Before I completely released the small rock that fit so nicely in the palm of my hand, somehow I knew it wasn’t heading toward my intended target. I intended to toss it in a gentle arc several feet from a horse that had wandered onto our property, hoping to encourage it to move on, but my hand wouldn’t let go of that rock…not just yet anyway. When it finally escaped my grasp, a gentle toss had become something altogether different. The rock now possessed all of my unexpressed rage and heartbreak and instead of the gentle thud of a small rock bouncing across a few of its relatives, I was about to hear a sound that was anything but gentle. I knew it instantly and couldn’t take it back; it now had a life, a mind, of its own.
The rock was heading straight for the windshield of a car that belonged to my husband’s first wife. It seemed like it took forever to make contact. I knew that once it struck, the windshield would explode into thousands of jagged shards of glass, and I would not be able to say that I was “fine” anymore, which had been my anthem for quite some time. “It”, our living situation, was not “fine”, nor was I, but I saw no way out. The tension of keeping it all inside, of trying so hard, too hard, to swallow a situation that once had had the hope of nourishment, but now was a kind of poison – instantly released when the sound of breaking glass punctured the air along with our small contrived world. The shriek of that windshield exploding, the extended reverberation of fragments of glass sprinkling all over the gravel driveway shook me down to my core. No one said anything. I think we all knew some thing, some way, was over.
“I love what you kids are trying to do…really…but it just WON’T work.” That’s what an attorney had said to me just weeks before the broken windshield. “No, really, it’s going well…it’s just fine.” That’s what I said to him, and I so wanted it to be true, but it wasn’t, and the broken windshield finally illuminated that…at least for me. I carefully explained the entire tangled web, watched his face subtly reflect his admiration for what we were trying to do, along with his empathy: we both heard the river of truth that ran just below the surface. He wasn’t the only one who said it, I’d heard it many times…he just said it so succinctly.
My husband (now former husband) and his first wife had purchased a large piece of land together, and they made an honorable verbal agreement to never divide it. Now both divorced and re-married, neither one of them could afford to buy the other one out. It just so happened that both new couples decided to move out to the property AT THE SAME TIME. AND. There was only one little spot that was both easily accessible by the road, and had enough previously cleared land to be inhabitable in the short term: an old, ramshackle fisherman’s cabin, along with its adjacent clearing for vehicles and boats. “They” settled into the cabin. “We” decided to build a temporary home that would someday become a machine shop and was basically right across the driveway from the cabin. There we were, the four of us, right on top of each other.
The tension had been building, even as I continued to say everything was “fine”. Sometime after my visit with the attorney I found the courage to speak to my husband and made my best attempt to explain to him how trapped I felt, as I’d come to realize that along with my marriage to him, I was also somehow inextricably linked to his first wife, due to their intertwined loyalty to the land. Theoretically, I completely agreed with the promise of leaving the land intact…but where did that leave me?
In what I’m sure was also his best attempt at communication, he told me that making a “homestead” out in the country had been his lifelong dream, and because neither he nor his first wife could buy the other one out, there was nothing to be done. My “problem” with the arrangement was not addressed, and in that moment, I felt myself disappear, shatter and break into a thousand pieces…as the windshield would, a few weeks later. Neither, it seemed, could be repaired. Six months later I would walk away…from our marriage, from our home, from the land.
There were other challenges…and also much great laughter and love. All these years later, what still stands out the most is what it does when we try too hard. It’s different than simply trying hard. If something’s broken when trying hard, it usually can be fixed. Maybe trying too hard always ends in something or someone being shattered, beyond repair.