I am 62 years old.
I have just left my husband of 37 years. My children are confused and angry and hurt. My soon-to-be ex-husband is a silent cipher, passively, and with flashes of real kindness, accepting the change.
And I sing in the shower.
The deed to my new house lists me as “Susan Murray: a separated woman” as if my very being is defined by my marital status: a scarlet “S” to be sewn to my clothes and branded on my forehead.
But that is not who I am. My marriage may have defined me but the absence of marriage will not
This is what I know:
- I love to cook.
- I live in a town filled with things to explore and people to get to know.
- And I live alone.
So I will cook for you, dear reader.
And you will travel with me as I explore my town, and meet new people.
Together we will discover who I am.
ONE YEAR LATER:
It has been a year since I wrote my first blog post.
It was written in February, between Winter and Spring. And it felt like that at the time. My life swung from dark, sad and cold to warm, content and hopeful, and back again.
A lot has changed.
This February I can look back on a year filled with great joy and happiness: A daughter engaged, a grandchild born, and a home completed.
What have I learned?
That rebuilding your life is like renovating an old house.
It was not for nothing that I often used #metaphorforlife when posting pictures of the remodel. Like my house I had to strip my life down to its studs, saving what I could and what I liked and finding a way to fix, live with or throw out what wasn’t working. At times it felt like progress was going at a snail’s pace, although looking back I can see how much was actually being done on the inside. And, even once I moved into my new home and life, for a very long time I felt like I was living in a mud puddle and I would forever be traipsing mud up the steps and into the house.
Now I am living in a house that reflects me. My colors, my furniture, my self expression. I am meeting new people, exploring relationships (yes, dating) and reconnecting with old friends. I have discovered that people don’t have to take sides. There is understanding and caring enough for both me and my ex-husband. I feel secure in the love of my family, my friends and myself.
I have learned that many things take longer to do by yourself than as part of a couple. Among these are unpacking, decorating for Christmas and shoveling snow. Some things need two people: hanging pictures, moving furniture, scratching an itch in the center of your back. It’s okay to ask for help.
I have learned to put down whatever I am doing and to pay attention when someone wants to talk to me. The computer will still be there, the person may not. I have learned to show up, physically and emotionally.
I have learned that a grandchild is constant source of happiness and joy, that my daughter’s marriage is an occasion for hope and rejoicing and that I am lucky to have a child who wants to have dinner with me once a week and watch Top Chef.
I have learned to do what I like to do which includes writing and cooking and sharing it with my readers.
I have learned that it will be okay.
What did I do this year?
I travelled. I went to Alaska and Jamaica, Connecticut and Kentucky. I wore a path between Chicago and Asheville, and Asheville and Charlotte. I went to Cincinnati. I went to Washington and Arlington and Annapolis. I spoiled myself with a spa in Arizona. I went to the beach. And while I saw many amazing things and did many more and ate well, with enjoyment, what I most remember is the people I travelled with and travelled to.
I said good-bye. Good-bye to my mother and to my ex-mother-in-law. At the funerals the families came together; for a few days we all dropped our separate lives and met once more. Old hurts were put away and we returned to how it had been, knowing that it was temporary but enjoying the long-forgotten familiar.
I danced at my daughter’s wedding. Celebrating love and possibility and believing in it with all my heart.
I cooked. I cooked for my blog. I cooked for myself. I cooked cakes and pies and roasts and bread and cookies and pasta dishes and soups and sweets and snacks. I cooked things I wanted to try making even if there was no one available to eat them. And I continued to learn.
I met a man who opens up so many possibilities for me. He demands little but that I be myself and asks for nothing but my happiness. And in return, I do the same. I don’t know where we are going but the journey is everything.
Four years ago, I looked at my life, saw what it was and what it was going to continue to be and I thought, “I can’t do this.” And that was a very scary place.
I wish I could say, changing my life was an act of courage but really it was an act of desperation. Out of despair comes hope.
This year was a year of hope fulfilled
FIVE YEARS ON
One day you wake up and you look around you and you think “I can’t do this.”
You break the bonds of many years and say no.
People are upset. They are angry. You are alone. You drink too much. You play word games in the middle of the night and a friend in London or Texas asks you why you are up. Your cat sleeps on your stomach and his warmth is the closest thing you have to a human touch. But you keep on.
You work on changing yourself. Learn to say no and learn to say yes. Learn to listen. Learn to ask about other’s feelings and to talk about yours. Don’t react. Just listen.
Keep busy. Take Long walks Grow a garden. Bake and cook. Write a blog. Send your words out to a nameless world just because you have words.
Build a house. Put in it the things that were good (and there were many) and leave behind the things that weren’t. Seek out the wood beams, the closet handles, the art, the colors that make you smile.
All the while, around you, others grow and change. Parents pass. Weddings come and go. Grandchildren arrive. Love spreads before you in all its marvelous forms.
One day the unimaginable happens. You meet someone. Someone who takes that last piece of you that believes you are unlovable and shatters it. And because it feels safe and because he is kind and good and he loves you as you are, you give him your heart.
What an amazing five years it has been!
This blog may have reached the end of its useful life.
I am busy now. I have grandchildren to visit, a wedding to plan and a house to buy and move to. I still love to bake and cook. I will keep on doing so but I can’t commit to a recipe a week. When I make something great I will share it with you never fear, but for now (and maybe forever) it will be sporadic.
Thank you for being my friends and listeners over the past years. I don’t know how I would have made it without you!
About the Quail
1. A small migratory game bird
My handle is “Small Blonde Mom”, a name that was gifted to me by one of my daughter’s friends. I was one of three small, blonde women who parented a triumvirate of high school students who were best friends.
I lived in five different countries and traveled to countless places before settling in Asheville, North Carolina. It is a city I love for its quirkiness, its air of being from an earlier time and its way of being a part of the South and yet not.
I am trying to be game.
2. To lose heart or courage in difficulty or danger, shrink with fear
I am an extroverted introvert. I shrink from cocktail parties and large groups of people unless I have a role to play or something definite to do. Going it alone is not going to be easy. In the past I had a role. I was a mother. I was a spouse. I was an innkeeper. Now I have a new role, the boundaries of which are somewhat fuzzy. That’s scary.
“Are you one of the timid souls that quail at the jeers of a doubting crew, or dare you, whether you win or fail, strike out for a goal that’s new” –Edgar Guest