I stood at the patio doors yesterday afternoon with Charlie next to me and watched rain pouring outside. Suddenly the wind was whipping the tree branches and hail began hitting the cement.

He is not afraid of thunder. But he will bark at it occasionally if he deems it to be of guard dog intensity.

White pitcher collection on red cupboard

It made me appreciate my cozy little home. My favorite things around me. My Charlie boy by my side.

I have a humble home. A one bedroom apartment might not sound like much, but it is certainly all I need or want.

It isn’t new or fancy with shiny appliances. But it is enough for me. And I’m grateful for it.

Being grateful is a big part of happiness, I’ve learned. Being grateful means that we have surveyed what we have and where we are, and come to the realization that it is more than enough.

Purslane growing in a cement crack

Many of us, perhaps most of us, have gone through periods in our life where being alone was simply not enough. Those dreams we had when we were young.

Many of us fulfilled that dream of being married. And felt acute joy when we heard the man of the house pull in the driveway, home from work.

I’ve been there. I’ve felt that of joy when I knew he was about to walk in that door.

I didn’t grow up thinking about living in grand houses or any of that. For me it was that little house surrounded by gardens and the white picket fence.

It was “with two cats in the yard. Life used to be so hard. Now everything is easy cause of you..” (From Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)

Back when that song was so popular, I felt like that’s all I needed or wanted.

“Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is good…

“…Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the evening. Sunshine through them, fiery gems for you, only for you…”

Weren’t we naive then? To think it could be that simple?

Purple morning glories growing on my fence

Men were supposed to grow up and become successful businessmen. Women were to get married, have babies and keep the home fires burning.

I guess it all worked out for some.

But for others there came a day when there was a feeling of dread upon hearing that car pull in the driveway.

“Our house is a very, very fine house with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard. Now everything is easy ’cause of you…”

Sometimes we gave them such power over us. I know I did.

“I’ll light the fire, you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today…

“..Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you. Play your love songs all night long for me, only for me…”

As little girls we spun knights in shining armor like fine silk into our dreams. Just waiting to be someone’s everything.

“I’ll light the fire, while you place the flowers in the vase that you bought today…”

Red hibiscus flower

Oh, how many times I have hummed that old song.

Be careful what you wish for.

I’m no longer waiting for a man to come home. For me there came a time when I just wanted to go some place far away. Where I wouldn’t hear that car ever again.

There came a time when I laid awake in the dark and mentally went through each room. Wondering what I would take with me to start a new life. Things that were important to me for sentimental reasons that he cared nothing about.

It’s what comforted me until I walked out that door for the final time.

No more getting scared, swallowing my pride, and going back. No more doubts. Just driving away and never looking back.

The hardest part is not looking back.

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49 Comments

  1. How often do marriages take place for the wrong reasons to start with? How can they survive when they don’t have a strong foundation? If two people don’t share the same values it’s doomed. I think that’s where the looking back with regret comes in. If we’re truly honest we know we’re all flawed individuals that have been hurt and have also hurt people We intended to love. There comes a time when we have to make peace with it. That’s the hard part.

  2. I married at twenty-five and tho’t it was forever. Well, we made it to twenty-five years and then he left for someone else. I learned from a mutual friend that he had never been faithful to me. He communicated nothing to me about wanting to leave. I was blindsided. Our daughters were crushed. I felt that he had trashed our family and have never been so angry. I think if I’d had a gun the night I found out I might have killed him. But I have survived, the children are grown and I am happy to be single. But, I do look back–oftener than I want to. Why couldn’t it have been the way I tho’t it would be at the beginning? I remember the happy times and have deep regrets at their loss. BUT, there’s no point in looking back. You know that and so do I. But I don’t know if the desire for things to have worked out, lasted, ever goes away. I don’t want another husband. No desire to deal with another’s baggage as well as my own. I guess the bottom line is: Okay, look back every now and then, but don’t stay there. And most days I can look ahead instead. Which I am grateful for. As well as many other things in my life. I do believe that gratitude is the key to happiness.

    By the way, that song you quoted was a favorite of mine and my ex-husband when we lived in our first house. And had cats. Cats that we tried to walk on leashes! You can imagine that they didn’t cooperate! But I tho’t that the song was written and sung by Cat Stevens. Maybe it was recorded by him and Crosby, Stills, etc.

    P.S. I’m also grateful for your posts, Brenda. They enrich my life immensely. Thanks.

    1. Oh, I’m so glad! I’ll have to look and see but where I copied the words said Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. You’re right, one or the other could have recorded it. I love what you wrote: Look back but don’t stay there. And remember, your life might have worked out as you’d hoped. It was your husband that ruined that dream, not you.

      1. Here’s what I found on Wikipedia: “Our House” is a song written by British singer-songwriter Graham Nash and recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on their album Déjà Vu (1970)

  3. This was a beautiful post. I so enjoyed reading the comments of the strong ladies that were able to walk away and not look back. As always your words were beautiful.

  4. What a beautiful post! I, too, live simply and have limited means in my retirement years (retired educator). I have my dear cat Matilda and some beloved possessions which make my little home cozy and create whimsy for me. It’s all enough. Yes, the dreams of that man to live with and love forever have worked out for some, but I don’t know very many women whose lives turned out that way. Most of us have learned, through time and painful life lessons, that we’re enough, and we honor and cherish the women like us.

  5. It was “with two cats in the yard. Life used to be so hard. Now everything is easy cause of you..” (From Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)

    I loved that album! I did not have a happy home but my grandparents were near by…so with my baby sitting money that I earned I recall buying that album, and Carol King’s “Tapestry” and a few others around that time and playing them at my grandparents and memorizing every word : )

  6. my story mirrors yours. i got tired of the verbal beat down and infidelity, sucked up the doubts and moved on. i was so afraid of failing. i had 2 daughters still in school. i knew it would be a challenge but i wanted to be free of him so that it gave me the determination to make the move. once we were out from under his tyranny we made a good life for ourselves. i grew to hate the sound of his car coming in the driveway. both daughters graduated from Penn State and we became the 3 musketeers. i have never thought “what might have been.” i turned 80 in May and this “bull” succeeded and out lived him with God’s help and guidance.

    1. It’s kind of funny. What I most remember, like you, is often that dead feeling in the pit of my stomach when I heard him come home.

  7. Looking back is a natural part of living. Moving forward and appreciating what is in your life now is a blessing, a key ingredient to a contented life. The “stuff”, no matter how grand, cannot bring happiness if you don’t have appreciation for the things that truly matter. Finding joy in the here and now, in the little things that so many might take for granted..growing where you’re planted.. is the secret to a happy life. You’re doing that beautifully.

    I am blessed with a decent marriage to a good man, and that includes sometimes we can barely stand each other, lol…. and we’ve raised two very decent children to become responsible adults. We both know what it’s like to have not much at all, and we so appreciate what we have as a result of hard work and dedication to a family business for many years. The finer things are nice to have, but if you ask me what I most treasure, it’s my family, the love for and of my pets, the sense of peace at having a “home” place to land, a safe haven, that surrounds me with the little things I love… stones picked up on the beach, dog toys strewn about – good books on the shelf, coffee at the ready. You get the picture…and I know you have your own picture that you cherish too. The size of the rooms mean nothing if they aren’t filled with love. A Grand ball room can be an empty, hollow place and a 10 x 14 living room can be a true haven. It’s all in what you make of it.

  8. Hi Brenda,
    When I read this post I couldn’t help but think I was reading the first chapter of a book that is yet to be written…. laura

  9. After my divorce, I sure remember sitting on the floor (I took very little of the marital assets with me) in my small apartment watching a tiny television set and thinking “life is good.” I may not have had much in the way of material goods but I had a sense of peace in my soul. Now I wonder what in the world took me so long to finalize the decision to leave — fear I guess. Back in the day, there seemed to be one blueprint to follow — find a mate, get married, have children, and stay in the marriage no matter what the obstacles, etc. Nice that times are changing from that mindset.

    What a wonderful post today; gives us all time for reflection. And this post reminds us to be grateful for the many blessings we have today. Thank you.

    1. I had become accustomed to nice things. I thought they mattered. What I learned was – they didn’t mean much at all.

  10. I hear you!! My “Prince” turned out to be just a Toad. Not looking back is very hard, but cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” can bring us peace and happiness. As you have found. Seems we always have to learn our lessons the hard way. Blessings on you and Charlie-Boy this day.

  11. When I drove to the end of the culdesac and looked back at my wonderful home. The words he uttered to me resonated within my soul. “You’ll never leave this house and lifestyle, you love it too much.” But how wrong he was. The beautiful home had become sad to me. It no longer brought me joy and sadly, neither did he. And so as I looked back at the home that had brought me such peace and happiness once upon a time, I knew I would never go back. And you’re right Brenda., the hardest part was turning the corner and not looking back.

  12. Brenda,

    I never come here without leaving and thinking about what you wrote. My friend everyone has regrets and we all look back once in awhile and wonder what if. What if I had finished my PHD, what if I had moved to France, what if I would have done this or that differently.

    I am where I am supposed to be. I have had a wonderful life and I am incredibly blessed with my family, friends, husband, pets, education and all of the travel and things I have been able to do.

    The only time I ever look back is when I am let down by someone or sad. I would never change my life because it is what made me who I am .

    I do wish however that someone had told me that somedays life seems like it is going to beat you into the ground, somedays it is going to be so incredibly painful you will wonder how you can survive, and let me know that it will be what it is supposed to be and I will make it thru no matter what. But maybe I wouldn;t have listened.

    I hope you are feeling better. Give Charlie and yourself a big hug for me. And thank you, thank you , thank you for the reminder that we all have something to be grateful for.

    1. I so agree. I am quite grateful for what I have. And I don’t think back on things much. Just when I’m sad or feel let down, like you mentioned. I think the death of Aretha Franklin reminded me of how I was in the olden days when listening to her music.

  13. It’s interesting how engrained music is in our lives, how much influence the music and lyrics had and obviously (years later) more so than we could realize at the time. If we had the Dixie Chicks singing about killing Earl back then we might have thought differently, made different choices – maybe. Just something I wonder about sometimes.

    1. It is interesting. I look back on my younger days and I think of all those songs that just crept into my life. Now I have no idea what music is popular.

  14. this is a beautiful post. I had a happy marriage (no children though) until Cancer came calling.
    much of what you write is true for me too. I don’t look back at ‘what might have been.’
    and after losing the love and the beauty that man was in every way in my life… I am content to be alone! we had 17 years together and I have been alone now for a long time. long enough for me to accept and adjust and learn to like my own company. there is NO FEAR as they say on those t-shirts! there is also no safety net. and one can even get used to that! I treasure my internet friendships and since his own wife died … that of my only relative… my brother. he’s my best friend.
    I live in a 550 square ft one bedroom apt and I find it perfectly sized for me. maybe even a little too large! contentment and gratitude are the keys. and a sense of COZY minimalism! it’s possible!
    and I love the white ironstone against that quilt of yours! oh my it’s lovely! xo

  15. I am going through some tough times and really enjoy reading your thoughts, simple, yet profound in many ways.
    My son has been talking to me about making a “manifest” for myself to move forward. I’ve been researching that and have discovered that, to me, it’s setting positive goals, expressing gratitude, writing goals down, working toward them with a good heart. It’s putting down in words and in your mind the direction you want to go. Your brain is listening and helps move your forward.

    I see you accomplishing that every day. And your ability to write like you do is helping others, like me.

    1. I think writing things down kind of nails them prominently in our minds. We begin to think of them as possibilities/probabilities. I hope things become much more positive for you soon!

  16. I guess I was lucky. My husband was brought up by his single Mother who was a very strong person and so he grew up respecting her and other women.
    I have never once regretted marrying him. He is kind, generous and is always considerate of my feelings even if they differ from his.
    It certainly helped early on that we seemed to want the same things out of life, we preferred a night in together rather than go out with friends, we preferred to spend money on making a nice home for ourselves and our son rather than spend it on fancy clothes and holidays. We both loved animals, decided to go vegetarian together and later vegan. He had cancer 14 years ago but we got thru that , he was recently diagnosed with RA but he is doing great thank goodness, so all in all I count myself very fortunate.

  17. You went forward Brenda! No more, having to deal with an abusive piece of crap or cheater! I’m very proud of you for standing your ground! Now your happy and content with your life! I’m giving you a virtual hug. Have a great weekend!

  18. Hello Brenda,
    I do look back, I’ll admit it.
    I had 3 children, buried 2 daughters, Charnelle ages 5 and Natasha age 20. My 53 year old son hasn’t spoken to me for nearly 30 years. I have no family (they’ve since passed on). I
    I’ve been divorced 18 1/2 years (not even a date in that time) and have lost many pets that were near and dear to my heart.
    I’ve lived in South America for 5 1/2 years (I still am not fluent in their native tongue) because I can’t afford to live in the states with what I have coming in on a monthly basis, no savings account.
    My home is less than 500 sq. feet, but I continually ask myself how much room does one person REALLY need?

    Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder……

  19. Yes, gratitude is a good thing. I try to practice it every day. I also only wanted to be a wife, a mother, make a home, etc. But unfortunately things don’t always turn out as we had hoped. Now I live alone, in my wonderful one bedroom apartment, and am so grateful for God providing me with all I need and even more. I have a peaceful life now, and no one to take care of but myself.

    Sometimes I find myself looking back on the past and reliving unhappy memories, but thankfully that is seldom these days. I do recognize that some of the fault is mine, and it is seldom that a failed marriage is all one sided. When I find myself traveling down memory lane, I tell myself, “that was then, and this is now, and now is better.” And I make myself think of something more pleasant.

  20. Sometimes it take a while to figure out what really makes us content. On that journey we learn a lot about ourselves.

  21. I enjoyed this article Brenda. I’m a single woman, never married, but I know I don’t have any regrets on not getting married and I am happy and content with my life. The little things in my daily life make me happy – Molly greeting me when I come home from work, the enjoyment of a good mystery book, having dinner with friends or just hanging out on a neighbor’s porch in the evening enjoying the sounds of nature. You and Charlie just keep me forward; I think you are in a good place now and I’m so glad you are enjoying the simpler things in this world. Have a lovely weekend!
    Carol and Molly
    xoxoxo

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