Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?
There is good and bad in ev’ryone
We learn to live, when we learn to give
Each other what we need to survive, together alive.
(Ebony & Ivory by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder)
On November 22nd, my family and I will celebrate our 15 year anniversary this November (actually we are celebrating all year :). That was the day our family blended together. For me, our wedding date also marks the anniversary of me learning to live in harmony with my grown woman life.
Instead of a grand wedding, I asked, and my husband bought us a home that we closed on a few weeks after we said our vows. That house was a pit! I say that with all the love and wisdom that comes with maturity. We bought a small home that has only been lived in by one family…for forty years. Nobody told us people who aren’t handy shouldn’t buy forty-year-old-homes. For the first few months, we slept in our son’s electric blue room while he and our daughter slept in her Pepto Bismol pink one across the hall. We quickly began “renovations” that led to us sleeping on the floor of our converted garage for six months.
Eventually, the pit had a built-in office and a master suite. There was a paved basketball court in the backyard along with a gazebo and fancy outdoor furniture. We homeschooled in that house. Had emotional meltdowns in that house. We dreamed dreams in that house. Made plans in that house. Celebrated accomplishments in that house. And ultimately built the foundation that we needed to get us to where we are today.
The road since that house has been a wild ride. We have built two new homes. We have survived serious health issues. Our children are off living their own lives. We now have two (and one on the way) grandchildren. My nonprofit career has afforded me amazing opportunities to lead, learn, and travel. I am sure that it was the pit that gave us the stick-with-it-ness we needed to grow.
Of course, I write all this from my point of view.
Last week, for the first time since we moved 11 years ago, I returned to that home with my husband and one of our children. As we drove through the neighborhood it was pretty cool watching our daughter remember her bus stop and the corner burrito shop. When we pulled up in front of our once mint-green house the energy in the car crackled a bit. My daughter’s reaction to how small the house was, how much it seemed the same after all these years, landed smack in the middle of my heart.
For me, going back to our first house is a reminder of our collective growth. The four of us put in physical and emotional equity to get to where we are now. Sitting in my car looking at our first big investment I was reminded that no matter how small the beginning if you do your part, there’s more to come. In that house, we all had to learn to trust each other; to believe that we could come from hurt and brokenness and find a new place of peace. This ain’t perfect peace but it’s one that works for us.
My personal lesson in that first house was how to find harmony, something I never had before. I define harmony as multiple interests coming together to form a pleasing and consistent whole. Harmony is not unison. Harmony is purpose so it’s perfect.
For the Jackson’s, harmony has meant learning to accept each other as we are. Supporting each other’s unique skills, interests, and paths. It has meant being ok with the sound not always being pretty but enjoying it anyway.
Many women are taught to pursue balance and this notion of everything always lining up equally. That has never been my life, especially since I’ve been married. I have had lots of do-overs and let-go’s as I have sought to live my authentic life. To me, the gift of my marriage has been the freedom to be me. Letting all my varied ways of being and doing just be Kelli. Harmony.
In our first house, I learned to embrace the life I had been given and make it mine. Today I can look back and say: I WOULDN’T CHANGE A THING. In fact, our journey as a family has made me patient. Persistent. Resourceful. Determined. Grateful. I’m proud of myself for demystifying ‘balance’ so I could live a harmonious life.
Real talk — this life isn’t always easy but I can honestly say all the notecards, calendaring, spreadsheets and to-lists (my strengths) played a role in getting us from W. 125th to Fannin. My part plus my husband’s part, plus my kids part, plus our village’s part have too. I’m humbled and honored to have used my nerdy gifts to help our family grow.
To my fellow warrior women out there: (How) have you used your personal development skills to help your family attain/maintain harmony? Let me know in the comments below or online.