I erroneously believed as a kid that I was a free spirit. I wanted to be, but I was mostly just strong willed, which I say with intentional emphasis on “just.” Yes, I get that it’s difficult for parents, but the reason I wasn’t a free spirit is because I tried in protracted terror to be a good kid. And also, I find unnatural comfort in routine. In other words, I like to follow the rules and it’s harder to explain than following the rules gets me stuff I want. Actually, I spent January explaining how I was pissed that it doesn’t. Either way, though, there are worse things to be than committed to what you want…like not being able to commit to anything for example (was it Sylvia Plath who said, “Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.”)
I thought if I had a plan for this blog then I’d like stick to it and not be a dropout of yet one more thing – my younger self would recoil in horror that I would actually permit her as an older person to not finish…perfectly…whatever she started. But then last week, I started subseries Operation Gratitude , got diverted by a long-running interest I’ve been more or less too afraid to go fully public with, wrote about it and felt a bit freer for it, the not sticking to the plan and pulling some (small) thing of a free spirit move, that is. Which is why that long introduction to the thought is longer than the thought itself – because such a deviation is victory for me in a big-deal way that’s hard to catch the entire scope of if you only know me as text and voice. The thought itself: that – the interruptions based on current instances of said longstanding interest – is probably going to happen a lot more here. Because I’ve actually given myself permission to fail at regimentation.
I’ve actually done this before. Good Samaritan, dukes for self defense, and V is for friendship; can you find the obvious theme? What sticks out to me is – oh, hey, my blog turned one last week – that they almost consciously resist being linked together. So. Gonna get back to some of that is my point. And yes, I’m making a fanfare of it.
Speaking of Valentine’s Day (we’ve had two good ones in a row! – I say this with all seriousness: this day is notorious for deeply wounding both of us), today’s actual topic, what I resolved after last week to write about, is my husband. I know only one couple whose story is fuller of relational devastation and I really want to prove that that is not a trite exaggeration because I’m not actually talking about your garden-variety “the first year is the hardest” difficulties but my point is not to whine and moan nor is it, God forbid, to one up anyone who’s been shredded by the search for life-partner love. Besides, I’ve sliced myself (and, regrettably, others) on the edge between telling the truth and assassinating someone’s character too many times to pretend like I don’t know where it is. So yes, readers, unless you know us in the flesh (and even then, I make no promises), you’re only getting the good side today.
There are days, or years, where gratitude is reduced to a spiritual discipline; it’s ebb sans partner, you know? I have missed or purposely refused to take a pitifully large amount of opportunities to exercise this discipline but my goal isn’t to attempt to make up for that. This, of course, would also be between me and Mark, anyway. I’m only taking – or making – this opportunity now to name (I believe it was Mike Wazowski who said – or strained in frustration, rather, “Once you name it, you start getting attached to it!”) what’s before me to be grateful for now.
Another human being has committed to trying to figure out how to share his life with me for better or worse until one of us dies. I say the thing about vows not out of obligation: sometimes, you live out your vows because of obligation. It’s like gratitude as discipline; obligation does not make it less meaningful anymore than practice makes perfect: both make permanent, though, and that this other exquisitely soft-souled human being would choose to make it permanent with me demands overweening gratitude. Every day.
Another human being whose hurts are in different places than mine but plunge just as deep has been repeatedly hurt by me and still finds a way to reach out to connect with me. This is honestly more than I’ve done in my vindictive, this-will-force-him-to-shape-up volcanoes. No one’s perfect here but Mark is the first to apologize every time and the first to offer a repair attempt in a fight nearly every time. Is this partly co-dependency? Sure. And on my end? I mean, I don’t see how it couldn’t be hubris. And yet – sheesh, I don’t want this to sound either syrupy or like-duh-obviously-this-is-the-bare-minimum, you just really don’t know the shadow-of-death stuff we’ve been though – I’ve got a text, chat, call or email from this intractably gentle guy every day.
Another human being shares this apartment with me. This is a big deal because I have an obstinately challenging time connecting to other people, which often includes him, but one thing that helps is routine (here’s where it’s okay to go, ‘Like, duh, obviously!”), familiarity, and yes, even the laundry basket whose permanent place seems to be in the least out-of-the-way spots by the bed and the piles of engineering books and bike gear whose permanent place seems to be nowhere and is in a different spot. Every day.
This other human being, Mark, is, I promise you, literally and boldly opposite of me in every thinkable way (except some measure of introvertedness). They say opposites attract but they leave off the “and then the blow up” half – a friend called this “the most relationally tenacious couple” she knows in her anniversary card to us last year. And I get to dance that tango with Mark…who has two left feet and a frog’s sense of rhythm but never fails to hold out his hand, bow a little and ask me to dance. He also, reluctantly, yes, lets me put my hands on his back when they’re cold, follows the whoever-cooks-doesn’t-have-to-clean rule unprompted and is deferring to my choice of churches. He is the one whose heatbreakingly pure presence in my life every day will, if I can get out from under all that pride and PTSD terror and reactive anger, demand that I learn how to choose love. Every day.