When I met Angie, she was living with roommates. There were 3 women, 4 giant dogs, 3 cats, and a lot of random overnight guests all staying in a 3-bedroom/1 bath house just north of Denver. I lived alone in a cheap 1-bedroom apartment south of the city; an apartment that didn’t even allow pets, but had the most awesome resident appreciation dinners every month…and a pool. I didn’t own a car at the time but I made my way around with just a scooter, a red Raleigh bicycle, and a bus pass. And when I say “made my way around”, there was nowhere that I didn’t go back then. I went camping, visited all sorts of parks, shopped thrift stores in Colorado Springs, drank tea at Celestial Seasonings (the tour is free by the way), and solo-hiked in Taos, NM.
Meanwhile, Angie was living a pretty frugal life herself. For our first date, she used a gift card. When I was finally invited to her house, she proudly showed me the plastic bins under her bed full of deodorant, shampoo, and other items that she’d scored for pennies by “extreme couponing”. She drove an Xterra that she had paid cash for, worked part-time at a casino to pay her $300/month rent, and put money into savings every week. For fun, she took long walks by herself.
I wish I could say that I knew from the moment we met that she was the one, but it took me a little while. You see, along with all the good things we were each doing in our lives came a bit of baggage. I had trust issues and financial issues. Being with someone most of your adult life who turns out to be a criminal can do that. Angie was struggling to find her place in the world and spent most every weekend drinking and playing video games in a house full of 30-year-old children. When we met, I had just filed bankruptcy and she was facing misdemeanor charges for public intoxication.
Last month, we celebrated our 9th anniversary as a couple. A decade ago, if you had told me I’d be here today, I would have laughed in your face. I may not have known where I was going but I knew for sure that I didn’t want another long-term relationship, especially one that had problems from the get-go. If either of us had looked just on the surface of what we saw in each other in those days, I can say with absolute certainty that we would not be here today. Financial and legal problems are not fun topics to deal with and sometimes it’s easy to think, in the moment, that those types of things are what define a person for life.
Trust me. They are not.
Thankfully, we looked past each other’s shortcomings. In that box of couponed items, I saw a person who shared the same values as me – even if they weren’t being exhibited for anyone else to see. In me, she saw a person she could trust with her true self. And together, we learned that we had more in common that just poor judgement 🙂 Among other things, we were both thrifty, both aspiring minimalists, both raised in Southern homes (so we knew each other’s heritage and culture), both loved the outdoors, and both craved adventure – though our first cross-county adventure was a bit of a disaster. Let’s just say, we almost left Caesar in Amarillo, TX.
We’ve come a long way over the past decade. Neither of us has had a drink of anything stronger than kefir water since sometime around July 2014. There was no real conversation around it. One day we just noticed that a bottle of fruit wine we had purchased at a winery had been sitting in the fridge for months without either of us having any interest in opening it. When my niece asks how we quit drinking, I often wish we had a better story – one that might inspire others – but we don’t. We just lost interest, likely because we found so many other things to be interested in, and we never drank again.
Change comes into our lives whether we ask for it or not. Sometimes it is for the better (sometimes not) and we feel it’s impact immediately. Sometimes it takes a while to realize things are different. As I look back on our life, I see so many ways that we have changed – and grown – to become the people we are today and I am so very thankful that we weathered those first storms. I’m so very thankful that neither of us let what was happening in any one given moment cause us to abandon our dreams, our goals, and our life together.
I’ve been thinking a lot about our journey this week, mostly because I see so many people who are struggling with fear and uncertainty right now. The normal lives we were living just weeks ago are in a state of disruption. We see others around us panicking (or not, as the case may be) and we don’t know which side of the fence we need to be on. We are scared of what may happen but also scared that being scared makes us look weak. We’re afraid to watch the news and afraid not to. We’re afraid not to go on with our normal routines and afraid that if we do, we might catch this virus and/or give it to our families.
Even without the uncertainty of COVID-19, life can be hard.
My grandpa Willie was a man of great wisdom. Among the many things he taught me was the power of these four little words – today is not tomorrow. The things that seem all consuming today are likely not to matter tomorrow or in the many tomorrows that will inevitably pass as our life progresses.
Today, we are being asked to stay home. Today, the way we are accustomed to working, shopping, and socializing has changed. Today, some of the things that bring us comfort and happiness are not available. Today, we may feel powerless, afraid, uncertain, or even bored. But today is not tomorrow.
Soon this pandemic will pass and in a decade, it too will be a distant memory that we look back on and say, if you’d told me then that we’d be here today, I wouldn’t have believed you. And where is here exactly? I hope that here is a world where people feel closer to one another because in absence, we’ve realized the value of community. I hope that here is a world where we live and thrive on less resources than we once thought possible. I hope that here is a world where we remember that collective strength and compassion for our fellow man are what kept us safe today.