Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Who Needs Grass, Anyway?

I can’t remember how old I was when I first became enchanted by the White Picket Fence mentality.  Was it when I was fourteen, dizzy with hormones and a singular longing to be kissed?  Or 19 when I was torn between taking flight into the world and anchoring myself to a soul mate?  Perhaps it was when I was 27 with a freshly-inked master’s degree and a desire to be schooled in weightier issues of the heart.  It had definitely happened by the time I was 29 and engaged, looking forward to a long life with my beloved and our offspring in a beautifully renovated Victorian home with a white picket fence and a well bred dog that we would train to poop in the toilet.  What’s truly dizzying is the majesty of that imaginary future.

Within a year of my marriage things had already started to unravel.  Eventually we moved into a cute little Victorian home where we began to raise three children.  One of the few things we had in common was our dedication to that imaginary future; unfortunately we weren’t equally committed the reality of the present.  It was messy, painful, chaotic, and exhausting.  It took eight years for me to realize that I would only exit the anguish alone; we divorced and I grieved lost expectations.

Suddenly I became that woman.  The single mom with three kids driving a beat-up minivan and struggling to make ends meet.  I borrowed yet another cliché that placed our family in the lowest income bracket and predicted my children wouldn’t attend college.  I became well acquainted with pity and almost clairvoyant when married women would look at me.  Thank heavens, I could imagine them thinking, I will never be like her.  Of course that’s what I thought in the eye of the storm, when my wounds were most tender and thoughts least clear.  Now I realize that those women were most likely feeling a sister’s pain, or perhaps, communicating a common understanding, a sad union of souls.  

When I first proclaimed that sometimes there’s no grass, it was a bitter statement, a poor-me decree.  I had constructed a life based upon stolen ideologies, and it hadn’t worked.  Next I conceded to the only ideology I assumed was available, that of the poor single mom, and it didn’t work for me either. What I now realize is that I was building from the outside in—or from the picket fence to my heart, from the bumperless Caravan to my soul.  What I hadn’t yet realized was the need to work from the inside out, crafting a life that first reverenced me and then everything with which I connected.   And now, at 40, I’ve finally decided to create my own ideology and engineer a life that is not cliché—a here and now that uniquely suits me and my children, and, lest I forget, one that is grand and enchanting.  Does it really matter if it has no grass?  

When I was 20, I lived in Japan for 18 months, and I still remember the first time I walked out a backdoor to discover a Zen rock garden instead of a grassy yard.  I was mystified and exhilarated. There is something liberating about the unexpected.  I intend to embrace it. 


jen said...

Your gonna grow your own grass! If you ever want to fulfill the dream of teaching my dog how to poop in the toilet go right ahead! I have always thought you were amazing and I know amazing things are going to happen for you! Love you sis!

Evil Pixie said...

Fantastic post!

shauna said...

Thanks so much, Jen. You're pretty amazing too. And I think Izzy's doing just fine. ;)

And thanks, Evil Pixie (*wink, wink*).