This past week was supposed to be all about being grateful, which I am. It was supposed to be about giving thanks and acknowledging those people and things in our lives we are fortunate enough to have. I feel like I do that all the time, in a way, so this week was nothing special. I’ve tried before to keep a daily record of what I’m grateful for but it typically fails after a week or two. Strange, because I am so good about writing about everything else in my life, but I don’t question it too much.
When I’m on a walk, like I went on yesterday around MY Walnut creek I always experience something new. Yesterday was so sunny and warm and also incredibly windy at the lake. Looking out over the water as I came around that most familiar bend was like being back at the Ocean. There were white caps it was so windy. For a tiny little lake like, that’s pretty impressive. I was sort of cursing the wind because it was so strong it was taking my breath away and blowing in my eyes so much my eyes were constantly watering, but at the same time, I was grateful to be able to experience that. So yeah, grateful even for things that are not so great.. that’s where it’s at.
Then we (I was with Josh), came around the other bend and I could see people on the little island on the lake that has a tiny bridge out to it and nothing more than a few trees and bushes and a bench. Every time I look at that bench I’m reminded of my history with it. It’s a rich history of deep discussion and contemplation and blossoming love and then in the end, heartbreak.
Growing up I always dreamed of how I might be proposed to, even though I swore I never wanted to be married. It was similar to having the names of my children picked out even though I never wanted to have babies. I imagined some handsome guy getting down on one knee in a romantic setting. Perhaps we were on a vacation at some breathtaking place or at a fancy restaurant. Often I was being picked up in a really nice car and just being driven away. Most of the time, it involved thoughts of rescue or escape from my lonely ordinary life to something extraordinary.
I never dreamed I would be proposed to over the phone from someone 1000 miles away, and drinking (my first husband admitted to being intoxicated when he asked me to marry him many years after the fact). I never dreamed I wouldn’t get to look that person in the eye and say yes and engage in the happiest warm embrace of my life. And I certainly never dreamed, that if that romantic destination and the down on one knee and the heartfelt speech were all together and played out just as I had always imagined that I would ever, in a million years, say “no”.
But that is what happened on that bench. That was a terribly emotional day. I agreed to meet Matt at Walnut for a walk and talk and he brought a pack with water and snacks to share on our island, on our bench. I broke up with him a week before that because things were not good between us and the shallow attempts on both our parts to change were clearly not going to be enough. I agreed to go and listen to him, but steeled myself and vowed to myself to stay strong and not give in to requests to get back together. I had no notion he would propose.
When we got to our bench, he took out a book.. a little blank journal that had a handful of pages filled out. He began to read. It was the story of our history together with words and thoughts he’d never shared with me before. He was shaking as he read it and crying and soon I was crying too. My walls were breaking down and I knew I was going to have a tough time sticking to the vow I’d made to myself earlier in the day. Then he got to the end of the story and did that thing that I did not expect. He reached into the bag and got down on one knee and tried to hand me the box and ask me to marry him.
That’s a moment I will never forget. It was just how I had always imagined, except that in my thoughts, it would be someone who loved me and wanted to marry me and commit to a life together because that is what we both wanted, not as a last attempt to get me back after the relationship was over. No, that’s not why you propose to someone and I realize the who and the why are more important than the where and the when. If I’d have said yes, my life might look a whole lot different now. I’d have that “yes”, but it would always be tainted.
Yesterday as I walked the path and looked out at that bench I was reminded of that day and that moment and that choice. I will always be reminded of it whenever I’m there. The memory of the look on his face and my internal screaming of “no, no, no, no, this is NOT how you propose to a girl, this is not how this is supposed to happen, you ruined it”, which came out in a very kind, “no, please don’t” as I took his hand and the box and urged him to stand back up. I will always remember having to make that choice. And I will always be grateful.
A few days ago, it was thanksgiving and it was a very easy day and I wrote about how easy it is to be grateful for all the wonderful things in my life. But it’s always easy to be grateful for the good. The trick is mastering gratitude for the hard times, for the tough moments, and for all the things in our lives which are not so great, but none the less, are part of what makes us who we are. I am who I am today partly because of that moment, and all the other tough times that I had to go through to get back to the good. I’m thankful for the opportunity to feel, and keep feeling and keep trying. I want to always try and find the good in the not so good. It’s tough to do until you are on the other side of it, but we should always try.
If we can do that, then, my friends, we have found a true gift.
Always and Forever,