To Everything I’ve Thrown Away: I Promise To Love You Now
Instead of tossing aside, tend to it. You loved it once, love it again. Love it more than you thought you ever could. Life is not disposable. Stop discarding what becomes tiresome. Everything was new once, and everything worth having needs love to keep it feeling new still. It’s when we see it shined up again, we understand. It’s not actually the new we’re after, its the worthwhile.
I wrote this recently after spending a beautiful sunny morning exploring my new little neighborhood and surrounding community. I had loaded up The Dainty and both pups, grabbed the jogger and my headphones and off we went. I decided to venture into one of the more “upper crust” zig zags just a block or two down from my own older little house, the one we poured every last cent of savings into, to make the payments as affordable as possible. So that just in case, in even the leanest times, or in the event that one day we might find ourselves with only one income instead of our usual two we would be ok- maybe our then-subconscious wisdom should have served as a premonition. The one we took a leap of faith on, purchasing just less than a year ago, and from seven hundred miles away, without ever stepping foot inside. The home we fell in love with in pictures, and envisioned our family growing stronger in, and growing to love too. The home we knew would be enough, even if it wasn’t as grand, vast or expensive as our others in the past. We were filled with gratitude for the opportunity to just go home to four walls that belonged to us, after enduring the most unimaginable year- testing our strength and our family’s resilience.
As I walked down the streets lined with mature oaks, precise hedges, vibrant blooming roses, pruned and proudly on display, past house after house of architectural perfection; something crept up in my throat. I suddenly felt like I should have dressed a little nicer for this walk. My Dainty should have on something less stained, one of her “going out” dresses, not the pj shirt and leggings I had left on her after a messy breakfast. I should have worn my better pair of black spandex pants, the ones without the bleach spots splattered across the thigh from when I had last been scrubbing the soap grime out of the bathtubs.
Waves of hello from well-manicured drives and glistening front porches, still dewy with the sprinkler system. Huge front walks, with gorgeous etched glass door inserts only made me feel like I belonged here even less. And yet, the more steps I took down the sidewalk, the more I wanted desperately to live here, amongst the uppers. Amongst people who had enough to pay someone else to mow their grass and figure out, somehow, the best way to keep the clover from returning and spoiling the view of endless lush green. Amongst people who hired someone else to scrub their soap grime, and therefore never had to worry about their black spandex having bleach spots. I started looking at the For Sale signs a little more closely. There weren’t many. This is not the type of neighborhood that people ever left once they got in, I mused. There was one! Stunning. Massive, sweeping 3 car garage, huge sprawling lot, grand two-story pillars, glistening white plank exterior with ominous-looking black shutters on each of the high-reaching windows. All tucked neatly within the heart of a culdesac. This was it! Somewhere, between the fifteen or twenty minutes since I had left my sweet, older, imperfect and somewhat messy garage; my home, that was certainly more than enough for us, and set out down the street for some fresh air, exercise and to learn my new surroundings a bit better, I had transformed from the contented, minimalist-seeking, materialistic-denouncing individual who has been on a two year path to personal and spiritual growth, and returned to the consumerism-gobbler of my once former-self. I saw my family in those windows. I saw myself tending lovingly to the garden out front, no, I thought, I was watching someone else tend to it from the porch. I saw my sons playing basketball on the oversized concrete pad poured, it appeared, just for that very purpose. I saw my husband tinkering in the third bay of the garage on some toy or another that needed tinkering. I grabbed the flyer. Oh yes. The rooms were appointed with nothing but the finest amenities. All high-end appliances in the “Chef’s Dream” kitchen, the “vaulted, airy formal sitting room” looked divine, and then of course there was the utterly magical backyard space, complete with a “well-designed” swimming pool for “taking laps or simply enjoying the leisurely summer days.” Ummm, yes please. Gone was the love for my little shack down the street. Gone was the loyalty to fixing it up to make 1987 somehow feel like 2014. Gone was my gratitude, after having scraped up more money than I used to earn in a year, once upon a long time ago when I had first started out; to purchase a place for my family to call home. A home where we could be thankful for the blessing that it was that we still easily could afford it, even after I left my lucrative finance career just two months after we moved in. Thankful that it afforded me the opportunity to be the mother and wife they so needed. Gone was any semblance of appreciation for the work we had already put into it, the pride we felt after completing the kitchen face-lift or having new flooring installed throughout. Or painting over the little blue flowers in the bathrooms with something more contemporary. Gone. All I could see was right in front of me, with all of it’s grandeur, inside a neighborhood I had quickly adopted as where I must truly belong; I had simultaneously abandoned my lovely little house down the street, and all that it represented. A second chance.
A new chance at a new life for my family to start over after one of the most difficult years I had ever faced, and we had ever faced as a family. Broken into splinters. As if a fire had come and wiped out everything. After learning of betrayal beyond comprehension, a betrayal made worse by the detail that it was a blood relative, a wicked lost soul, undeserving of the title of family member. A broken person, who twisted his position of influence and familiarity to try and break the most innocent that there is. While his behavior was thwarted by luck or perhaps divine intervention, broken it left us, and broken we were just the same. It took everything we had to muster what was left of ourselves. To draw what remained of our courage and show our children that wounds will heal with enough love, and that our family would survive because we vowed to tend to it, to care for it, to give it the work it so deserves, above all else. That meant changes. Major changes. To our priorities, our finances, our lifestyle. We made them without thinking twice. We had been faced with a life lesson so big, so altering, that it pushed out the option of everything else. It taught us about what was truly important in life- that money or things would never be as important as what we could give to our children; unconditional love, a safe home, and a grateful heart.
As I began to slowly walk away, after snapping half a dozen quick photos on my phone of this magnificent dream home, I began looking at the houses lining the streets as I walked quicker now back to my own. I saw folks in their yards pulling weeds. We all have weeds, I thought. I saw a well-dressed young woman, talking on her phone as she hopped out of her grey bmw hatchback and dart into her garage; never so much as glancing in my direction as I smiled and gave a small wave as I walked 4 feet from her while crossing her driveway. I had been her once, I observed. I saw the leaf blowers and the lawn mowers with landscaping T-shirts on, busily beautifying the homes of people who may not even notice the intricate and diligent time that goes into manicuring a perfectly symmetrical hedge, but expecting the perfection to just “be” upon arriving home from work later. I had once been the person who had someone else get bleach splattered, I recalled. I saw men chatting in golf attire, animated hand gestures and jovial laughs with a garage open wide for all to see. Innumerable things, toys of all kinds kept neatly organized within. A boat, easy to spot. A well-polished chrome and sparkling black motorcycle next to that. A vintage car that appeared to be hidden under a tarp in the bay just beside it. A flawless display of goods in an impeccably spotless garage full of stuff. A canoe upright against a wall. Inter-tubes tied to the rafters, surf, no, maybe wake boards, hanging next to them. Shelves full of boxes orderly lined and labeled, stuffed with more treasures, I guessed. I had been wrong, I realized. I did not want to live in this neighborhood after all.
I had already lived here. I had lived here many times before in fact. I had housed things I didn’t have time for, and purchased new things when I couldn’t remember where those had been stored away, nor had the time to go find it in my vast, sprawling houses full of mistakes and regrets. I had forgotten that the most important treasures were not the things inside at all. I was walking quicker now. Guilt was building up within me. That feeling in my throat had returned, but this time I knew exactly what it was. I was not ashamed of where I was at in life, I had chosen to be there. I had chosen to make my family, my children, a home that was filled with enough. Just enough love, just enough stuff. Just enough priorities that they wouldn’t get cluttered, dusty, or tossed outside into the garage or the shed to be forgotten again. My heart was pounding. I had let myself fall into the dreamy state of wanting more. But I had already had so much more and it was never enough. It had all come crashing down last year when I learned that while I was busy looking for ways to have more, show more, live with more, my true loves had learned to live with less. Less attention, less protection, less understanding and less commitment from me to tend to them. To tend to their hearts and teach them that they are so much more worthwhile than anything money can buy.
I arrived back at my quaint, just right for us little house feeling invigorated. I had everything I needed right here under my roof. I was filled with a new surge of pure, hard-earned gratitude for every single thing this life has taught me, and what it has brought to me, and perhaps even more, what it has taken away.
I scooped up The Dainty from the jogger, fast asleep now and kissed her round cheek as I laid her down in her crib to finish her afternoon dreams. I let the pups loose into the backyard and I set to work. This was my home. Mine. Purchased with every sacrifice I had ever made in the name of providing more for my family, and with every mistake I had made along the way. Purchased as an escape, from them and from so much more. Purchased as a healing. Purchased with love and a new sense of purpose to hold tight to what is mine. Imperfect. Not magnificent, or the grandest on the street. Needing work, needing love, needing tending- just exactly right. This place deserved all of my devotion and even more of my unfaltering love because it represents the lessons I have finally received- that having everything won’t save you from anything. We must appreciate what we are given in this life and know that at any moment, it can be taken from you. And if it is, it is because there is a lesson life is trying to teach us. I grabbed my gloves and started looking around my yard. I am so lucky. My family is alive, we have survived the worst, and we are still standing. I looked around and for the first time I noticed the beautiful roses that had just finally bloomed this week, growing wildly in all directions along the fence. I noticed the winter had killed off most of the climbing plant against the back porch wall, dry brown leaves and almost entirely boney withered branches. A skeleton of what it had looked like in the pictures, I thought. But when I got closer I saw them. A few bright green shoots, healthy, but small. Starting upwards at the base of a couple of those seemingly dead branches; what I had merely assumed was a foregone plant. I set to work pruning, and lovingly tending to my
yard. To my home. I glanced around once more. Weeds to pull. We all have weeds, I thought.