THE BLOG
07/09/2013 12:03 pm ET | Updated Sep 08, 2013

Pick Your Battles, It's Just Stuff

I admit it, I am practically a peeping tom. Listen, if your curtains are open and I'm passing your house, I am so looking in. Within seconds, I will have made up a story about how excited you were when you brought home that rose covered, overstuffed Shabby Chic chair, and how your husband told you it reminds him of his grandmothers' house in New Jersey, and his creepy uncle who lived in the basement. You held your ground and there it sits. Well played.

So, imagine my sick excitement when new neighbors moved into the house across the street with the huge picture window. With no curtains in sight, I waited till night fall when the place was lit up like a dressing room in the Macy's swim wear department, so I could begin weaving my tale. I let a few days pass, and still all I saw was an empty living room and a lone China cabinet stuck up against the wall in what I assume is the dining room. Several times a day a middle aged man would come out and walk an aging golden retriever. Where is the wife? Is she so busy unpacking she can't come out and wave hello to a friendly neighbor? I watched patiently, waiting for wife sighting or at least, furniture deliveries, so I could begin to piece their life together. A week later, nothing. I don't get it. Where is all their shit? Then it hit me: he is newly divorced and his ex had a damn good attorney.

It brought back memories of my divorce and how suddenly that hideous plate made of rocks we bought in San Fran became the main focus of my life. We acquired that plate on our last vacation together, when we were still trying to pretend that our marriage could survive a 34 year old blonde who makes homemade eclairs. He loved it, (plate and blonde). Upon returning home, I put it in the bottom of the dining room china cabinet, along with some other mistakes we had made including a rainbow trout carved from wood. I completely forgot about it. Until he asked for it. Then it became my reason for living.

Up until then, things had been okay. Obviously the first and foremost issue was kids. That was non negotiable, although there were days I would have gladly traded full custody for the Natuzzi sofa. We agreed on the house. We agreed on cars. We both came with nothing and now were doing okay dividing up the crap we had accumulated. Until that plate. I realize now, knowing he wanted it is what kept me from giving it to him.

Believe it or not, that rock encrusted plate resulted in many costly attorney calls, and those horrible, angry tears that cause your stomach to clench up and embarrassing emails to be sent. In the end, I got it. Woohoo! I remember looking at it after the battle had been won and thinking..."Ew."

Looking back, it pains me that so much energy had been spent on a hideous plate; energy that could have been used in much more productive ways, such as showering, and preparing a decent meal for my kids. I know now, that instead of trying to keep my ex from being happy, I should have been working on myself and my children, helping us all to come to terms with our new situation. I'm ashamed to admit, there were times I was there for them in body only, and even then, not wholly, as my diet consisted of Captain Crunch and orange Gatorade and I often felt a little light headed.

Learn from me. Pick your battles. Holding on to a plate is not going to allow you to hold on to your spouse. If they want to leave they will, with or without their plate made of rocks. Remember, typically, if you came into the marriage with something you get to leave with it. Grandma's china is safe, and really, is a battle for the full set of Tumi luggage really worth your sanity and that of your kids, even if it does include the matching backpack?

Last year, when packing up my house in preparation for my move to a new home and a new life, I came across that plate. I immediately gave it to one of my children to bring to my ex. He emailed me his thanks and the kids told me it proudly sits on a table in the front hall of his new home. I feel good, knowing he has it and that it brings him happiness. I don't know what his new wife thinks of it, but if she likes that plate, she's going to love the wooden rainbow trout that is heading her way in the not too distant future.

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