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The neighbor and the $5 patio set that saved me

It was a $5 vintage patio set that saved me. Homely to some, it had awaited me there by the tiny cottage on the lake, its wooden retro lines awaiting my peaceful backyard. I looked at my husband with anticipation in my eyes, and those crinkles around his mouth lifted slowly as I read his answer without him saying a word. My heart rested, gingerly settling in, and the chaos of the week before drifted away.

Upheaval. Thatís what this winter and spring has felt like. Out of the ordinary things have laid heavy upon me: my mind being pulled in several directions and the weight of unwritten words. It was crashing into my workspace and home and settling into my heart. I heard myself on a daily basis saying words that I didnít mean and felt my soul slowly slipping out from me and running away. I didnít blame it. I simply slipped into my mask and went along for the ride.

None of us are really adept at handling hard things, like a shoe filled with tiny pebbles that accumulates more and more because you donít stop to empty them. I let each pebble grow bigger and bigger as the days went on and it made me an angry person. One of my very good friends handles conflict and stress in her life like a warrior. She puts me to shame with her positive spirit, and I wish I could be more like her, but Iím me. Iíve said before that Iím calm in a crisis, which is true, but Iím also a bit passive-aggressive as well. I grit my teeth and never spit out whatís annoying me until itís too late and boom, a word bomb splintering mightily to the people that donít deserve my anger, the ones that are always there for me and much too easy targets to take out my frustration on. It was time for me to be reminded just what was important and what I had to let go of.

God chuckles at us, then proceeds to send me moments and words that are a stinging balm to my heart. Last week we celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. I remembered that the year before had been our 25th anniversary road trip to New England, and we ushered in that day eating lobster rolls and shrimp on the tiny dock of a beautiful bay. This year I was staring at a full schedule, myself in a funk, and nothing being planned for even a small getaway. All the stresses Iíd been feeling pressed in hard, grabbing me by the veins, and I became a dark cloud storming on everyone. Poor Missy, I thought. Everything came to a head in one fiery day, and I wished the words I had spewed could be sucked back into the vortex that was my mouth. I didnít recognize myself.

What I have, though, is a partner that holds on to me. He doesnít let go even when Iím at my ugliest. We found ourselves able to plan a surprising getaway, things falling into place while walking through heated minutes and scorching words. I completed my work week, everything neatly written and organized, and we flopped down on our comfy patio chairs to reflect. If we do anything itís talk, talk and more talk. The air had been freshened by the lightning and thunder of our day, and I could breathe. We cracked open some cold drinks and stared at the solitude of our backyard. Soon enough our neighbors peeked their heads around the bushes in the back, and within the hour we were happily chatting away. It doesnít always happen, this meeting of neighbors, and the air was sweet with peaceful words. I was looking forward to our small getaway in the morning, the rough edges of my soul needing sanded a bit, and now I heard my neighbor speaking tear-inducing truths to me as I drank thirstily of their meaning. He told me that he always read my column, and that he could see through my words what our marriage and love meant to us. He continued on, and my eyes stung with tears. Thereís that balm that I needed, stinging as he reminded us without knowing he was that our love was visible.

All the chaos of the past several months dropped away, the beverage sweet as it slipped down my throat on that hot evening. My neighbor will now know what his words meant to us as he reads this particular column, and Iím glad for that. We packed up and slipped four hours away the next day, settling ourselves into a tiny cottage situated on a beautiful lake. This little anniversary excursion having come surprisingly together only the day or two before, thanks to friends that own this beautiful gem. We sunned ourselves, walked the tiny streets of water-front towns and scoured garage sales nestled on the banks next to the lake. As we contemplated the offerings, dusty yard tools and chipped pots catching our eye, I saw the patio set. It was old but pleasing in its shape and line as well as being in wonderful condition for the age it was. I saw the $5-for-the-set sticker and knew it had to be mine. I looked over at my husband, who was knee-deep in a pile of old water skis priced at $1, and his eyes locked with mine as I showed him without words the patio set. He walked over, looked it up and down and nodded his head. He once told me that Iím at my happiest with small found treasures. I would say that is true, but that my biggest treasure is him, my partner in life. We may lose our way and let life push us into a box we canít climb out of, but when this happens, we are thankful to have someone pull us out.

Published: June 3, 2016
New Article ID: 2016706039973