In a few days, I will have lived in my new place for a year. Some days, it feels like it’s only been a few months. But as I looked at my dusty baseboards the other day, it definitely looked like I’d lived there much longer than a year… a lot longer. So last week, I decided to do some much needed spring cleaning. I started with the bathrooms, scouring the tub and installing a new shower liner. Then I tackled those dusty baseboards, and when those were done, it was window time.
I started with my daughter Zoey’s windows—I even saw marks from her snow day wishing that I had somehow missed—and moved on to the living room. I pulled up the blinds, and because it was such a beautiful day, the outdoor light quickly filled the space around me.
The bright sunshine forced me to close my eyes, and for some reason, a wave of nostalgia washed over me. But the nostalgia wasn’t for something I’d once had, it was for something I’d once dreamed about.
In that moment, I remembered the way as a young girl I envisioned my future: I had pictured that, as an adult, I would live a blissful, light-filled, love-drenched life. After all, isn’t that what we all hope for? Complete and utter happiness?
Yes, in that moment, I remembered my childhood and young-adult dreams:
I dreamed of a home where sunlight poured in from floor-to-ceiling windows.
I dreamed of days where I I would stay at home, raising a handful of children that I watched from the kitchen window as they played outside, laughing as they ran and danced in the dinnertime dusk.
I dreamed of filling my spare time by writing and illustrating a children’s book, one that I would read to my own children.
I dreamed of having a partner to love and who loved me back for who I was, someone who I would spend my days with, someone who I could talk to about anything and everything, someone who would hug me and hold my hand and tell me—no matter what—that things would all work out.
But as I grew older, my life took the usual twists and turns, and I slowly changed what I thought I wanted, telling myself different stories as a way of accepting where I thought my life was going: Being married wasn’t a priority. Having kids wasn’t necessary. The house I dreamed of probably didn’t exist. Writing a book would simply be a silly dream of a naïve child.
And then, the story changed again, and it all became a blur: A marriage. A house. A child. Pressures. Work. Obligations. Responsibilities. Demands. And then divorce. All the things that brought me to where I was right now, standing in my apartment, alone, cleaning my windows, once again feeling wistful for a life I thought would be mine.
This unexpected, unplanned life I’m living is far from those childhood dreams. For the most part, I’m a happy, well-adjusted, healthy, positive person, finding the best in every situation. But some days, if I let it get the better of me, my reality paralyzes me. I get caught up in the want so much that I briefly forget about what it is I have. In those moments, I focus on the things that make my heart ache instead of thinking about the things that make my heart full.
It’s the part of nostalgia that can lead you down a path of woulda, coulda, shoulda. The part that makes you sad and long for better days gone by . . . or perhaps better dreams gone by. It sometimes happens when I am alone, and this week, when Zoey was not with me, it did get the better of me.
But when Wednesday rolled around and Zoey was back with me, I felt less unsettled, and we were happy to be with each other again. We ate dinner, chatting happily about our days and, eventually, our conversation turned silly as it always tends to when it comes to us. Zoey told a goofy story about her imaginary friends that left us laughing.
“You are silly,” I said, shaking my head.
“You are magnificent!” Zoey exclaimed. She loved doing things like this, turning our ordinary conversations into games. It’s one of my favorite things about her, her cleverness and creativeness, her ability to turn the ordinary into something more.
I happily took the bait. “You are marvelous!”
“You are spectacular!” she giggled.
“You are simply stupendous!” I said, as I gave her a high five.
And then, before I could move my hand away, Zoey grabbed it with her own. The motion made me think the game was over, but then she leaned in to kiss the top of my hand. When Zoey looked back up at me, her smile spread ear to ear and her eyes shone bright with happy tears. And then, in her sweet 5-year-old voice, the one I’d been missing this week, she spoke these words.
“You are my life.”
Her unexpected statement took my breath away. Zoey always seems to know the right thing to say to me, especially when I need it most. Her unfiltered, innocent thoughts tend to clear up the muddiness of my own. It’s not about what we want, it’s about what we need. Right there, at that kitchen table, in that moment, Zoey had everything she needed…and so did I. My dreams that had not matched up with reality became entirely insignificant.
But, funny enough, as I thought about it more (after I wiped my own tears away), I realized those dreams I had actually have manifested themselves in my life, right underneath my nose. Those windows I cleaned last weekend? They really are floor-to-ceiling. My home is filled with light and life. My daughter’s spirit and heart truly rival those of a houseful of children. Though I might not have a partner to go through life with yet, I remain hopeful. And I am writing the stories I dreamed of writing; one day, I will be able to read them to Zoey.
So this life—the life that I’m living now, the life that I will live in all my tomorrows—might not be the exact one I’d planned on living, but it is the one I have. I’ve started my next chapter. I’ve moved on to my Plan B.
* * *
For now, this Plan B is manifesting itself to be a simple, quiet life. One where Zoey and I do things like we did yesterday morning: I woke up early to get some work done, and I curled up on the couch with my computer and a cup of tea. A gentle spring breeze made its way in through the open window, and the smell of pollen and new grass made me smile. I worked in the quiet until Zoey padded into the room, climbed up on the couch, and curled up next to me.
The whistle of a train cried out in the distance. Zoey got up and moved toward the open window to hear it better. As she sat on our tiny window ledge—one that’s only big enough to hold someone as small as her—she placed her hand against the glass and started talking.
“I love our apartment. I love how we can hear the trains. I love how we can sit on our patio and watch the sun set. I love the way that sunshine feels. I love that you’re here with me.”
And then she turned, her delicate features cutting a profile against the light behind her, and again, she spoke another one of her important truths:
“I love where we are.”
I left my place on the couch to join Zoey on that tiny ledge, folding myself up enough to squeeze in next to her. “Me, too, peanut,” I said as I covered her hand with my own, our fingerprints leaving fresh smudges on the glass. I didn’t move to clean them up. Because later, as we went about our day, I wanted the swirls of our fingertips to still be there, a visible reminder of the fact that we had been there in this moment, present and alive and happy and—most importantly—together.
Zoey and I sat there, side by side, watching the day wake up to reveal a Colorado crystal-clear blue sky. It was cloudless, making it appear both empty and full at the same time. It was endless and beautiful.
Just like our future feels like it will be.
Sometimes it takes a quiet, fragile moment like this to help you really make sense of everything. For us, that everything means that we are here—in this life, in these beautiful moments that we call our own—making peace with where we are. We are here in this Plan B, where things are falling into place, and it’s right where we are meant—and where we need—to be.
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Share with us your story: Are you living an unplanned life? Regardless of where your life has taken you, how do you find peace with yourself and where you are in your everyday moments?
Week 14 Suggested Reading
The Freemind Experience | Tom Fortes Mayer
Discover how to be happy and at peace. Create a connection to your purest state of peace and happiness. Imagine yourself living fully and freely in the moment, utterly fulfilled and feeling vibrantly alive. This is The FreeMind Experience. This book ignites the flame of possibility inside us all. – Pulled from Amazon.com description
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The Power of Now | Eckhart Tolle
Ekhart Tolle’s message is simple: living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment. Tolle’s clear writing, supportive voice, and enthusiasm make this an excellent manual for anyone who’s ever wondered what exactly “living in the now” means. Within a chapter of reading this book, readers are already holding the world in a different container–more conscious of how thoughts and emotions get in the way of their ability to live in genuine peace and happiness. – Pulled from Amazon.com description
* This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com. If you purchase a product after clicking an affiliate link (and it doesn’t even need to be the product I’ve linked to), I receive a small percentage of the sale for referring you, at no extra cost to you.*
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At the The Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.