Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Back from the Abyss -- Kristi’s Story

By the end of that first year, things had gotten rocky in Shangri-La. Bill and I fought all the time about money, kids, chores, and his latest obsession de jour whether it be fishing, music, the weather channel. But mostly we fought about the cabin. He thought it was great and couldn’t see what my problem was. After living in his little trailer with limited electricity and running water, the cabin felt like a regular palace to him. Plus the mortgage was relatively cheap.

I, on the other hand, had started to hate our “little log cabin in the woods” with its small windows, dark rooms, cranky plumbing, cold floors, smoking wood stoves, and decades of layered on yuck that no amount of scrubbing would clean. I cried regular tears for the tidy, bright little house I had left in Seattle. I knew I needed light and a more comfortable home. If I had to spend another winter in that dark place I was sure I’d lose my mind.

Finally we went to a marriage counselor where Bill heard a revelation. “Eighty percent of the problems we are having in our marriage are because I’m so unhappy in the cabin,” I announced. Bill looked at me in shock. Eighty percent? Really?” He slowly absorbed this fact. “You mean more light and a newer home would mean a lighter, nicer wife?” “Yes,” I replied. And that was all it took. All of a sudden he was on board with my need for change. “I want a happy wife.”

I realized getting a new home would be no easy task, and, in fact, it took us years to fine a new home. But at least I finally felt we were working more closely as a team. Bill had always wanted to build his own straw bale home, and we started exploring designs. We visited properties, discussed possible models and couldn’t agree on a thing. He had been planning his straw bale home for so long that any suggestion I made was an intrusion and immediately rejected. Many a marriage had ended in this valley under just such circumstances. Building a dream home can be hell, and I wasn’t sure our marriage would survive the project. So we explored other options such as ways to bring more light into the cabin (solar tubes?). We put in a newer wood stove (less smoke). Bill did a major remodel on the one corner room in our cabin that occasionally got some light to use as my office. He put in new windows, sheet rock, wall paint, flooring and rugs so that it almost, almost looked “normal.” I loved it!

Not only that, but I was beginning to get some decent work and was actually making money. Contacts I had made at KCTS came looking for me to do outreach for their projects. On occasion, I could even hire some of my cool former colleagues like Ti, to design and work on different aspects of my campaigns. I was connecting with my former tribe, doing work I loved again, and for awhile, we weren’t even poor!

Making friends in the valley was still a little problematic, but I found out it wasn’t just a problem for me. There were lots of little cliques in the valley and they were hard to break into. One woman I met had tried to join a book club when she had first moved here but the club wouldn’t let her in. They told her they were full. So she went and started her own book club and that’s the club I joined. I liked the idea of being in the outlier group.

I had a similar experience when I asked if I could join a group of women who rode mountain bikes together. They all looked at me blankly until one finally said, “Well do you even own a mountain bike?” I must have looked at the woman funny thinking, “Why else would I ask” because she just turned and walked away. So much for the bike club.

My big break came when a tall, striking woman whom I met at the local Montessori, started telling me her own hard-to-make-friends stories. It turned out she had been rebuffed at least as much as I. “What is the deal with this place?” I asked. “It seems like high school again,” to which she quickly agreed. Finally, after much more discussion and laughing about our various run-ins with non friends, she came up with a brilliant idea. “I’ll be your friend if you’ll be mine?” she asked in a serious tone. “Deal!” I said. And my first real friendship in the valley was formed.

In truth, we may not have been friends had we lived in our old worlds; Seattle for me, a rich suburb for her. We didn’t share a large set of interests or friends and our politics didn’t always mesh. Our backgrounds were different, as well as our careers, our incomes, and our lifestyles. In short, we weren’t that much alike. But I hadn’t met anyone like me here, nor she anyone like her. So we decided to be oddballs together, and that has served us well.

But the most striking thing that changed my life here in the valley was the arrival of my third child, Jannie; the baby that wasn’t suppose to be. A year after we arrived I had almost bled to death due to a run-in with my IUD that caused me to lose 50% of my blood. After the second rush to the hospital (nearly an hour away), the doctors preformed an emergency D and C. My hemorrhaging stopped, but the doctor said my uterus was probably so scarred that I would likely never have more kids. We were sad as Bill had never had a child of his own and we were thinking we might try. But he enjoyed being a step-father to my girls, and I was fine with two kids. We threw away all birth control and basically forgot the whole thing. Until two years later when I noticed I wasn’t quite feeling right, and my symptoms were vaguely familiar. “Naw,” I thought. “It couldn’t be.” But just on the off chance, I decided to use a home pregnancy test that I had left over from a former time, and low and behold….”Hey honey,” I said, as I walked in on Bill chopping vegetables in the kitchen, pregnancy test in hand. “Do you see one line or two? I think I see two…” His eyebrows shot up and there was a moment of stunned silence in the room. “Does this mean…?” he slowly stammered, as a goofy smile started forming on his face. Bill was going to be a dad.

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