Tag: Marriage

1Mar

Memory Aid

To be honest, I don’t always remember that Dan is my best friend. I have no trouble remembering that we’re roommates, especially when the house is in need of an intervention. I’m pretty good about keeping in mind that he’s the father of my children, particularly at the end of a long day when said children are loudly voicing their displeasure over the institution of toothbrushing. I remember he’s the one who usually takes the trash out, who does school drop-off, who calls the phone company when our internet goes AWOL, who mixes the drinks, who brings home the steady paycheck… but sometimes, in the muddle of parenting and housekeeping and responsible-adulting, I forget that he’s also the one who can take me from crying to laughing in two seconds flat.

I suspect this is common symptom of long-term relationships—familiarity turning to invisibility, perspective glazing over as time blows past—but it still sucks. I often wish there were a magic spell that would allow me to wake up each morning with my sense of wonder firmly intact. A newlywed potion would work just as well… or any kind of mental caffeine to keep me constantly aware of the things I love about my husband and our coupleness. Any of you aspiring entrepreneurs want to take a crack at it?

Meanwhile, as we wait for relational LSD to go on the market, we’ll just have to make a steady habit of the next-best formula: babysitter + snowboards + lift tickets for two. I hadn’t thought we would be able to hit the slopes this year, so a belated Valentine’s getaway to the mountains last weekend was a delightful surprise. We laughed, we wiped out, we took full advantage of the off-trail opportunities, and Dan even got a chance to come to my rescue like a knight in shining snow gear. It was all very dignified, I assure you.

For a couple chronically short on time and vacation funds with two small children and a messy kitchen at home, a weekend snowboarding trip doesn’t make much sense… but for a couple chronically short on fun and relaxation with 7.5 years of marriage and a bajillion life changes under their belts, it not only makes sense—it makes remembering easy.

7Feb

Wicked

“It seems funny and horrible to think of Diana’s being married,” sighed Anne, hugging her knees and looking through the gap in the Haunted Wood to the light that was shining in Diana’s room.
“I don’t see what’s horrible about it, when she’s doing so well,” said Mrs. Lynde emphatically. “Fred Wright has a fine farm and he is a model young man.”
“He certainly isn’t the wild, dashing, wicked, young man Diana once wanted to marry,” smiled Anne. “Fred is extremely good.”
“That’s just what he ought to be. Would you want Diana to marry a wicked man? Or marry one yourself?”
“Oh, no. I wouldn’t want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I’d like it if he could be wicked and wouldn’t. Now, Fred is hopelessly good.”

(Anne of the Island)

~~~

When Dan and I started dating, the only thing I wanted to do more than get swept off into our personal Happily Ever After was to break up with him.

It was for his sake, you see. I was a psychological disasterpiece back then (as opposed to the mere social casualty I am now). Though I no longer lived at home and had faced the pain of my childhood pen-first, my mind was still at the mercy of old dogma. The God I knew required sacrifice, so I worked when I should have been sleeping, skipped breakfast, and stumbled through crowded days feeling as valuable to the world as a wad of overchewed gum. I judged people as I had been judged with a persistent, needling criticism that made me want to rip out my own brain. My heart was deeply pitted, oozing dark secrets like tar, strewn with scar tissue like emotional speed bumps. Romance was the last thing I needed. Romance was the last thing I deserved.

It found me anyway. It came as friendship but quickly unfurled into something more, something sweet and affirming and scary as hell. Dan’s kindness threatened my jagged defenses in a way that nothing had ever done before. I tottered on the verge of a thousand nervous breakdowns the first week and two thousand the second. Holding hands sent me into a panic. I was falling for him, yes… but I still wished he had stayed away. He was so good to me, so good, and I was convinced that my true self would be toxic for him.

I also looked down on him for it. I felt like his reservoir of experience was a puddle compared with my ocean; he had grown up happily whereas I had worshipped the divine bogeyman and dreamt with demons. I, the über-sheltered girl from an extremist conservative home, viewed him as naive. The more I loathed myself, the more I resented him for loving me, and I finally decided to come clean. Scaring him off early in the relationship would be a mercy, after all.

Only he wasn’t scared off. He wasn’t even scandalized. He didn’t crumble under the weight of my baggage, and he didn’t bat an eye when I brought up taboo topics. He was deep, strong, and anything but the “hopelessly good” featherweight I had pinned him as. Even neck-deep in the mess of myself, I wasn’t too much for him.

We will have been married eight years this summer, and when a friend asks about our story, I share the light-hearted details of how we met. However, our real love story started for me the moment I realized the kind, thoughtful, respectable man tenderly holding my hand could be wicked and wouldn’t.

Mommy loves Daddy

The wild and dashing part is just icing on the cake.

13Dec

Sadness Concentrate

I wanted to write something upbeat and entertaining this afternoon—maybe a holiday gift guide (though there are already plenty floating around the ‘net) or a weekend anecdote. However, I can’t seem to shake a concentrated sadness, so I’m sitting down with a steaming mug of chai to hear it out and send it gently on its way.

A couple of my grade school friends had their first babies within the last year and have formed a moms’ support group based largely on the teachings of Michael & Debi Pearl. These teachings mandate that a wife acknowledge her husband as her lord (yes, really) and submit unquestioningly to his desires and opinions; if her hobbies, relationships, or spiritual life prevent her from meeting her husband’s every need, she must give them up (and obviously, a career is out of the question). These teachings also instruct parents to dominate their children through manipulation and violence in order to produce automatic obedience and have already resulted in at least two brutal deaths. Unbelievably, many parents are willing to accept this call to cruelty because it touts itself as godly.

I recently saw a glowing article in a conservative magazine of how my old friends get together regularly to read this poisonous ideology and discuss how to implement it within their growing families, and it sends my stomach into a tailspin. If my friends are devoutly following the Pearls’ teaching, then their infants already know the sting of a stick against their tender skin. I can’t help thinking about those sweet babies this afternoon, about how innocent they are to the fact that their mothers are studying up on how best to “break their wills.”

The subject of child abuse gives me an itchy trigger finger, but a diatribe from me isn’t going to set anything right, and it would only mask my authentic reaction… which is heartbreaking empathy. I know something about what those little ones are going to endure, and I have an idea of the regret my friends will experience when (if) they let themselves realize what horror they were willing to perpetrate simply because an author claimed it was God’s will. I can only imagine what my friends will go through as well in giving up their individuality in order to stroke their husbands’ egos until death do them part. There is so much pain in store for those families, but I’m in no position to convince them of it. All I can do is sit here with my sadness sipping chai before I send it off in search of stray miracles.

25Nov

Au Revoir

Dear husband,
I’m enmeshed in the seventh traffic snarl of the morning, though this one seems to be more of a Gordian Knot. No one has moved for the duration of my Vampire Weekend album, and several motorists are now rummaging in their trunks for survival rations. The bus driver from two cars behind has been walking up and down the ranks encouraging us to give up hope. If we don’t make it to the airport next week to pick you up, you’ll at least know where we are (A1 off-ramp in front of the Birra Moretti outlet, second guardrail down).

This has been an interesting morning, and not just due to our satanically early wake up time. The girls have plotted together to insure that at least one of them needs the bathroom at all times except when we are actually in one. Magellan’s engine light is on, its oil light is too, and the Italian traffic we have come to know and love has already added two hours to our return trip. I’ve put together a charming visual presentation of the morning so far, compliments of my cell phone camera:

While sitting in traffic is not among my favorite activities on the planet, it’s honestly not getting to me too much today. My thoughts are back at the airport with you, and every kilometer I’ve driven has felt like stretching a heavy-duty rubber band. That’s how it should be, I think, but it doesn’t change that heading home without you is a confusingly conscious effort.

I imagine you’re somewhere over the Alps right now, and I wonder about the likelihood of scoring a turkey dinner on a European airline. We’ll do our Thanksgiving after you get back, even if it’s just sneaking some bites of stuffing while we hang Christmas ornaments, but I can’t quite forget that today is the holiday itself. It’s part of my heritage no matter what country I’m in, no matter whether or not we can spend it together. So happy Thanksgiving, dear. I’m thankful that I still miss you before we’re even done kissing goodbye. I’m thankful that our car is more of a captive audience than a casualty of the traffic today. I’m thankful that I’ll get to spend the evening with friends and you with family and that we have about a billion forms of technology to keep us connected while you’re away, and finally, I’m thankful that my heritage allows me to spend this afternoon napping… even if has to happen on the A1 off-ramp in front of the Birra Moretti outlet, second guardrail down.

Love,
Me

27Oct

Does Nike Carry Antihistamines?

Five weeks ago, my husband convinced me to start running with him. Something about extra energy, sense of wellbeing, long-term health benefits, chance to wear cute workout clothes, no more excuses now that the girls were in school, yada yada yada. He had me at “extra energy.” It was an incredibly sweet gesture on his part as it meant doing his marathon training early in the morning so he could spend half of his lunch break at the park jogging in slow motion alongside a wife who is allergic to exercise. I think I managed 300 meters the first day before I had to stop and concentrate very, very hard on not dying. (Dan kindly refrained from cracking up.)

In the five weeks since, here is what I have discovered:

  1. My body is deeply committed to opposing this silly running venture. If my right side isn’t stabbing me, my left side takes over. If my sides are playing nice, my knees ache. If my knees are on their best behavior, my head is pretty much guaranteed to start throbbing, and when it goes on coffee break, there’s always a big toe or an eardrum or a spleen willing to act up. See? Allergic.
  2. Likewise, my brain is refusing to compute any information that might make me feel positive about the whole experience.
  3. Like how I’m up from 300 meters to 4 ½ kilometers.
  4. Or how my breaks now consist of walking rather than lying on the ground gasping like a chain-smoking fish.
  5. Or how I don’t need that second coffee every day anymore.
  6. No, my brain keeps up a steady stream of complaints about how hard running is, how painful it is, how intensely unlikeable it is, how I feel like poo, how I feel like I’ve been dipped in lead, how I feel like the slug of the earth, how I feel like biggest failure in world history, how much I want to stop, how much I want to pluck out my sides and cast them from me, how much I want to collapse and sleep forever, and how much I hate everything that ever existed, most of all those athletic wear commercials featuring sexy runners smoothly and effortlessly conquering the pavement.
  7. Something about increased blood flow disables the filter between my brain and my mouth.
  8. My husband deserves to be sainted.
27Sep

Non-Event

My husband and I come from very different backgrounds, so it has always amazed me how perfectly most of our opinions align. Early on, we discovered our matching views on money, church,  life purpose, Star Wars, education, making out, and how many children we wanted to have. We knew a lot of couples who disagreed or vacillated on family size, but we were united in our hope for two. Two children with whom to travel the world, play board games, and scream ourselves silly on rollercoasters (okay, that one might be just me), two children to be automatic friends to each other while providing space for other relationships, two children into whom we could invest time, attention, and personalized love while still pursuing our own careers and social lives. We both adored kids, but the prospect of a large family didn’t resonate with either of us. We had our magic number.

That’s why I was so surprised to find myself, shortly after Sophie’s birth, flushed with baby fever. Not just surprised, but alarmed. I was deep in the clutches of postpartum depression, and the demands of my two sweet girls were often more than my filigreed emotions could handle. Another pregnancy would literally have endangered our lives. Yet every time one of the girls snuggled up against me or I peeked in on a sisterly giggling fit, I was overwhelmed with the wish for more.

Sweet sisters 2
(Just look what I was up against!)

Eventually, the craze subsided. My mind climbed back into the light, I began to enjoy parenting again, and I was able to recognize that my motherly instinct—that mysterious part of some women’s brains that makes us sniff newborns’ heads and coo over diaper commercials—did not need to override my logic. I loved my Natalie and my Sophie, and I knew that in order to keep loving them well, I couldn’t lose myself to another baby. It wouldn’t be fair to them or to Dan, who was just starting to get his wife back. Our magic number hadn’t changed; we gave away the baby clothes and began living out the future we had hoped for…

…Which brings us to this year, behind a locked door where I clutched a pregnancy test wondering how in the world I was going to explain things to my husband. I didn’t even know how I felt, or rather, I couldn’t narrow down which of my conflicting emotions was predominant. One part of me was already picking out names and anticipating the exquisite joy of welcoming a new little one into the family. The other part of me was dreading the exhaustion, the C-section recovery, the financial strain, the enormous time taken away from the girls, and the million necessary adjustments to our life. I felt selfish for both my reluctance and my excitement, and confusion swirled my insides until I thought I might puke. Of course, I would be doing plenty of puking in the weeks to come; might as well get used to it.

Except that I wasn’t pregnant. Against all expectations, the test turned out negative. A test the next week was negative too, and at last, my body finally confirmed what they were saying. There would not be any morning sickness, hospital stays, baby blues, pumping paraphernalia, or minivan shopping. I would not have to explain to a single concerned Italian grandma that yes, I know how this happens. I would not risk hurting my friends whose hearts are being dragged through the devastating cycle of infertility. Our family would remain just as we’d hoped it would be. Yet a peculiar ache settled in the empty space between my arms like a phantom limb. I was relieved not to be pregnant, incredibly so, but was also caught off balance by how strongly I could miss someone who never existed.

I don’t know how to uncomplicated a non-event any more than this:

For three weeks, I was mama to a baby-who-wasn’t.

Today was our due date.

 

5Jul

Seven

For our first, we dined on calamari in Venice.

For our second, we chased rainbows at Niagara Falls.

For our third, we sunk our feet into wet grass at a huge outdoor concert in… (wait for it)… Scranton.

For our fourth, we played Battleship and sampled tapas in Philadelphia.

For our fifth, we napped on the beach on Marco Island.

For our sixth, we snuck away to a spa not ten minutes from our own front door.

And for our seventh, I’ve been carting the girls around Edinburgh to shops and farms and playgrounds while he’s spent the day at a conference. The romantic nature of our schedule may not be blowing your minds right now, but I love that he brought the girls and I along with him on what could have been a simple business trip. I love that we haven’t spent a single anniversary in the same city. I love that takeout features largely in our celebration plans tonight, and I love him.

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