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Best Laid Plans Made Between Strangers Not Living In The Moment

I don't think I've ever been more transparent than I was at 12:30 this morning.

I'm not sure I've been more at peace in the presence of my wife right then and there.

The truth is, as I've been hinting for a while, my marriage has been slowly but surely going loopy. We've fought, we've kicked, we've screamed. I've prayed, sought help, pursued peace, stopped talking, anything and everything I could think of, all to no avail. She's threatened to leave on more than one occasion. I've posted opposition each time wondering in my head why I just don't let go. She's decried us roommates and strangers living under the same roof, except when it comes to the kids. And nearly every night before my eyes shut til morning and during nearly every moment of quiet that comes along during the day, I've prayed for peace and wisdom. I've prayed not to change her (which I'm told is witchcraft) but to help me be, do, fix whatever it is that needs whatever it is. Lately the question I've asked, especially in lieu of all that recently went down with my son is, "How much can one man take?" After all no matter what my daydreams might be, I'm very much flesh and blood.

Just yesterday the head of my daughter's school said something to me in the midst of a larger conversation we were having which stopped me cold in my tracks:

"It takes at least a year to get established once you've moved."

Each word, minus the prepositions, crystallized in my mind. Then it all clicked.

Life is lived on levels and at stages. But nothing happens overnight and very little happens in a year. Preschool (depending on when you enter your child) is at least 2 years. Grade school/grammar school is 6-8. Middle school is 3. High school is 4. College is typically 4 and graduate school can last a lifetime.

Before this economy, businesses had a 5-7 year window of time to make it or break it. A baby remains a baby for a couple of years before becoming a toddler, then is a youngster for a considerable number of years before becoming a teen and so on. I hope that you get the idea.

Since my daughter's arrival into our lives, before and after marriage I have moved a total of 5 times. Prior to then I lived a comfortable, confident, consistent and established existence in the same place for 10 years. Since I've been married and for a little while before then I've been trying to understand where the confidence and the surety has gone.

It didn't "go" anywhere. It's simply never been allowed to develop since taking on the mantle of Husband and Father. Back during the househunter days before this new economy, I was so hell bent on owning (because I was an owner who swore I'd never rent again), I absolutely refused to remain at an apartment that was absolutely perfect for my new unwed insta-family. I disrupted our new found comfort and am pretty certain I introduced us to a culture of looking for more, rather than making what we had work. That was 2006.

I got married in the fall of 2007 and never ONCE talked to my new bride about future goals and expectations. I knew I wanted to relax and enjoy life but that was about all I expressed.

Since then my wife and I have been living our lives in 12 month increments. And not even. We have begun each 12 month cycle barely focused on the 12 months we've been in. Instead we have proselytized to nearly anyone who'll listen what our intentions are "next year". Not only is this exhausting. It simply isn't healthy. How do you determine where or how you might fit into a community if you only give yourself 12 months to do it (especially when it takes nearly 3 months just to get in your new groove)? How do you assess the quality of your relationships in a community if you only give yourself 12 months? How do you hope for success without giving yourself enough time to succeed? How do you build a life with someone you've told, "I do" when you two only have fleeting moments together, few and far between, because between the two of you you are so focused on what you want to happen later that you overlook today? Notice I said, what you want to happen. Wanting doesn't necessarily dictate that it will, no matter how much effort you put out. Then what? You're stuck hating where you are and hating who you're with. (AHA!)

My daughter's school administrator wasn't the only factor in my revolutionized thinking. My kids themselves were the key players. My daughter has friends in the neighborhood. She goes to birthday parties. She goes to Sunday school with one of her classmates. We bump into parents at Dunkin' Donuts and sandwich shops, the library and at malls. During all of my son's various sporting events I began to make my rounds with the parents and the coaches. Chatting it up during games, socializing with no more intent than to socialize. Due to my son's academic needs I've been forced to reach out to professionals and have those professionals refer me to other professionals, each contact layering onto the last. I've established relationships with all of his teachers so that if I see them outside of school grounds they recognize me and strike up conversations where they express genuine interest for my family. And last but not least I began taking neighbors up on hanging out. Particularly, a city official who lives 3 floors above me. Through him I've met a slew of well meaning community members, some of whom, just this week, were able to get my son actively involved in this community --- actively and enthusiastically volunteering his time for the benefit of others. So even though I've had my head up my own ass, forever focused on a future that has yet to arrive, I've inadvertently put down roots in my community for the sake of my kids. And now at the age of 38 I get that despite all the outside factors that cause you to dislike a place (cost of living, nosy neighbors, "bad" commute, "bad" job, etc., etc.) it is your human obligation, your right to be happy as a living breathing thing to live in the moment and make it work. A simple 3-5 year plan between you (and yourself if you're single) and the one you love can make the bitter pill of life around you so much easier to take. The things of life stop being the focus. Living life takes over.

I confessed this all to my wife during a very long midnight drive. Instead of the usual --- a contradictory statement that more times than not would send us both spiraling out of control, she sat there soaking it all in. When I was done she told me I was absolutely right and before she went to sleep she told me she loved me and that I was one of the strongest men she knew. I laughed, of course. She went on to say that I took the time to figure out what was going on in my head and chose to share it and it made perfect sense.

I smiled.

A new "threat" is on the horizon that has the potential to uproot us yet again. And at the same time it also presents itself as an opportunity. As the co-captain of this ship, I'm not exactly sure what to do. But I am now confident that whatever the ultimate outcome may be I won't be making any decisions moving forward in some desperate and deranged fashion that has me hating where I am and making bad decisions for the future as a result. I have an opportunity to turn things around. To stop being so mean to myself. To have the love and happiness I've always wanted, fully aware that it takes time.

I woke up this morning happy. And it Makes Me Wanna Holler.

If any of this sounds familiar I hope you'll stop yourself dead in your self-destructive tracks and figure out a way to make your life work.

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