that there’s some truth to the idea that you can’t go home again.

Maybe some people can, but I’ve never been able to. Everything changes. The life I left in 2012 was not the life I returned to three years later. It’s a little disappointing but I’ve already worked through it- I suppose it was why I took such a long break from writing, because I just needed to sit quietly with myself for a while.

I’m on the other side now, made my peace with everything that has happened, looking forward to the future. My husband’s job became one of trying to save a failing company, and he gave it a year and then saw the writing on the wall and prepared an exit plan. His old company (in Colorado) was happy to take him back, and he negotiated an awesome position that allows him to work remotely and offered him growth, flexibility, and new challenges. So, once again, it seems like things happen for a reason.

We moved to a beach house on the New Hampshire seacoast for the winter to give us some time to figure out the next step. It’s falling into place now, but it’s taken a few months and a willingness to go with the flow. Scott has to be in NYC a lot, so we will probably move closer when our lease is up here in June. I made myself crazy for a while thinking of all the options and possibilities, but I think we’ve settled on a plan for the future and I feel good about it.

So that’s our life for now. It’s a good life. We are comfortable financially, my big kids are busy making me proud of the people they’ve become, my younger two are a whole lot easier and generally fun to be around. We live close enough to hear the ocean, to walk the beach every day if we choose, and that is something I don’t take for granted. I stay busy facilitating the boys’ learning, the myriad activities that keep them growing and healthy.

Jesse has been in Brazilian jiu jitsu for over a year, in a class of adults. He loves it and I love the effect it has on him. He surfs- it was actually why we moved here this winter. Nick loves to ride his scooter, and we go regularly to our local indoor skate park. They like bouldering (indoor rock climbing that doesn’t require harnesses). We’ve started going to the homeschool session at a trampoline park, which they enjoy but Jesse always manages to hurt himself.  Mostly anything to get through this long cold winter. The one thing we haven’t done yet is snowboarding, mostly because I’m apathetic about it but also because we have so many other activities that it seems hard to fit in. Maybe next winter.

Although we’re still very relaxed homeschoolers, I do make sure that Jesse has some structure now that he is high school age. He does a mix of online learning (New Hampshire has a nice virtual school that allows free access to classes for homeschoolers) and curriculum that I’ve picked out for him. He wants to make sure that he is keeping up with his schooled peers, and I respect that. My guiding philosophy as a homeschool parent is to do what is best for my child, and I have to say that I am loving this stage of the journey. Being able to share things with them, to celebrate their independence and passions, to have discussions on a deeper level, to sit and smile as Jesse kicks my butt at a game and easily calculates his score while I’m still hunting for my glasses… it’s a sweet reward for all those early years, the mess and tears and needs and nurturing that nearly emptied me out.

It’s a still night, heavy with a blanket of snow and the hush that a storm brings. I say that I hate winter, but I am reminded of its power to strip things bare, to leave only the essentials, to cleanse and renew as the earth sleeps and prepares for new growth. It’s a fitting metaphor for my mood on this February evening.

happy 4th

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I had a bit of a meltdown yesterday, cried for the first time in a long time. My husband hurt my feelings, in a way that only he can do. I had been feeling emotionally fragile for a week or so, I guess you could say needy. As in, needing some extra care and thoughtfulness. Which always seems to lead me to trouble- maybe I expect too much because I intuit the emotional needs of others so readily and am always working to meet them. Maybe I’m bad at how I ask for help- I wait until I get angry and then my husband just shuts down completely.

Whatever the reasons, it’s a pattern that repeats itself. I feel vulnerable and I get hurt. But yesterday I wrote a little too freely about it, thinking that it would make me feel better. It did, for a few minutes. I received a few thoughtful and supportive comments, which I appreciated very much. And then I felt guilty, because I’ve never really used my blog in that way and I don’t want to start now. I do write about my marriage, but in general and mostly positive terms. I’ve always been open about the hard aspects of being with another person for life, raising kids and growing together and the kind of selfless love that marriage depends upon. I’m not Pollyanna-ish about married life, and I have not been blessed with a nearly perfect marriage.

My husband and I were very young when we met and settled down, and now it’s been almost thirty years. A long time for two kids who didn’t know any better. We both brought plenty of emotional baggage to this life together, we both can look back and say that maybe we were a little too young and immature to settle down, that we should have worked harder at finding ourselves before trying to commit to another person, before having the children that would ultimately be our biggest reason to make it all work.

But we didn’t do that. We did the best we could, and that’s what we continue to do, every day. For me to write about him when we have a fight would just be wrong. I wouldn’t like it if he did that to me. One wise thing we did do from the beginning was make a pact to not go to our respective families or friends each time we had an argument. And we’ve stuck to that. I think we both talk in general terms about each other with friends, but it’s mostly respectful and positive. Which is the way I want to write about it too. So I woke up at 4 in the morning and deleted my blog post.

I’m not over my hurt feelings. My despair has lessened, as it always does, but I also believe that we collect some scars along the way. It’s the price we pay for loving people. I’ve had time to reflect upon my own sensitivity, because yesterday I was feeling very strongly that I wanted to be tougher, to care less. I was imagining how lovely it would be to not be so intuitive, to be more oblivious. But then I noticed how kind my youngest child was being to me, how he kept noticing my pain and trying to ease it. He wasn’t doing it in that traumatized way that can happen when kids see their parents fight. He was just paying attention, he noticed that I was sad and tired and wanted to help. He wanted me to be happy.

That was my gift yesterday, someone who really saw me. someone who cared and did everything he could to make it better. I wasn’t going to go to the fireworks. I have skipped out on things like this so many times over the years, just being too busy and tired to care. This year was different- I looked up the different firework events and decided to make a point of going to one or two and enjoying the holiday.

When I said I didn’t know if I was going, Nick said:

 Please go. It’s more fun when you’re there. 

And I went. The crowds were terrible, and I was not in a festive mood. I regretted my decision, until the moment when the fireworks started. We were right there where they were setting them off, the closest I’ve ever been. I don’t remember this small city having such a fantastic display, maybe they went all out this year or maybe I haven’t paid much attention in the past. But they were amazing and I was glad that I went. It was smoky and noisy and loud, all things I normally dislike. I got caught up in the moment though, the magic of it all. I stood there with my arm around my son, this precious child, and realized that it would all be okay.