Lovers on a swing painting from http://www.mypublicdomainpictures.com/2013/09/lovers-on-swing-painting.html
Love is complicated at the same time it is simple. I have not had a banner week. Or two. Or so. You could say I’m not myself or you could say I’m experiencing my least put together self for far too many days in a row. Whatever you call it, the result is the same floundering me. I prefer public swearing to public tears. The first craves a showing; neither seem suitable most places I find myself. Privately I am acquainted with both.
I spent hours starting multiple posts about Valentine’s Day. It isn’t the most important date on my calendar. Hallmark irritates me no end. But for homemade cards from my kids and surprises from my husband, I like it. Valentine’s Day with a surprise candlelight breakfast from my mother is a highlight of childhood memories. Yet none of this was enough to save my multiple half pieces with no place to go.
My husband is halfway through some cataract surgeries. His vision is expected to be much brighter and I can’t help wondering what impact this will have on me and us. Will it be a good thing if he can see me better? Is life a series of ongoing cataract removals in order to really see each other? This is the kind of thing I think about while he ponders gas prices. And why our conversations have so many non sequiturs.
I am often the push behind the party within the family. I don’t have anything planned for Valentines this year. I might still think of something. Or I might show up and need them more than they need me for a little while. I don’t write about my husband very frequently. The depth of how I feel about him is difficult to access. On some days, his human failings drive me to distraction. On my worst days, there is nothing I want except to hear his voice, have him in the room, tell him it is so. In the movies this would be because when I pour out my heart, he pauses while the music plays, understands what I mean by what I do and don’t say, and responds with everything I both want and need to hear.
In real life, he tries very hard to understand me but sometimes can’t. Every once in a while he says exactly the right thing. More often he worries in the middle of my crisis that we need to change the oil on the car or that there’s a crack in the chicken’s water feeder. Always, he says I love you. Even if I know what it is, rarely can he fix the problem, but always and forever he waits with me. It is this in our marriage that I treasure above all, his unfailing presence.
I watch him and learn. When love cannot fix it, love waits. When love has no idea what to do, love waits. Love waits because it knows it can survive longer than whatever else is filling up the current spaces. Compassion, empathy, and a ready knight on noble steed to battle all, love waits.
In my early twenties I was desperate to save myself, find true love, and do something that really mattered. As you can imagine, I was not always completely coherent. Making so many life or death decisions and finding the world so black and white rendered me a little unsteady on my feet.
At 25, I married my husband. In my mind, we had entered into an arrangement whereby we had agreed to fight the bad guys together and if one of us fell, the other would stand and cover until we were both on our feet again. We loved each other in a great big exciting adventure kind of way. I thought perhaps we could save ourselves by saving others.
I awoke to discover that among other things, my husband was a thrasher. It takes him ten or so minutes each night to get mostly comfortable. Then he falls asleep and spends the rest of the night changing positions and yanking on the blankets. After a month of marriage I was beside myself. I cried exhausted hopeless tears that hardly fell because even if they formed a river and took out a wall, the crucible would hold.
Something happens in these places that I cannot explain. One day you are dying. (Even worse, you are saving no one.) You try to maintain whatever meager excuses for good manners you can muster in the midst of perishing by the pernicious hand of the trivial. Perishing is hard work, so a lot of the time you can’t even muster. The best you can do is to stand there with bad manners. A thousand of these go by. You wake up and somewhere in the trying, the stuff of you has shifted. In the nine square inches you have left to dance, it doesn’t seem that hard to keep your balance. Things are growing in the soil too tender yet to name. You wonder if it needs more water, more sunshine, but for the most part you leave it be. You’re not sure if meddling with miracles is a good idea. Perhaps best to just say thank you.
photo compliments of morguefile.com
Once upon a time I was camping with a group of girlfriends. The man I was dating was nearby and invited me for a canoe ride. He arrived early.
Go, said my friends.
I’m still reading my Bible, I said.
Read it later. (They were very insistent.)
I wore my lucky yellow shoes and got in the canoe.
Let’s explore this island, he said.
Maybe later, I said.
The man argued poorly but steered the canoe to the island anyway.
There was a lot of consternation about where to land the canoe. There seemed nowhere flat enough to pull it up onto the bank.
Forget it. I’ll swim for it later, he said.
I protested. A spot was found.
Two bounding steps later, he was fiddling to get something out of his pocket.
It was making sense now.
Will you marry me? he asked and held out the ring to show me.
Yes, I said.
There was nothing else to say so we didn’t say it. It was like holding hands with Tigger from Winnie the Pooh as we walked up the path to find a rock to sit on.
We went from zero to sixty in opposite directions. He from frazzled and uncertain to the top of the world. Me from confident and assured to blithering idiot. Tigger sat down content. I sat down and an entire river system smashed every dam holding me together.
I cried uncontrollably.
I kind of thought it was going to make you happy, said Tigger a little worried.
I am happy, I whispered. Then I couldn’t talk. I was shaking inside down deep where you don’t let anything touch you. You don’t know how much more it can take in there, you just know it’s not much.
Tigger was relaxed and happy because he didn’t have a clue how dreadfully wrong things could go. Tigger was already so far into the sunset he probably wouldn’t even come back for a year or so. I didn’t believe in sunsets. Didn’t trust them.
An hour later I had stilled the terror enough to stand. The sun on the lake and the old pines sang something like a lullaby that I recognized. Pieces of the Canadian Shield jutting up all around reminded me that come what may, some things would remain solid.
I like remembering that day. It was the biggest leap I have ever been asked to make. Now it’s one of the solid things I go back to look at when it feels like too much is shifting around. Yesterday, Tigger cleaned out the chicken coop and got it ready for winter. Last night I asked him what he thought of a piece I had written. He hemmed and hawed to say he didn’t like it.
For some reason that made me happy. I woke up wanting to say thank you for those lucky yellow shoes.