Every day memories

We tend to wait for special days, holidays, family celebrations to pull out the fancy stuff, the expensive things. Sometimes there may be a feeling, niggling in the back of our mind, that maybe whatever we are doing just isn’t “special” enough to celebrate with the good stuff, would our mothers or grandmothers approve? So we resort to our everyday basics, saving the good dishes/linens/crystal for the truly special times. A better suited time.

But too often, a better time only happens once in a blue moon, or sometimes not at all. This is not a post about “life is too short”, not really. But it is something to consider, to remind ourselves, and something that I’ve been leaving myself open to recently.

According to various studies – and my therapist – there are about four or five highly stressful experiences in life that are common to most people:

  • marriage, divorce, death, buying a house and losing your job.

I’ve covered a few of those over the past year. A couple were even at the same time!

2016 was not my friend.

But now that I’ve come out on the other side of it all, my world has come into sharper focus. Colors are brighter, smells are stronger, the whole world is more vibrant and pulsating with possibility. I feel lighter, happier, full of appreciation. Fully aware.

I feel as if I’ve been reborn some days, as cliche as that sounds.

I appreciate so many things, everyday things, so much more now. I feel comfortable in my own skin once again, and it’s been a very long time since I could honestly say that. And this new attitude, or awareness, has led me to see my life and how I live it in a whole new light. I’ve started to let go of a lot of the usual expectations and instead have  decided to let the tide take me where it wants. It’s not giving up the fight so much as it is just not fighting the magnetic pull any longer. Following my heart, giving myself permission to not ask for permission, being open to more. Finding the joy.

Listening to my soul.

So, with this new enlightenment, I’ve drifted away from conventional ideas of only celebrating when it’s the “right time”. Everyday is the right time if you reframe it in your own mind. It’s your experience, and your chance to make memories any way you like.

After moving into my house, my first ever all-my-own house, I was putting away the dishes, glassware, the pots and pans, and I noticed how much I love my china. I kept it for this very reason, after considering the idea to give it away or even leaving it behind, fearing that bringing it into my new home would only be an ugly reminder of a twenty year mistake, but for some reason I just couldn’t let it go.

I chose the pattern twenty years ago because it spoke to me, it gave me a warm feeling deep inside, and twenty years later it still does. Oddly, it didn’t remind me of our wedding, or the broken promises and disappointments that I’ve encountered over that time, instead it reminded me of family dinners and Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sitting at a big table with a group of happy, smiling people, that I love with my whole heart, laughing and enjoying each other. Special days. Days filled with love and joy and thanks.

And then a thought occurred to me, why should’t I feel that way every day?

Why do we have to wait until November or December, or a birthday or a graduation, to feel that warmth inside and appreciate the closeness that creates happy memories? Everyday that you gather around a table with your dearest loved ones, and maybe even a friend or two, is a special day. If you’re honest with yourself, you never know how many of these you will get over the course of your lifetime, why not appreciate them all?

So, instead of putting the fine china away in a cabinet somewhere “safe” to be retrieved for a special occasion, I put the entire set in my kitchen where my everyday dishes “should” go. My kids questioned my placement, almost panicked, asking what we would eat dinner off of on Tuesday night without “regular” dishes.

And then I unpacked the crystal and did the same thing.

I will no longer drink wine out of the “everyday” wine glasses, much as I love them too, only saving my crystal for a special occasion or “company”. Instead I will celebrate every sip of cheap red wine in my beautiful crystal glasses and feel special each time.

I will pour wine (maybe a better grade if you’re lucky that day) into the same glasses for my friends and family, and serve them my famous meatballs on the same fine china when they come to visit, too. Appreciating the moment, the shared experience, without worry about chipped dishes or broken glasses stressing me out, but instead relishing the happy memories being made out of our every day life.

I would love to know that when I die, while my children are cleaning out my house, they will come across the china and crystal and any other “special” things I’ve acquired along the way, and be able to say “remember how we ate off of this china every day in mom’s house while we were growing up? Just sitting at our wooden barn door table in the kitchen, eating spaghetti or meatloaf, and drinking wine or milk or whatever, but we ate it off of the china and drank out of our crystal glasses…on a Wednesday!” I want them to treasure those china plates and crystal glasses for the shared warmth of memories that have been etched into them. I want them to have everyday memories of us as a happy, loving family.

Happy memories without a special date attached. Happy just because. Every day memories of living our lives fully, and connected. Sharing love and laughter.

Just every day memories that make us special to each other.

 

 

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Remember that time when…?

The number of times I have heard that phrase, over the last twenty five years of my life, is immeasurable. The number of times it included me were few and far between.

In the beginning of our relationship, the courting and dating era, I began to hear the  stories from my ex’s friends. They were adventurous, funny, embarrassing, coming of age type of stories. I enjoyed them, it was a way for me to get to know him better through the eyes of his friends, and to get an idea of what type of friend he was to others. It’s part of the normal progression of discovery in a new relationship. They had all been together since the beginning of high school, so they knew him much better than I did, and I was eager to learn more about him.

Most of the stories and memories came from high school, some from college and after, but mainly from their teen years. We all have those “crazy” stories that we share with our friends, and even our families, we even use them sometimes to slightly embarrass each other in front of a new love interest. Like showing naked baby pictures, or school pictures from that period of your life when your teeth were too big for your mouth and your hair was a crazy mop of bad decisions. Those are the experiences, embarrassing or otherwise, that make us the people we are today.

Experiences that have shaped, added color to and created the tapestry of our life.

As time went on, the stories still continued, but began to be repeated. Let’s be honest, there are only so many memories you can collectively share, that you have from any period of your life, that you can relate and retell. Eventually, you begin to recycle them.

It was usually during a night out with “the gang”; at a party, during a holiday celebration, at a wedding, a reunion or even a funeral. Sometimes it was just having a beer together with one or more of his friends in a bar or restaurant or in our home, it was a conversation filler, a way to reconnect. I listened and smiled, laughed at the right parts, and looked just as entertained as they all seemed to be with themselves.

After more than a few years of us being a couple I began to notice that the stories never got updated. They worked on a certain timeline.

And that timeline didn’t include me.

That’s not to say that we didn’t have some life-changing, scratch your head, laugh out loud funny, do you believe that happened? kind of memories. Or that they happened in a vacuum. No, we did many things with his group of friends – actually most of our time together was with his group of friends usually – and I assumed, over time, that would make them my friends too, and we would all have shared memories to reminisce over.

That’s not how it works, I guess.

In the beginning, I accepted that they didn’t include me, because I was new to the group and hadn’t grown up with any of them, or in their town for that matter. I was originally from the same town, but had moved in grade school, so my opinions and observations of the area really didn’t count. I’m not really “from” there then.

I eventually mentioned it to my ex, after about seven years of hearing “remember that time” for the umpteenth time. I wondered out loud if any of them had made any new memories, maybe something interesting had happened since they turned 21?

Why didn’t they ever talk about the camping trips we took together, when the raccoons stole fruit out of our coolers and we put up heavy cotton tents in the dark in 90 degree heat? Or relive the time it was so cold that a neighbor camper slept in their truck and ran the engine all night – much to the irritation of one of our guys, who let them know in very colorful language around 2am – and we all decided that to stay warm that night we should all sleep naked? (the guys obviously came up with that idea)

Or how about the vacation we took with one of the couples and the creepy hotel room in Memphis, with the scuzzy pool, and we arrived too early to check in after driving all night to get there? Maybe even the party where I first hung out with my ex, the night we both went along with most of the people from the bar that were part of a wedding earlier in the day, to one of the couples’ house to keep the party rolling, and the crazy fight that ensued later where furniture went flying through the front window (along with one or two people), and I slept on the floor of a bedroom so I wouldn’t disturb anyone?

It’s not as if I wasn’t around, or didn’t participate in a life that they were all currently living, for the last twenty or more years. I just didn’t count. I didn’t make the cut.

I wasn’t an original player, or a “founding member” of his fan club. And looking back on it all now, they were all part of their own fan club – the “popular kids” from high school, all grown up now, but still living in the past.

A collective fantasy of forever high school.

The fact that most of his friends had married someone from their high school, and he didn’t, wasn’t lost on me. It made me uncomfortable at first, the feeling that I had to try harder to be accepted, and yet I never got it quite right. I went to the wrong school, in the wrong town, and at the wrong time – I had graduated two years before most of them.

No, I was never part of the “remember that time” conversations, I was just the captive audience, and eventually I stopped playing the game. I stopped participating in the peanut gallery to cheer, laugh and be amazed by them all. I finally made it clear to my ex after a long while, that I was over the whole tired practice of it all, and had no desire to attend another class reunion alongside him to re-meet his old school friends – not only do I get to stand there, smiling like an idiot listening to the same stories over again while they puff out their chests and slap each other on the back or laugh hysterically at their own antics, but I get the added bonus of him most likely ignoring me the entire night, and often times, not even bothering to introduce me to the his fringe fan club.

That’s a fun time, who wouldn’t want to miss that??

My ex would even go out of his way sometimes to point out that I had no idea what was so funny, or interesting, or great about whatever story because I wasn’t there to experience it.

And many times he would recount a story that involved me – maybe I was even at the center of the action – and still manage to leave me out of it entirely. Somehow he or another friend had saved the day, found the answer, had the great idea or made the hysterical comment. I would honestly sit there and wonder how that was even possible…how did I remember being there, at the heart of the story, and not make the final version? How could he leave me out of it entirely? It would make me question my own memory, searching back to recall details to reassure myself, only to think that maybe I wasn’t there at all or it didn’t really happen the way I remembered it.

But I do remember when…even if they never remember me.

 

 

 

What do I miss?

I’ve been asking myself this question quite a bit lately. It seems that I should have a running list of moments that grip my heart tightly, bringing hot tears to my eyes, as I remember what it “used to be like” and miss it intensely.

Memories viewed through a misty filter, and in slow motion, with heartbreaking music.

I should have days that I walk through my life like a spectator, lost and broken, asking “where is he?” only to realize that he’s gone. An emptiness, a gaping hole, a space that nothing, and no one, can fill.

The song ” One less bell” plays in the back of my brain some days. Sometimes I find myself humming it. Or singing a couple of bars…”I should be happy, but all I do is cryyyyyyyy” I can’t hit the notes quite the same as she can, but I still put my heart into it. And while I sing along I don’t feel that depth of despair, that sense of emptiness. I almost laugh at the absurdity of the lyrics.

It all feels odd, the flatness of it all. The “shoulds” that go undone. The expectations not being met. I feel like I should keep it to myself because, obviously, I’m not doing it right.

I should be angry. (I am sometimes, just not always or as much as I expected)

I should be devastated. (I was for a short while, I guess. But the newness has worn off)

I should be sad, and lonely. (sometimes I am sad, not about him really, but never lonely)

I should be…but most days, I’m not.

Maybe it’s my meds…

What don’t I miss? That’s a better question these days. There are things that crop up without any intention, moments that I stop and think “wow, this isn’t so bad” or “finally, I can just do what I want, without worry or judgement, without seeking permission”. When I am not dwelling on the negative possibilities that can affect my future and my children, I feel pretty good and pretty positive to be honest.

I feel released, unleashed, set free!

I don’t miss having him sleeping next to me, mouth agape flat on his back, snoring.

I don’t miss that one. lone. cereal bowl. and spoon left in the sink DAILY, with two (yes, TWO!) dishwashers flanking either side of our kitchen sink.

I don’t miss that question that came at either 6:30am or 10pm:

“Do you have any of my t-shirts in the clean laundry?”

This is the main staple of his daily attire, but for some reason he would never notice – or inform me – when he took the last one out of the dresser drawer. I guess I was supposed to be on “t-shirt watch” to refill his dresser like a personal valet.

I don’t miss watching him lay on the couch on the weekends, all day long, watching whatever sport he could find to avoid doing anything with his wife and family.

I don’t miss cooking a meal only to find out that he ate something similar for lunch, so he’ll just eat cereal (followed by above referred to cereal bowl and spoon in the sink)

I don’t miss the dismissive way he ignored me while I was talking, checking email as if his life depended upon it. Or the way he would walk out of the room while I was still talking.

I don’t miss having someone around me that makes it an almost daily practice to bring attention to any and all of my faults or mistakes, and enjoys it more when other people witness it.

I don’t miss being treated like an employee in my own life, expected to meet someone else’s expectations and fulfill  their needs, without any return or appreciation.

These are the things that I need to remind myself of when I want to curl up, cry and give up. These are the moments, the reminders, that this will all work out and I will be better for it. I will be happy again.

And while sometimes I am scared, I am sad, and I am overwhelmed I always know that I would never want to go back to the way it was. Not even for a minute.

Because now I am free to just be me, the way I want to be.

Right kind of happy

I can’t help but replay so many things over and over again in my mind; memories, conversations, sweet moments from the last twenty plus years of our life together. Some days they barely cross my mind, I keep busy with the day before me and the demands of my regular life, but most days they invade my space like a dark shadow creeping in behind me. We were happy once, weren’t we?

It’s hard not to look back and wonder. Question. When did it begin to crumble? Was it always this way and we chose not to see it? Were we clinging to an ideal that we thought we could create, when in reality it was never meant to be? Were we ever, ever truly happy?

I have to believe that we were happy in the beginning, and at many points along the way, but was it the right kind of happy? I’d have to say no, it wasn’t.

It was happy to fit with someone else, happy to belong to the crowd of pairs surrounding us, happy to find someone out there that wanted the same things out of life and had similar dreams for the future that we could work towards together. 

The happiness we had was more like finding that great job. The position is one you dreamed of, the pay is good with hope for a better future. You get along with the boss and the people in the office, so each day gives you something to look forward to. But you don’t “love” the job, it’s a good fit and it gets you what you want out of life. It’s not always ideal, but it also doesn’t suck. You’re happy, for the most part. It will have its rough days, but it will pay off in the end.

But we were missing something. We weren’t completely, perfectly matched. We negotiated, made sacrifices and plotted our course together the best we could. But it became more difficult with each change and each move. It was no longer the great job we had expected, it was becoming “just a job”, with no real return on our investment of time and resources. We were trudging along, waiting for that “big promotion” that would bring us back to that excitement of our first days. Hoping that it would get better in a new location or with new experiences. Starting over again and again, only to realize that we had basically made a lateral move with a few new perks.

I miss that guy.

It’s been two months since we officially filed for divorce. We’ve had two meetings with the mediator so far, with a third planned for tomorrow. It’s all been very smooth, very professional and from all appearances, amicable. I think that we’re going to be nominated for the “most amicable divorcing couple” by the end of this – just ask our mediator. He doesn’t know what to think when he sees us walk in together, riding in the same car to the appointment.

That’s on the outside, of course.

On the inside there is a tug of war going on daily, and in our meetings. On the inside my brain and my body are fighting against my “better judgement” and want me to break down, lash out, get angry. But I can’t. Maybe I have a clogged heart? Or a backed up emotional outlet? Is that a thing?

I wish that I could be more angry. I wish that I could cry and wail. I wish that I could  miss him. But I don’t. I honestly don’t miss him, at least not the version that I know of at this point in our lives.

I miss the old him. That guy that wooed me with a smug smile, glib answers and a Miller Lite in a smokey bar after a wedding party that first night.

I miss that guy that wore Levi’s 550 jeans (the baggy butt jeans) with a worn t-shirt or a flannel. He went fishing, played 16″ softball and basketball with his buddies, then went to the bar that sponsored the team to drink Budweiser. He laughed a lot.

I miss the guy that thought of me when we were out. He put gas in my car the first night that he met me and drove my friend home in my car while I was asleep in the front seat. He slept next to me that night, hands to himself, just to wake up with me the next day and eat orange popsicles for breakfast.

I miss so many things and moments that I remember, but that’s all I can do now. Miss them, and  miss him, the old him. He’s not that guy anymore. He’s not wearing Levi’s or flannels, he rarely fishes or plays basketball. He doesn’t spend a night on the couch with me watching a movie and eating ice cream Snickers bars. That guy checked out a long time ago and I’ve been trying to live with this new (improved?) version, but he doesn’t want to live with the regular, slightly improved (or is it aged? Like a fine wine) version of me.

One for you, two for me

And so it has begun. The divvying up of our “assets and liabilities”. The tally sheet of expenses. One for you, two for me. We have taken our first step towards divorce-hood, as of today, and we handled it with the same grace that we have often utilized in public many times in the past. Silent calm. No tears, no screaming, no demands or threats.

We have proven, once again, that we are a stoic, organized and functional couple – even in our “uncoupling”.

Sad, but true.

As I sat there, at a long wooden conference table, with the tasteful decor surrounding me on a sunny but cold Saturday morning, I looked at my soon to be ex-husband and wondered what he must be thinking. Was he remembering the beginning of our relationship when we made each other laugh and spent lazy days together watching TV and eating greasy tacos? Maybe he was remembering all of the things about me that drove him crazy and made him resent me with each passing day? Or was he remembering all of the good times and great life experiences we had shared together? Was he really as upset as he appeared sometimes sitting at that table today, his eyes glistening and his voice tight, or was it just remnants of the beers he drank last night?

I didn’t ask, of course. What difference does it make now? We are entering into the business partner phase of our relationship. We know each other more than intimately by now, after twenty five years and three kids together it’s difficult not to know someone well.

I have his social security number memorized, the way he takes his coffee and how he likes his shirts done at the dry cleaners. I can tell you his birthday, where he was born, name off most of his extended family and some of their quirky stories, the make and model of his first car and bake his mother’s “secret family recipe” banana nut cake just like his mom.

But that all doesn’t matter now, because we are dissolving our partnership and changing that relationship forever. We will move along into a new phase of our lives still intersecting, but not together, trying to forget those details about each other. Pretending that we really don’t know each other anymore. Friends. Acquaintances. Uncoupled.