If I Had a Teacher, It Would Be a Dog, and Definitely Not an Economist

We’ve moved into the new house but have yet to sell the old one. Realtor assures me that this college town has an Autumn market. I’m gonna have to trust the pro on this one. But I can’t help but feel that my move is a model case of How Now To Move. My old house wasn’t ready. I threw it up at the end of the peak spring season. We had a bunch of other stuff to do this summer. I could have waited until my son went to college then moved into a smaller house that would, eventually, be just for me. For every contractor that’s been a gem, there’s been another one that’s a con man. I’ve tried to do some home improvements myself. I do them, but sloppily, and I’m taking time from my career. On paper, I’ve done everything wrong.

And, still, moving was the right thing to do. We have been liberated from that old house, and its patterns, and its memories. Despite all the problems we still have, it feels like the three of of us are a family, setting up house.

It’s financially inefficient, economically irrational, but there are other standards, and I seem to have hit on one that matters.

I do a little Pilates/yoga in the new sunroom before the sun rises. We eat dinner on the screened-in porch, tucked among the treetops. The new house is as nice as I thought it would be. On a recent evening dog walk I passed a woman walking and I was like “omg, when you pass that curve, you gotta look to the right and glimpse the sunset,” and she responded, “Yes! The light is so beautiful,” gesturing behind me. What I’d recommended was red. She invited me to turn around and see purple. It’s lovely here, on a ridge in town, and sometimes it’s breathtaking.

Despite such moments, I feel like such a loser. Here I am, juggling two mortgages, hemorrhaging money to banks and rotten contractors, when I could have used that money for the kids’ college, or for a real vacation, or for anything else but this . Basically, I’m going to sell my house for less than it’s worth, scoop up the equity, pay off (some of) the credit card bills, and start over. I’m in my mid-40s, and I’m not settling in, to comfort or security. I’m starting over. The crappy financial choices I’m making are rational in light of the crappy situation I’m in.

And while we’re being negative, I feel guilty that I’m providing my children such a crappy childhood. Sure, we have some nice moments, but I’m coming to see that my children lack a foundation. It’s just us, rattling around this house, day to day. We lack regular connections to family. We don’t feel tied to the community. We’re more Gray Gardens than Kennedy Compound. I had a lot of hopes and dreams for my kids. At this point, I’m feeling like our lives are spare. My one hope is that my kids are the kind of fighters who will overcome adversity and use their hardship to become good people, creative types, generous humans, humbled souls who still want more. All my hopes and dreams are now in their overcoming this life that I gave them, which makes me so ashamed. I brought them into the world thinking that I could provide children with a rich, full life, and I just feel like I blew it.

So I’m walking the dogs on a night when the light wasn’t magnificent, and I’m thinking of what a failure I am. I stepped off the path of personal and professional success,and I just keep digging a groove into this other path, which is the path of the outcast, the peculiar, the solitude. I’m just this weird widow who lives in the lovely cottage and walks the dogs a lot. And, while I shudder at the thought of taking one’s own life (for reasons that are obvious) I did consider that if I got some terminal disease tomorrow, that would be kind of a relief, because I could just stop, and capitulate, end this trainwreck, and get some rest. I realize how crazy that sounds as I type it, but I can’t deny it. I’m tuckered. I am worn out. There isn’t a lot of respite from the grind. But I’ve got these kids to raise. So I forge on.

The dogs and I turned a corner and encountered a dog loose in his/her yard. This is the sort of thing that worries me, what with the dog fighting and me being inept and all, but it was just some little terrier, and it was old, really old, and it couldn’t even move from its spot. As I passed with my giant dogs, it lifted up its head and yowled, “Ahhhooooowooooooowwwwww!” in the feeblest decibel, but it was all heart. I admired the effort. I paused to look at this old, weary, little fighter, and I threw back my head and laughed. And my bigger dog, easily 10x the size of the terrier, got his game up a little, as if the little dog were a contender, or maybe a friend.

And I got over it, for the moment.


3 thoughts on “If I Had a Teacher, It Would Be a Dog, and Definitely Not an Economist

  1. Glad to see you back in the blogs! Once you get your old house sold things will look a whole lot different and brighter in your life. The stress of two mortgages will do that to you, not to mention the other stuff on your plate. At one point after Don’s stroke I had two houses sitting empty and up for sale and we were living in a tiny apartment. I’ve been through the good contractor and con man thing too. It all worked out in the end and it will for you too.

    You are giving your kids more than you are giving yourself credit for…..YOU are overcoming adversity just by plugging along day by day and that is a strong lesson that will serve them well in the future. No one can ever promise their kids a fairytale life without tragedy. Thinking you could was unrealistic, so you have nothing to be ashamed of for not being able to deliver that fairytale.

  2. You brought your kids into the world, but you’re not responsible for what happens in their lives. I feel ashamed about my kids’ lives – and Philip’s death – for my own reasons. I didn’t think I’d continue to suffer the depression I did as they were growing up. I loved them, took care of them – but I think their lives could’ve been so much fuller, “better,” if I wasn’t always in an emotional struggle. I would have done more things with them, would have gone to PTA meetings and volunteered and been a better example. A couple years before Philip died, and after I’d left my husband, I asked Philip: I was so sad when you were growing up – how was that for you? He didn’t see it that way. I love you, I admire you, he said; You are both great parents.

    You can’t see what we who read what you write see. You are exactly the mom your kids need you to be and what is so, is so. What matters is the way you are with them as it happens. And I’d say they’re two lucky kids.

    • Thank you, thank you, thank you. Yes, it is that shame that I’m working through. It’s not that I’m not delivering a fairytale, Jean, it’s that I’m coming up so very short of where I could be. I’m capable of so much more, but I can’t seem to give them what I should be able to. But, Denise, your sharing brought tears to my eyes. This is it–me feeling shame and them seeing this from a different perspective. Sometimes my daughter coos in a baby voice, “You such a nice mama,” and I don’t believe her. Thanks for letting me share. I won’t sit with this forever, but this is what I have been feeling lately. Just working through it. Thank you for the support.

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