My friend over at The Edited Self is a curious and brilliant thinker, who asks difficult questions and makes sometimes painful observations. I love her for this because it often makes me feel squirmy and uncomfortable, but it always gets me pondering things I don’t often choose to ponder, and there’s never any harm in that.
I was included in some generalized musings about cursed couples in a recent story in which she posed questions about marriage (and the shockingly frequent failure thereof in a land as beautiful, glorious and wine-soaked as it is where I live) in Sonoma County. There isn’t anything she states that I disagree with, including the somewhat epidemic pattern of once-committed people deciding to say ‘fuck it’ and do shitty, hurtful things to each other. One wonders if this enriched, privileged land-of-plenty that we call home is, really and truly, cursed. We have so much, we want more, and when we’re not getting it, we split.
We live in an area where the grass is always so damn green, when it starts to go brown we’re confused and so decide to just up and relocate because that’s easier than dealing with any ugliness. Here’s a simple fact – even the greenest grass gets brown sometimes. The good news, though, is that if you’re patient, use care, and remember why you put your roots down there in the first place, the grass will likely get healthy again – if you want it to. If you don’t, you’ll start finding ways to secretly poison the lawn yourself, if only through neglect.
I for one would have stayed married forever. That’s not to say that I wasn’t wildly unhappy the majority of the time – I was. I did a lot to dull and deny this perpetually sinking feeling, but overall assumed that this was just the way my life was going to be, so Oh Well.
No matter how many times my husband threatened to leave me, or listed off all of the admirable qualities about himself to drive home his belief that he could ‘do better’ than me, or shouted ‘FUCK!’ when he dropped a spoon, or cut me off from the family finances so I had to beg for money for shampoo, or screamed in my face to get out of our home, or pulled off the side of the road and tried to kick me out of the car, or choked me during the worst fight we ever had – I would have stayed. Because I’d made a commitment. And honestly, because we could still make each other laugh by describing our most incredible poops or by stopping whatever we were doing to clap along with the opening music of Friends. Because I could diffuse the milder of our arguments by saying “bizz bizz bizz,” an inside joke from a shared experience. Yes, it was really hard work. But I believed that hard work was just part of the package.
I used to joke, “hey, I’m Midwestern, I have a really strong work ethic.”
That, or a deeply-rooted masochistic acceptance of punishment.
Luckily my ex-husband’s decision to leave me for some greener grass shook everything I believed about commitment. Or, at the very least, it taught me that I should be in a relationship because I want to be. I realized that if I found something and someone that I felt good about, I should allow myself the freedom to be around them, and to let whatever feelings that came along to evolve as they naturally were meant to. Not because I built roadblocks and offered empty incentives in order to force those feelings into the direction I thought they should be going. Or worse, where someone else thought they should be going, which is a trap I let myself fall into for most of my life.
When we meet someone, we don’t start out knowing where we want it to go. Or, where it will go, regardless of what we want. We spend time together, we grow, we change, we morph. If the connection is there with someone, if a love so big and concrete has grown and a commitment to that has been made, then eventually we have to bend a little to allow space for each other to continue to experience and experiment. It can’t always be expected to happen in tandem, but sticking around and allowing it for the person your heart has stuck itself to is just part of the package.
Love isn’t always giddy and massive and breathtaking and genital-wowing. Sometimes it feels like a festering, mosquito-breeding puddle of mucky brown water. Those are the times you have to look at each other and say ‘geh, this is stinky and it sucks,’ but then try to remember when it felt like a fountain of glitter shooting out of a unicorn’s horn in a meadow of chamomile and lavender and you were wearing that white flowing linen number and frolicking around rubbing your own warm skin in unbridled ecstasy at the wonder of it all.
The grass in that meadow was so damn green, wasn’t it?