Have you seen Emily McDowell’s Etsy shop? I checked it out last week and logged on to quickly buy a sympathy card for a friend, but I ended up lost in her stuff for quite a while. She is funny and talented, and I totally snagged this print for my reading and writing room. I’ve got a lot of empty frames to fill, and this one resonated with me, and it made me giggle a bit.
A friend of mine tweeted something a while back about how she was proud of me for all the “grown-ass lady tasks” I was accomplishing – countless meetings with attorneys, real estate matters, moving checklists, changes in insurance, name change tasks, and the list goes on. I am growing so incredibly tired of “grown-ass lady” to-do lists, but being a grown up does have its perks, I guess. Being independent does as well. I can do what I want. I suppose I’ve always had the power to do what I want, but as I look back at my last ten years – this past five or so especially – I see so clearly that I let my goals and wishes become completely absorbed with someone else’s, and it’s a recognition that stings a little.
There’s a lot of goal setting that happens in marriage, and that’s a good thing. Families need to set goals to move forward in the same direction. But in thinking of the direction my life was heading, the priorities in my married home, I am seeing so clearly now that I was not reflected in much of that at all. I thought I wanted the same things my spouse did – financial security, upper-middle-class luxuries like a shiny granite kitchen or nice vacations or new cars. But if this experience has taught me anything it’s how empty all of that is. How terribly off-balance your entire life can become when you live to work instead of working to live.
So now as I look ahead with such a blank canvas in front of me, I find myself having to think hard and think honestly about what it is that I want in my next chapter. My happiness jar is actually helping a lot with this – just seeing what it is in each day that brings me the most joy. It’s always the simplest things that stand out at the end of the day, rarely something money can buy.
But what else do I want? I don’t know that I am sure about all of it yet. But I know I want as much time as possible with my kids, and our time together to be as simple and genuine and not-busy as it can be. It’s always when I feel closest with them – not out and about, not in front of the tv, not buying them things, but those moments when we are together in the easiest and quietest way… playing on the back patio with bubbles this afternoon, or listening to Jude talk in the car on our long rides to school, or saying prayers after bedtime books and listening to what three “blessings” stand out about their days. I want more of those moments.
I want more time with friends as I’ve seen how they fill me up and help create a better and fuller me. I want more travels with my kids – though I know it will be quite some time until I can swing it financially again. I want more time devoted to writing. I want more books read and more projects created and many, many more meals in the kitchen. I want to learn new things. I want to feel more of the divine purpose and calling that I sense now on my best days.
And though I am not likely ready for a serious relationship as I still feel a little shell-shocked from the betrayal of my last one, I have already begun to think about what I will want when that time comes. I know I do not “need” a man to fill some void and fill any silence in my home. I’m not in a hurry to go running to anyone or jumping into someone’s arms without knowing every last detail of that person’s heart. But I have enough self-awareness to know that I will not spend the rest of my life alone.
And when that time comes, I have such a different perspective of who I want than I did when I was twenty-four the first time I committed to someone. I want someone who is honest, whose family and friends would say he never lies or exaggerates to fulfill his own purpose. I want someone whose chief attributes are kindness and generosity. Someone who is honest with me about vulnerabilities, admits mistakes, and never makes me feel as though I am not good enough. I want someone who loves me truly, speaks to me gently, and appreciates what I have to offer to the world. Someone who comes to love my children, but more than that, someone who can respect them as the little growing people that they are with their own desires and their own plans and their own boundaries. I want someone who always and forever values his family and relationships above his job.
There are probably a million other things that I will realize I want or don’t want, but those are the non-negotiables, the places to start as I begin thinking about that step of the journey. It’s a tall order, but I have faith there are men out there who can be truly kind and honest and loyal. And that is a big change from where I was two months ago, but I am starting to think they do exist.
But men aside, I have so much to chase and dream about in the months and years to come. So much to see and do. I feel the old dreams bubbling to the surface a bit, the real foundations emerging.
I adore Linda Pastan, and I’ve cited her work here before. But she has a poem I stumbled on a couple weeks ago at work as part of a departmental exam, and it resonated for me – the idea that these dreams never really went anywhere. Like stars in the light of day, as she says.
“What We Want” by Linda Pastan
What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names–
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don’t remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.