The Journey
Exerpt from the
Forthcoming Novel

By Julie Abaruza

The Journey is a unique book...as far as we know, the first of its kind. It is a novel--not an allegory or parable, but a genuine contemporary novel; at the same time, it is a book about self-discovery, personal growth--and network marketing. The Journey is the story of a young woman, Annie, who grows up full of hopes and dreams, marries, then watches in despair over the next decade and a half as her dreams stall and her marriage falters. Discovering the world of network marketing becomes a part of the journey through which Annie overcomes a lifetime of assumptions and becomes the person she needs to be in order to live the life she so deeply wants.

- JDM

After losing our house, we moved into a condo about half the size, which David had bought as his first real estate venture just before opening the now-defunct gas station.

It was the one thing we had managed not to lose when we lost everything.

The timing was perfect: our tenants had just moved out. We let the place sit vacant for a few weeks while we handled closing the business, then simply moved ourselves in.

Yeah, that's the plan, I thought, grow the family and shrink the living space. It was hard not to feel a sense of defeat....

 

My thoughts began turning more and more often to the great Puzzle of My Life.

Why wasn't it working? Or at least, why did it feel like it wasn't working?

It was baffling. I felt I had made good decisions, all along the way. Most of them, if I had to do over, I'd probably do the same way, or very nearly so.

These ruminations soon became a habit: I'd meander back over the events of my life, running through each juncture, each fork in the road, analyzing my choices as if I were an airplane pilot running through my checklist before takeoff.

Get good education...check.

Apply myself, excel in studies and job duties...check.

Don't jump at marriage, wait to make mature choice...check.

Marry man of dreams, have several kids (okay, adopt), do my best at everything I do...check.

I was following the prescribed road map to success.

Where had I gone wrong?

Nothing had shaken my belief that David was one of the kindest, most generous men I had ever known. I believed in David more than he believed in himself. But I was growing weary of his lost confidence. It started to feel like he was just making excuses.

For his part, David considered me the light of his life--the light and the fire!--bright, confident, full of passion for life. But I could tell he was losing patience with my desire (what I called "need" and he called "obsession") to talk things through, to revisit issues that to him were horses long since dead and not worth flogging.

We couldn't discuss what we were going through. Whenever we tried to talk, it turned into a quarrel. Or worse, we'd simply stop talking to each other for days at a time.

David hated the discussions. I hated the silence.

And so we slowly slipped apart....

 

And I began to despair.

If things didn't get better than they were now, if we couldn't break out of the logjam we'd smashed ourselves into, we were walking a straight path toward divorce.

We'd known so many couples whose marriages had hit the wall or gone through crisis after the last child had left home. "Empty nest syndrome" was most often a euphemism for failed marriage syndrome. Neither of us wanted that to be our story in another fifteen years...but that's where we were headed.

Things couldn't keep going the way they were. If we were going to salvage our marriage, we were going to have to figure out a way to start, and soon.

If it had been completely up to the two of us, it probably never would have happened.

 

Fortunately, it wasn't--up to the two of us, I mean: an angel intervened and gave me a kick in the pants, along with some woman-to-woman counsel I would never forget.

One Friday, in October 2000, David and I had made plans to attend a free investment seminar that I'd heard about on a talk radio station I often listened to in my quest for knowledge.

David's grandmother, Nanny, had agreed to watch the boys for the evening. It was hardly what you'd call a date, but the closest thing to it for that time in our lives.

We pulled up to Nanny's house and parked; the boys immediately clambered out and bolted for the front door. They loved their great-grandmother. She had great energy and a boundless imagination; when she spoke, you'd think she was giving a dramatic reading of Dylan Thomas, or maybe James Joyce--even if all she was doing was giving you dinner choices. Every visit with Nanny was an adventure.

Nanny was thrilled to watch the boys--"my favorite ruffians," she called them--and they adored her. Nanny watched us kiss the boys good night, then shooed them out into the backyard to play, where she could keep an eye on them through her dining room window, which was visible from the living room where we stood.

David turned to Nanny, and started to say, "Nanny, thanks for doing--" and she abruptly stopped him.

"Shush, you know it's the best fun an old lady can have on a Friday night!" We both laughed. "Now David, you go on and turn your car around, Annie will be out in a minute."

We both knew better than to ask why, or what; when you're at Nanny's, Nanny runs the show. He grinned at me. "Don't let her talk your ear off, okay?"

 

After David shut the door behind him, Nanny sat me down next to her on her couch.

"That man of yours has his mother's green eyes, have you ever noticed that?"

I smiled. "He's a handsome man."

She continued, as if I hadn't spoken.

"You know, David's mom Lisa is my baby girl, my youngest daughter, and she and I have always been very close."

Now she stopped. There was a moment's silence, and I wondered what she was driving at. Obviously, she had something she wanted to say. She looked a bit dreamy, as if holding a vision of something in the distance.

"For many years, I lived in a marriage without the benefit of any real dreams or hopes for a better future. My Jacob was an honest and a kind man, but life was hard to him, and he'd long since stopped expecting too much from it. I didn't realize how broken his spirit was till we'd been married for some time. He was a good man, and I stood by him...but we never really talked."

I sat in stunned silence. I had always liked Nanny, but we'd never been on what you'd call intimate terms, not even remotely. We'd certainly never talked about anything so private as our marriages.

She smiled, as if she could read my thoughts.

"I mean, talked. You know, about things that were important, that meant something. Like we're doing right now."

She placed her ancient hand on my arm.

"Please, don't misunderstand me. I loved my Jacob so very much, and I don't regret a moment of my life with him. Or my life now, for that matter. But..."

She paused for a moment and looked out the door at the children, playing in the back yard.

"It breaks my heart to see the same pattern happen, over and over, for my children and their children, each new generation accepting so much less from life than they could. I've watched my baby girl and her man go through the motions of their everyday lives for many, many years...."

She shook her head.

"I'm afraid it's too late for them."

She looked at me.

I stammered, "Too--too late...?"

"Too late for them to change. Really, it was too late for her long before you and David ever even met. Craig and she, they're good people, and they love each other...but they both stopped dreaming a long time ago. When they lost their capacity to dream, they lost the spark that could have filled their lives with such joy and abundance. Yes, they loved each other, and love each other still today. But all their meaningful conversation slipped away; eventually, there was nothing left but the civil exchange of polite words."

She had described my marriage so accurately, it was all I could do not to burst out weeping. Whether or not she sensed this, I don't know, but she tightened her grip on my arm, and her voice sank almost to a whisper.

"But it's not ­ too ­ late ­ for you. You can be the ones to break this cycle. I know you can. You could have so much more than you have now, Annie; this I believe with all my heart. I know how much David loves you, and love is wonderful, but it's not enough. You have to unlock yourselves from the place where you're stuck and open back up your ability to dream together--you have to dig down and root out life's real possibilities.

"And I do mean you, Dearie. Not David; you.

"It's up to you."

I felt a chill at her words--and recognized it as desperation. My head wanted to scream, "That's not fair! Why is it up to me?!"--but my heart knew she was speaking the truth. The patient lay on the operating table, its vital signs ebbing away.

"But, I don't know what to do!"

She looked at me with penetrating intensity.

"Do you remember what the two of you did in the months before you married?"

"Well...nothing, really. I mean, we talked. Just talked and talked...about everything!"

She looked at me and arched her eyebrows, as if to say, Well?

 

"Hey--you coming?"

I was so startled, I jumped. David was standing at the door. I was suddenly flustered: had he heard any of our conversation? What would he think, if he had? But Nanny didn't miss a beat.

"So don't you worry, Dearie, we'll be just fine. I have an absolutely exhausting evening of popcorn and movies planned, now you two go off to your boring old seminar while this old lady shows those two boys of yours how to party hardy."

I hardly knew whether to laugh or cry. I grabbed her hand and whispered fiercely, "Thank you."

"Go on," she said, and waved me away. "You two go paint the town red. And I don't want to see you back here till midnight!"

JULIE ABARZUA
is a network marketer and a writer; she lives with her husband, Kurt, and two sons, AJ and RJ, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her column, "The Networking Parent," appeared in our March 2003 issue. The Journey, her first novel, is due out this Thanksgiving.