“We need to forget this idea that something is going to open up,” I said. “Nothing is going to open up. It’s just you and me and the universe. There is no rescue. No ta-da ending. This is it. This is our life.”

Paul nodded. “I worry that I’ve been missing it all along.” He was talking about his occupation. Teaching hasn’t proved to be a confirmation of self-actualization for Paul. Two days before he goes back to work, he gets grumpy — which means he’s grumpy every weekend. But it’s a Catch-22. Saddled with debt for getting the education to become a teacher, nothing else will pay like a teacher’s salary to get out of debt. We brainstorm all the time about how to get out from both — teaching and debt. That’s why we built the house. We were trying to escape all our past mistakes.

In this unforgiving world, fat chance.

Paul is a good teacher. The kids love him. He loves the kids. They learn. They grow to be friends. Still, the long hours inside a building, the conviction that these long hours are harmful to kids, the belief in children’s  humanity and freedom, the pressure from the state to comply to meet their demands, the pressure from administration to perform to meet standards that have little to do with kids’ happiness or well-being — all these conflicting ideals wage war inside a person and a house divided cannot stand.

“I have less energy than I used to. The idea of doing something new … of starting over … of striking out — it sometimes makes me want to give up,” he said.

We talked like this over coffee — me, leaning against the door jam, and Paul seated at the kitchen island.

“This is it, Paul,” I reiterated. “There are few choices before us. We can continue on like this feeling regretful and doubting our choices. We can change our attitudes about our circumstances and be thankful for what we have. We can embrace what is before us. Or … we can change it. Changing has risks. We could end up better off. We could end up worse. What we have to decide is — is it worth it? If we don’t take a risk, will we always wonder? Will we always regret? If we do take a risk and fail, will we squander our years away paying for it? We took a risk on building the house. I’m still glad we did. But it wasn’t easy. It hasn’t been easy.”

Paul nodded.

We sipped coffee and thought… and thought and thought and thought.

Then, we grew tired of thinking and went about our day.

I can’t think of anything to solve our issues. I just know this:

This is what life should look like:

Birding at Basket Slough

Advertisements