In this moving sequel to her national bestseller A Year by the Sea,With A Year by the Sea, Joan Anderson struck a chord in many tens of thousands of readers. Her brave decision to take a year for herself away from her marriage, her frank assessment of herself at midlife, and her openness in sharing her fears as well as her triumphs won her admirers and inspired women across the country to reconsider their options. In this new book, Anderson does for marriage what she did for women at midlife. Using the same very personal approach, she shows us her own rocky path to renewing a marriage gone stale, satisfying the demand from readers and reviewers to learn what comes next.
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March 11, 2003
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Excerpt from An Unfinished Marriage by Joan Anderson
Getting Under way
"The beginnings of all human undertakings are untidy."
The night sky has barely dissolved to a pale blue light when I slide out of bed and tiptoe to the kitchen, relishing the early morning silence I have come to treasure. This is when my thinking is clearest, when I give over to the spirits in the air and let them direct my day. My husband Robin seems to know that I need this time and frequently rolls over in continued sleep until I am out the door for my morning walk.
I put the kettle on the stove and wait for its wail while the threadbare afghan I grabbed from the couch warms my shoulders. A few minutes later, steaming coffee in hand, I ease open the screen door, stifling its inevitable creak, step into the morning dew, and take a deep breath of Cape Cod air. Several birds are nibbling at their feeder while the neighbor's cat huddles under a bayberry bush waiting to pounce. As I sink onto the stoop, I let the sensuousness of my surroundings take over. The clarity of morning always offers a fresh start.
We've been back together some three weeks now after a yearlong separation. The decision to reconcile happened as precipitously as the decision to separate. He was able to take early retirement and, having watched me grow and change from afar, seemed anxious to get on with the adventure of his own unlived life. Having acquired a much stronger sense of self during my solitary year by the sea, I seemed to have an inexplicable compulsion to return to living with another. Once the decision to reunite was made, we slid back into relationship with little fanfare and even less preparation. Call us stubborn, karmically connected or just plain stupid, it appears that we plan to slug it out till death do us part. But I wonder if it is not so much about the power of our love as it is the strength of old friendship.
Even so, I enjoyed the vagaries of single life and am unnerved at being coupled again. This lack of ease makes me feel like the innocent I was when I flew off some thirty years ago to marry this man in faraway East Africa. We had met at Yale Drama School and soon thereafter realized how impossible it would be to try to try and survive in the theatre with no guaranteed income to say nothing of steady employment. Joining the Peace Corps seemed to offer a solution. It wasn't difficult to choose adventure over starvation, especially since there were so many illusions and hopes attached to my blushing virginity. I had an entire life spread out before me with plenty of time for trial and error. Now such innocence is gone, and I'm more practical, less expectant, and painfully aware that I'm supposed to know, not only what marriage is all about, but also how to live gracefully within its walls. Everything has become strangely reconfigured, and in the process I've been rendered anxious