Getting Happy... when you wish you were dead
Day 2 – Monday 12 Nov
A good night’s sleep often brings renewed confidence, doesn’t it? You go to bed worried or tense, and things look brighter come the morning. So I decided to try telling Maria about achieving the success we had been working for.
Our third anniversary was a day away, and we both had legitimate financial concerns. Signing six clients at the conference in Tennessee meant more than a quarter million dollars in first year billings, and an end to the financial worries. We could finally start focusing on our marriage and building us into a family. Maybe I should share a little history so you know where things stood.
Maria and I knew getting married was a tough proposition, but we had our reasons (in addition to loving each other).
In a quiet, serious voice she said “Why do you want to marry me? I’m 44, a widow, I have three kids.”
I rolled my head to the side and answered “Those are my reasons for marrying you.”
We were lying beside each other so I rolled onto my side to see her better. Holding her hands to my chest I explained “You’re 44. I’m 43. We’ve both seen enough of life to know what we want. Yes?” She nodded.
“You’re a kind, caring, loving woman who also happens to be incredibly hot,” I said smiling, then teased, “And you happen to have the good taste to think I’m attractive even though I’m 43, divorced, at least twenty pounds overweight, have thinning hair, and apparently I fart like a brass band when sleeping.” We laughed, kissed and shared a long, warm hug.
I leaned back and kept talking. “Maria, seriously… You say you have three kids like it’s a bad thing, but I see three pre-teen kids. They’re past the stage of being babies and toddlers, so we can talk and have conversations - the hard part of dealing with children who can’t communicate is done. And you know my history… I never really had a family. You and three kids are the family I never had.
“As for being a widow, I’d have a lot more reservations if you were divorced. Having a former spouse in the picture always makes things difficult,” I said with the knowledge of one divorced, and who had dated a divorced woman.
Looking at her hands, she whispered, “But what if it doesn’t work?”
“Neither of us knows what tomorrow is going to bring, right?”
“But we both know we’re going to have to work at this to make our marriage successful.” She nodded while still looking at our hands.
“We’ve already talked about this a couple of times, and I’m happy to talk it through as often as you want.
“We’re going to need help; some kind of counseling. It’s not even a year since your husband died, and we’re looking at getting married. This is a permanent relocation for me from urban to rural and from Canada to the U.S. The kids have lost their father and now they have a new one. I don’t think we can expect to handle all of this on our own, do you?”
“No, you’re right. I’m okay, but the kids probably need someone to talk to, and it’s a lot of change for you.”
Looking back now, I realize no matter how old you are, there are times when we all make choices based on what we want to be true rather than what is true.
From my perspective it meant going from being single, living in a big city, and living the writer’s life, to being married, having three pre-teen kids, living in a town of 12,000, and trying to fit writing into the bargain. My reason was getting that ready-made family. Growing up rejected by my family has given me a burning desire to have one.
From Maria’s perspective (which I almost certainly do not wholly understand) it meant having a husband, a father to her children, and someone passionate about personal development to help nurture them. That was balanced with knowing that I would be going through a lot of culture shock, had little experience with being a father or husband, and that she had been a widow for less than a year. Her reason was getting the best for her kids. Maybe not so much in terms of me as a person, but in terms of my attitude toward achievement, self-development and integrity.
We were married November 13, 2009 – Friday the 13th – by a Justice of the Peace.
“What time do we have to be in the courthouse?” I asked as we got out of the car.
“One o’clock,” Maria replied.
“Wow. We’re earlier than I thought. That gives us more than an hour. What do you want to do?”
“Well, I thought we could go look at some rings. There’s a jeweler across from the courthouse.”
Astonished, I said “Really? You want a ring?”
Taking my hand, and smiling, she answered, “Of course I want a ring. I’m going to be your wife, aren’t I?”
“Well, yea, but I thought you didn’t want anyone to know. Everybody’s going to know if you start wearing a ring.”
“Oh, I won’t wear it. I just want to have it for when I can wear it.”
No honeymoon, and not even a party, because Maria wanted to keep the wedding a secret from the kids. Since Maria had been a widow for just fourteen months at that point, she felt it might be better for the kids to wait on telling them, and have a second wedding once they knew. We know it’s a dumb idea now, but Maria was worried about how the kids would react, and I went along with it.
As it turned out, we didn’t get rings either.
The store was quiet, and when the staff found out we were going across the street to be married, all four of them gathered to help us choose.
There were a couple of rings I ruled out because they were just too big for my hand. And I have to admit I was completely out of my depth. Jewelry looks good on women, but I’ve never thought of it for myself.
“Maria, I just don’t know. Most of my life, I’ve been a carpenter. I always figured if I got married, the best I could do is wear a ring on a short chain. I’m writing full time now, so I can wear a ring, but I don’t know what to pick.”
“Just pick what you like. I’m happy to get whatever you want.”
“Okay, but that’s part of it. You’re paying for the rings, I’m not, so I don’t feel good about choosing,” I said a little reluctantly.
I took a deep breath and said, “What I can say is that, except for the two that are just too big for my hand, I like each of the rings we’ve looked at. I feel completely out of my depth and very much want your help in making a choice. You know style, and colors, and dress much better than I do. I’m happy to be guided by your choice when it comes to rings.”
That’s when things really went sour.
While the four staff members were commenting on how sweet I was, Maria was clearly angry. As the lady helping us said “That’s the most thoughtful thing I’ve ever heard,” Maria said “I can’t believe you won’t choose a ring.”
We both decided to leave the store rather quickly, and the day went from glad anticipation to “let’s get this done.”
So I go from being a single writer in North America’s fourth largest city, to being married with three teens, and living in Tiny Town, U.S.A. You could say I experienced a bit of culture shock. It’s not an excuse – just a fact – that I allowed the adjustment to stall my writing and business building. That’s what brought financial pressure for us.
The morning started with me sleeping in a bit. The drive back from Tennessee had taken around thirteen hours, so I laid in for a while. It was nice listening to Maria in the shower, watching the sunlight shift, and petting Silas. He had also made the trip with me on his first outing as my service dog. Travelling is fun, but I dislike being entirely away from home. So I trained Silas as a service dog to keep a bit of home with me when travelling. (Unlike a pet or even therapy animal, a service dog can go everywhere I go; conference centers, hotels, restaurants, etc.)
When Maria was showered and dressed, I figured it was a good time to get up and talk with her about why I came home early. She was in the bathroom putting on makeup and fixing her hair, and I was excited to share the story of my success.
She looked good. Her black pants fit nicely over her curves, and she was wearing a multi-colored nurse’s top. Maria had a nice collection of tops. They are the kind with a deep v-neck like hospital scrubs, short sleeves, and a chest pocket for pens and notes. Her boss is a cardiac surgeon and she very much – although unofficially – runs the office (and happens to look great doing an excellent job).
Hoisting myself up to sit on the bathroom counter near her, I said “The conference was great. Things really fell into place, and I have great news. That’s why I came home a day early. I wanted to tell you about it, and get going.”
“Yes, it is. I signed six clients; that’s a full roster. It means our money worries are settled, and we can definitely look at putting in the deck out back, and getting Brian Jr. a new bed.
“There will be some travelling, so I’m looking forward to having Silas with me. And now we can talk more about planning around the kids’ schedules so they can travel with me sometimes, too.”
Maria didn’t seem impressed or happy. “I guess,” she said. “I have to go to work.”
She wound up the cord around the hair dryer and put it in the cupboard under the sink. Then she put away her makeup and headed toward the kitchen. She always filled up her travel mug with coffee before going to work. I just sat on the bathroom counter wondering why my great news seemed to be falling flat. Maria was halfway across the bedroom before I hopped off the counter to follow her.
“We can talk about it more when you get home, but I wanted you to know the good news before you leave. You know, that I’ve put things together, and I’m making it work.”
“That’s fine. I know you’ll do a great job, you don’t need to tell me about it.”
She sounded preoccupied, so I figured she had getting to work on her mind. We each had routines around getting ready for the day, and goofing up the routine pretty much always meant forgetting something along the way. So I toodled back into the bedroom to get Silas off the bed so I could make it before jumping into shower.
Maria was at the sink doing dishes when I came upstairs from my office. The house is open from the kitchen to the living room, so I leaned on the counter to talk with her. The girls, Skyler and Skyler, were watching TV, and Brian Jr. was in the loft playing video games.
“Hey. You have a good day?”
“It was alright,” she replied. She was still wearing her work clothes, and looked tired. “How was your day?”
“Good, I got a lot done.” I was thinking this would be a good way to fill Maria in on some of the details, and get her excited about the success.
“I started doing research on each of the new clients. You know, looking at their websites, seeing how they show up in Google Searches, stuff like that. And I used the afternoon to put their welcome packages together. I sent them a questionnaire by e-mail today, and then I send them the package at the end of this week. You know the box I showed you before with the DVD player, mug, candy and stuff inside?”
“Yes, I think so,” she said as she rinsed off the dishes and put them in the rack. “I think I’m going to lie down for a while.”
It was déjà vu. I had seen this kind of scene play out between my parents. It felt like a big magnet was pulling me into the floor. My feet wouldn’t move, and I was too stunned to speak.
I didn’t know it then, but our marriage was already over.