I just started reading this book called Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler; the basic premise of the book is this woman who, for reasons I haven't yet discovered (I literally just started reading this, on my lunch hour), decides to just walk away from her family while on vacation. Like, she just leaves, and keeps going until she finds a new town and life in which to live. I picked up this book at the used book store yesterday (I joined BooksFree, which is really neat BUT slow, slow, slow) and chose it for the basic story line.
I have been there; maybe even as recently as Friday, when I was outrageously flirted with by a handsome man in the grocery store; he made some comment about me coming to live with him (the details leading up the THAT comment are not nearly as titillating as they surely sound, believe me), and in an instant I could actually picture myself calling the kids' various father's-including Owen's dad-and saying something along the lines of, "Okay, it has been 15, 14, 8, and two years (respectively), it is your turn, I am leaving." In that instant, I could see the life ahead of me, rife with possibilities.
This is not what I thought my life was supposed to look like; this is not how I pictured it in any way, shape or form, and believe me, it is totally NOT in my nature to be where and who I am today. For one thing, it is not in my nature to be a parent, or at least not the kind of parent I am. It was never my intention (as it never is) to be raising four kids from three different fathers on my own. I mean, for God's sake, I know how that SOUNDS, and I am not like that at all. I thought I would have this big family, sure, but a family where the dad was still around and made enough money that I didn't have to work unless I wanted to. The other course I thought I would take was going to college to be a doctor; I was registered for college in the pre-med program, for heaven's sake. So yeah, I understand sometimes the appeal of just leaving, of walking away and starting over. I can sometimes see myself just getting in the car and taking all of my money and just leaving, driving until I find a place that feels like home, and staying.
I know it wouldn't be all it was cracked up to be, though; those things about my life and myself that don't look like what I thought they would, well, they are what makes my life. I know there are times when I think I could gladly leave my kids behind and be happy, but the reality is far different. Part of that which makes me long to escape is also the same part of me that knows I have to stay. Not for my kids, though of course they DO need me, but for me. So that I can continue to be the person I am NOT by nature, but the person I want to be; the person I CHOOSE to be. So much of my life is committed to doing things differently than my parents did, treating my children the way I wanted to be treated, loving them enough to listen and care and try to help, even if that means being tough and making the deal with their own consequences. I don't know what I am doing a good percentage of the time, because I certainly don't have a decent model to work form, but it seems to be working. And no matter how great the appeal, am I not committed to seeing it through, for teaching my kids the value of hard work and perseverance and faith? Not even faith in a religious sense, though I do believe in God, but in a much greater sense; that in the long run, we CAN make a difference, and that we just have to see it through.
I read the last page of the book before I left the house; of course, she ended back home with her husband and family. I don't yet know how it happened, and maybe I don't need to know. Maybe it doesn't matter what happened in between but that she found what she thought she was missing, and it was home all along. I think maybe of the two of us, I am the lucky one-because I don't have to leave in order to find out that my life and problems will follow, one way or another, and that where I am is where I am supposed to be.