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.