I sold my dining room table last week. I helped the young couple squeeze it through my front door and hoisted the lead-like behemoth into the back end of their Outback. As they drove away, I saw the big empty space in my kitchen. I was suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelmed with a tremendous sense of loss.
Back in the 90’s my husband and I were young and in love and had fantasized about having a house on acreage, where he could have a big shop and I could have a big garden. When the kids were still very small, we built a house on 2 acres northeast of town. After we moved in, my husband took some of the wood that was left over and built me a beautiful, strong, rock-solid, farmhouse-style table. I had always envisioned a big happy family that did things together, and nightly dinner around a table like that was a big part of it.
My Norman Rockwell fantasies were never fulfilled. My home-cooked meals were lovely on that table as the four of us gathered each night, but we never had pleasant conversations about the day’s events or politics or the world around us. My husband struggled with bipolar disorder, and he had a very difficult time finding joy in much of anything, especially anything having to do with me. Dinners became my nightly verbal flogging as he and the kids would poke at everything on their plate, criticizing everything I’d made. They would beg for pizza and fast food.
I held my head up for the first decade, but eventually succumbed to a nightly cocktail to numb myself enough to endure it. I refused to give in; he was not well and they were just children and I insisted on making sure they had a proper meal, not a sack full of chemicals and fat tossed into their car from a drive-thru window. What was supposed to be our nightly reconnection was instead a tremendous source of sadness for me.
When we split 6 years ago, I got the table. I had figured that I wouldn’t be single for all that long, and while it was far too big for my little dining area, when I remarried, it would be perfect… especially if my new husband also had kids living at home. My marriage was dead and buried, but my fantasies of family dinners and love around that table lived on.
A few months ago, I decided to get over it. My life is really great. I have nothing to complain about, really. I am content in all ways but this; I kept hoping that I would fall in love again and this time…THIS time, it would be for real. He would be sane and emotionally healthy and fully functional, capable of loving me and fully receiving my love for him. So instead of being truly happy, I was left feeling incomplete and ultimately dissatisfied with my truly awesome life.
There’s a song by one of my favorite bands, OKGO, “This Too Shall Pass.”
“You know you can’t keep letting it get you down
And you can’t keep dragging that dead weight around”
I’ve made a conscious decision to let it go. Statistically, the odds are extremely high that I will be single for the rest of my life. Not alone, just single. I can be depressed about that and design my life around the “missing piece”, or I can create a new design where everything I already have is exactly what I need.
The sadness I feel every time I enter my now-cavernous dining room is fading. I am allowing myself to feel the sadness without trying to stop it, but without letting it overwhelm me. I ordered a new table yesterday, it is small and round and perfect for the life I have now.
I’m glad I sold the table. It was a beautiful but subtly painful reminder of what I did not have in my life and the deep sadness of all of the unfulfilled dreams of my past. I visualize the young couple that took it away having the family dinners that I had so deeply desired; the table fulfilling its intended purpose. It is complete and I am complete, just as I am, just as my life is today.
The new table comes Thursday. I think I’ll have my two closest girlfriends come over and christen it with me. It is exactly as it should be.
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