When I met my husband I lived alone in a condo that I owned. A condo that I painted myself, and filled with furniture, carpet, lighting, and art that I picked out. A condo that housed my 52″ flat screen that held DVR recordings that I chose. And a condo to which the people I invited over were of my choosing. I surrounded myself with friends with whom I enjoyed fabulous relationships. I ate whatever I wanted for dinner which meant one night it would be popcorn and yogurt, the next oatmeal, and the next a super-sized meal from McDonald’s. And it didn’t matter. Because I got to choose what I ate. And what I did at night and on weekends. And the home I created for myself. And the friends with whom I shared my time.
I always expected that I’d find some lovely man to marry who also had a fabulous life full of friends, and activities, and work, and that we’d merge our lovely lives and eventually find a house together in a community that we chose and we’d have children when the time was right and we’d live happily ever after.
It didn’t exactly happen that way. I did in fact meet a lovely man with whom I fell in love. The rest of the plan fell away. Because there were children involved I felt like there was very little room/time to mess around. I felt an enormous urgency to decide if this was serious or to move on. For the sake of the little girls.
When we decided that it was in fact serious I moved into my husband’s house. The house he formerly shared with his ex-wife. The house they picked together. The house for which they chose paint colors together. The home to which the little girls were brought after their births.
I was instantly a part of their life. Both the life of my husband and the little girls, but also the former life of my husband and his former wife. THIS was my new life. What felt like the life and the home and the dream of others. In that first year we took-on house projects with a vengeance. Looking back I can now see clearly that I was desperately trying to squeeze into a life that I felt already existed without me. But at the time it was landscaping projects that seemed fun, siding projects that were necessary, and some paint “updating” in rooms that hadn’t been painted in a while.
My husband was still friendly with the family of his ex-wife and he began introducing me to them. They were kind, and gracious, and excited to meet me, and so happy I was now in the lives of my little girls and my husband. And while I was grateful for their warm welcomes and kindness, it also felt a little bit gross, because it was yet more of my husband’s former life into which I was being smushed.
I was also now an active participant in a co-parenting situation with people I wouldn’t normally choose to share relationships. I was communicating and making joint-decisions about the most important people on earth, the little girls, with people I didn’t know, trust, or necessarily enjoy.
As time passed we became increasingly aware of the enormous amount of time the little girls were spending in the car, eating meals in the car, practicing spelling in the car, and doing everything in the car. There was no time to just settle down AT HOME. We lived in one suburb, my husband’s ex-wife lived in a suburb 25 minutes from ours, and the little girls went to school in a suburb in between. We made the decision to move to the suburb in which the little girls would go to school.
When they divorced, my husband and his ex-wife chose the school district that the girls would attend. So even our choice of suburb to which we would move was really their choice during their divorce.
We sold our house quickly. Much faster than we’d expected. We were suddenly in a position in which we needed to find a house…quickly. We looked at house, after house, after house. For months. The little girls’ elementary school district was small, and houses were scarce. We looked at houses several days a week, I scoured the real estate sites several times per hour, all the while dreaming and secretly looking at houses in the parts of the city I ACTUALLY would have wanted to live and knowing there were so many great options in our price range THERE, but also knowing it wouldn’t alleviate the travel time the girls were enduring each day.
I found the house we eventually bought. It’s a few blocks one way from school, a few blocks the other from church, and it sits on an acre and a half of land ensuring we can build our dreamhouse. Someday.
Even though I found the house, and knew the house would be ours when I first drove past it , I spent the first year so pissed that THIS was where we lived. THIS suburb. I resented the gravel road that makes-up the back portion of our neighborhood. I hated the sounds of farm equipment on my later evening walks. I glared at the horses I passed on my way to work each day. I spent more mornings that I care to remember thinking ‘what the f-ck am I doing HERE?!’
In the past week someone made a comment, offhandedly, that I didn’t make many choices in our early years. I don’t remember who said it, in what context, or even when the conversation happened…but it’s stuck with me.
The past couple days I’ve been walking. I’m putting running on hold for a bit just to see how my body recovers. I used to run and it would clear my head, allow me to think things through, and I’d get home feeling refreshed and accomplished. Of late, however, I’ve been so focused on the pain and the need to run a certain amount of miles through the pain, that it hasn’t been refreshing at all. In fact, it’s been pretty horrible. As I’ve walked the past couple days I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of thinking about choice.
In retrospect it’s easy to understand why I felt so unhappy and why my husband and I suffered so. Now obviously, there were plenty of other factors, but as I look back I realize how very out of control I felt. I met a man, fell in love, and was nearly immediately plopped into his life. Many of the choices I’d made up to that point to create the fabulous life I was living fell by the wayside. My condo, my choice of community, my freedom, etc. I was now living in someone else’s house, helping to raise someone else’s children, dating someone else’s former husband, doing someone else’s dishes which were probably someone else’s wedding gifts, and making decisions based on someone else’s already established decisions.
I’ve spoken in the past about the tremendous challenges I faced when trying to determine where I fit into all of this. As I’ve been mulling this over I think it’s because I didn’t feel like I was making any of the choices that were virtually shaping my life.
Before I get my a-s handed to me in comments, let me be clear, I’m not saying “woe is me…I was passive in all matters…and I had NO choice but to move forward.” THIS is the point. As I’ve thought about this for the past few days I realized something very important. Something that kind of changes everything.
I chose to be with this man.
I chose to become another mom to these precious little girls.
I chose to enter their lives knowing it would be a challenge, knowing it was not the road I (or my family and friends) thought I would travel, knowing damn well that it had the potential to get very ugly.
I chose to stay when it DID get ugly.
I chose to stay when it got even uglier than I could have imagined.
I chose to stop the madness that the little girls were experiencing sitting in the car for large amounts of time.
I chose this house on this piece of land in this neighborhood.
I chose to be THIS wife to THIS husband and mother to THESE little girls.
I did that. Regardless of the pain, and sorrow, and depression, and the feelings that I was living in someone else’s world, I made all of those choices. Furthermore, I continue to choose to be the mom and wife that I am.
I no longer feel like I’m in someone else’s world. I feel like I’m living in my world. With my little girls. And now when I walk in the evenings I love that I can see all the stars, and hear the farmers hard at work, and walk part of my route on red, dusty, gravel. And when we pass horses I point them out to the little girls with wonder.
On this day I’m choosing to be much more deliberate in my choices and in how I choose to live my life. I’m not the kind of girl to roll over and let others take the wheel. It’s time I take back the control to CHOOSE this life of mine.
TODAY: What if some of the choices in the past several years were in fact MY choices? What if some of those choices are the reasons we are in the good place we are today? And what if I make a commitment to actively choose the kind of life I live each and every day?