Feb 18, 2010

Waking up from the American Dream.

Grace and I are still trying to find our groove in the new home; it hasn't been easy, with the apartment's predisposition to flooding and the fact that I have way too much stuff — furniture, books, rugs, art, more books. I'm feeling overwhelmed by things lately, material things, and the decision to keep them or get rid of them. We're still in limbo. I didn't grow up dreaming of raising a daughter in a basement; someday I might have more space again, right? What if I miss my things? I know, I know, there are people with nothing. Give them my number.

I remember moving into the Dream House almost two years ago (holy crap!) and loving how everything flowed effortlessly into the space and made it feel like home. Even Grace ran around yelling, "I love this house! I love this house!" The Dream House was supposed to complete the Dream Life. Instead, it made it clear (to me) that although all the actors and props were in place, the play wasn't going so smoothly. Grace and the dog were happy, but at the time it didn't take much more than a fenced yard, lots of bark mulch and a couple of blueberry bushes to satisfy them.

I thought I had it all, and I guess I sort of did. For years we had great friends and family, a series of beautiful homes, fabulous parties, adventurous vacations and, finally, a BABY. I had finished my first novel and was optimistically sending it out to literary agents. (Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if I'd sold the book and found success on a purely personal level.) Then the summer after we moved into the house, I got sick. Really sick. Remember the tomato-salmonella thing? That. Except that it didn't go away and I lost way too much weight and I couldn't really function normally. I had a lot of time on my hands and spent it in my head or blogging, and it was an empty existence (literally and figuratively). I kept asking myself, "Really? Is this IT?" Because something was missing for me.

I know a lot of married couples who present a facade of domestic bliss, but then I talk to one of them and it turns out they can hardly stand each other, or are little more than roommates and co-parents. (People tend to open up to me; they may not after this.) I understand that a lot of marriages are sustained for the sake of the children, and I respect that. Even though we may have started out with many common interests, tastes, hobbies and friends, I think John and I parted ways over core values and life goals. It's tough to maintain a connection once you've realized that. I didn't want to live that way, and I didn't want Grace to see us live that way. I remember feeling really connected to Grace then, and losing that connection was unthinkable. I didn't want her to grow up and realize her parents had been faking it.

I had been happy at times during the last eighteen years, and would undoubtedly have been happy again. But the rollercoaster was getting old, and I craved a sense of contentment. Happiness is fleeting, but how could I be content during the times I was faking it? I don't mean difficult times; all couples have those, and many end up closer for having struggled together. I'm talking about the valleys where that broken connection left me feeling completely alone, and scared. There's no contentment to be found there.

Funny thing is, I'm still alone, scared and haven't found contentment. And dating? Please. But I'm not faking anything anymore, for my sake and Grace's, and it feels good to know that she will learn from me how important it is to be true to yourself. My goal is to find abundance with less; we don't need all the material trappings of success to feel successful. What I need, more than anything, is authenticity; that's the only kind of role model I can be to her and live with myself. I hope that's not selfish. I hope it works. I hope Grace never gets to the place I was and asks herself, "Is this it?"

Feb 9, 2010

Please excuse the mess.

Life under construction — check back soon. I've decided to take the blog in a different direction: how a newly single, unemployed, forty-something mom can raise a child (and a dog) in a basement apartment, spending (consuming) as little as possible. So far? Pretty tedious: no dishwasher, no microwave, no back up when one of us is sick. It's lonely, but I need to remember that my network of friends is just a phone call away. (A cell phone call; no land line, no cable TV.)

Day one: leaking upstairs tub creates rain in Grace's bedroom. More to come.