I had just turned eighteen the month before Jim and I were married. When I moved to Norfolk, Virginia–where he was stationed for sea duty–we rented a townhouse off of the Naval base in a military family-only subdivision. That neighborhood proved to be something wonderful for me, a much-younger-than-average new bride whose husband would be going out to sea for weeks and months at a time. In the first four years we were married, he was gone for more than two-and-a-half years.
It was okay, though. Even though it was difficult to be apart at the time (this was before cell phones and internet!), my being left at home alone was a learning experience, because I got a crash course in taking care of everything in a household all on my own and I’m still proud of everything I accomplished in those years. I like to tell people that the first few years of our marriage was, for me, a lot like being single (without the dating, of course!) in the way that it made me more independent, more responsible, and more watchful over the details of living life as an adult. You know, like making sure everything in our address book was correct, like so:
Being alone so much in those first few years also drastically improved my problem-solving skills. I really could have done without that time Jim’s pay wasn’t deposited, though. Did I mention this was before internet and cell phones?? In order to communicate with him I had to either wait for him to send me a letter or call me collect from one of his rare stops in a foreign country, or I had to contact the ship captain’s wife and see if she could get in touch with the ship for me. I ate lots of macaroni and cheese that month, and invited myself to friends’ homes for dinner, too.
The situation I was in was really interesting. I was the youngest Navy wife on my block, and although I made fast friends with a few of my neighbors, they were a world away from me on so many things:
1. They had children
2. They had been married for a few years already
3. They were–gasp!–in their mid- to late-twenties already! Like, OLD!
Still they accepted me, literally the new kid on the block, into the fold. We Navy wives stuck together.
One of my favorite pastimes back then was cross stitching. When I wasn’t working my job as Head Cashier at Leewards Craft Store or attending my college classes and taking care of homework, I had a needle in one hand and a loaded embroidery hoop in the another. When Jim was out to sea, it was not unusual for me to cross stitch for six, seven, eight, or more hours in a day. I made things for us and I took care of holiday gifts all year round. I sometimes counted Aida cloth squares in my sleep.
Those neighbors of mine were always amazed that I got that much stitching done (What would have taken them a month, I could finish in a day or two), and let me know about their feelings regularly. I, on the other hand, spent lots of time watching them mother their children in amazement (and with a little jealousy). I knew I wanted children very badly, but it wasn’t time for that yet in our marriage. I was always telling them how I couldn’t wait to have children, and they were always telling me that they wished they had more time for cross stitching.
After five years of marriage, I arrived on the Other Side. We started our family, and the time I had for hobbies and other activities went away as I put my focus on raising the boys. Although I have always loved being a mom, I often–like most other moms–wished for more “Me Time”.
Eventually, and all too quickly, I got that “Me Time”.
Now I’m on the Other Side again. I have raised my children, and although I don’t cross stitch anymore (My eyesight! Eeek! Eleven-count, anyone?) (That was a cross stitch joke, by the way.), I do have time on my hands again and–as you know–keep myself pretty busy. I’m writing, I’m blogging, I’m a social media researcher for BlogHer, I’m producing a show (tickets are on sale now, Chicago!), just to name a few of my activities. The majority of my friends still have children to raise, and they’re always telling me that they wish they had the time to do the stuff I do. I tell them that it’s only a matter of time before they’re on the Other Side too, and that they should enjoy being where they are NOW, before they’re on the Other Side, because NOW goes by really quickly.
I guess what I’m saying here is that “the Other Side” is a state of mind. If everyone would try a little harder to live in the moment and truly enjoy whatever stage of life they’re currently experiencing, we’d all be a lot happier. That’s because the grass isn’t always greener on the Other Side…the grass is greener where you water it. Which would be a really cute cross stitched piece for my wall, but I’ll have to buy some readers first, because my eyesight just can’t handle that.
This post was inspired by “The Grass Is Green On Both Sides”, written by Cathy Adams on her Chicago Now blog, “The Self-Aware Parent”.