I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Category: Love and Marriage

You’re Still The One!

IMG_0961

On the Vastness of Marriage

It is our wedding anniversary. Twenty-two years. It seems like yesterday that I greeted him at the altar and met his eyes. And felt so much emotion. The same thing happened on the day we met. And again this morning. Overcome with love, honesty, awe. I turned away – too intense – the passion that I feel for him. Too busy, too embarrassed, too embedded in our daily habits to act on that emotion.

I could complain about him. After 22 years, there’s a lot to complain about. He doesn’t dance. He’s stubborn. He makes me look like an extrovert. He votes Republican (but not for Trump, have no fear!).

But then, he could complain about me. That would be a long list.

We could have given up. We’ve had our share of fights. Though I avoid conflict and he tends to be unyielding. That can be a bad combination and I have been known to stomp away with frustration and fury.

We could have sought other mates, someone who shared more common interests. Would he be happier with someone more outdoorsy and adventurous? Would I be happier with someone who was more interested in dance and theater?

Maybe. There are always what if’s. You can spend your life wondering if you should have taken the other path.

But we haven’t given up. We haven’t sought other mates. We choose each other. Still.

What makes us stay? Loyalty? Commitment? The mortgage? The children? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And friendship. And love. And respect. And unshakable passion. Not the I-want-to-rip-your-clothes-off of the first phase of infatuation. No, it’s a slow and steady burn.

Pride plays a significant role. I am proud of my husband and proud of our marriage and proud of our family. I think he’s the most intelligent person I know and the most capable. When I am clouded and swayed with weighing the pros and cons of every (every!) decision, I appreciate his decisiveness. He’s funny, a good cook, reads more than I do, and likes to play. He has set good life priorities: Love a few good people, have a good time with them, and appreciate every day. It would be easy for me to get distracted by pursuing other people’s dreams and goals for me, but he is a beacon of clarity.

Appreciation plays a significant role. You can wonder if the grass is greener somewhere else. Or you can marvel at how good you have it. My husband is rock-solid in his love and pride for me. And for our children. I have it good.

Forgiveness plays a significant role. We all make mistakes. We all are a little weird. We all need our space. He says one reason he fell in love with me is that I laughed at his jokes and forgave him his bad jokes. Well, I’ve made much bigger mistakes and he has forgiven them. Shared reciprocity.

We joke that my husband embodies impatience. Smarter, faster, more determined that most, why wouldn’t he be impatient? He pulled himself out of a destructive youth and put himself through college, why wouldn’t he hold others to as high a standard? But he is gentle and patient and forgiving of the people he loves. Deeply compassionate, he will sit by us as we try and fail and try and succeed, cheering us on.

Marriage is a dance, with each taking turns and supporting the other.  Marriage is a partnership where we inspire and encourage each other to be better. Marriage is vast. Filled with shared history, shared dreams, shared pain, shared joy. That it’s been twenty-two years stuns me.

With appreciation, forgiveness, patience, and love, we meet each other in the middle, at the altar of marriage, an intimate bond, a sacred bond, between you and me. Abiding love and deep passion ignite when our eyes meet. Still. After all these years.

Happy Anniversary.

The Bowl

IMG_2042

A Gift of Love That Can’t Be Broken

Emily, the bowl broke. The one you gave me us as a wedding gift nearly 22 years ago.

I was in the bathroom when I heard the crash. I knew exactly what it was. I had enlisted my son and his friend to do the dishes. It becomes a game when you’re not the one who does the dishes every night after night after night and you have a friend over to help. They were happy and having fun. It’s good I was in the bathroom. I had time to pause and think about my reaction. Not like my husband who blurted out something like “What the hell are you thinking?!” I didn’t know he cared about the bowl. He is surprisingly sentimental and attached to the stuff of our life together.

We received a lot of bowls as wedding gifts to celebrate our marriage. We call it the wedding of the bowls. And why not? The symbolism of a bowl ready to be filled with food, life, and love is apt. I broke a beautiful large handmade pottery salad bowl the first time I washed it. It was heavy and the soap made it slip right out of my hands. It was a gift from a dear friend. I was crushed, unsure I was going to be good at this marriage, and fretted that I would not be able to reciprocate all the dinners she hosted for me. We break out a lovely Nambé bowl on the occasions when we have friends over for dinner. There are the attractive and useful pasta bowls that we use all the time. And there’s the really ugly bowl that is probably still in the basement in its box.

Yours, dear Emily, was special. A set of two handmade bowls by an artisan ceramicist in Chapel Hill. We used the smaller one, the one that broke, just about every night. It held the evening’s sugar snaps, or cantaloupe chunks, or little red potatoes, or rice and beans, or my daughter’s crop of eggplant from the last summer before she went to college. Usually it held Sally’s Salad. We still have the larger one, but it’s the smaller one that was so much a part of our daily life, with its pretty fluted rim.

As I paused in the bathroom, I pondered the symbolism of the broken bowl. The lovely vessel given to me us by my oldest friend, more a sister to me. The container that held so much of our family dinner, our family life, our family love. Is the broken bowl a harbinger of a broken marriage, a broken friendship? Will our marriage survive the transition to dinners with just the two of us? No children? No bowl? Is the break a referendum on how I do friendships? Busy busy busy and self-absorbed, geographically distant. How does anyone sustain deeply meaningful relationships anymore?

I can’t believe we thought you would make it to the wedding. Three weeks after giving birth to your first-born. It didn’t seem possible to set a different date that would work better for you. As we become adults, the relationship with our partner becomes the priority relationship over other relationships. We move to be with them. And then if and when the children arrive, nothing is more important than the next generation. We think we have time. Like a college student traveling in a foreign country who thinks they will come back and have time to appreciate the exotic destination. We think next year I will make time to visit my friend. Next reunion I will make time to catch up with my friends. But before we know it, we run out of time.

After 22 years of marriage and 42 years of friendship, however, the bonds are deeper than ever. More forgiving of past transgressions, more tolerant of differences, more appreciative of shared history, more interested than ever in each other’s lives.

I leave the bathroom, anxious to let the boys know I understand the broken bowl is an accident. I know they feel badly. After all, it is the gift of love represented by the bowl that is what matters, not the bowl itself.

Thank you Emily for all you have given me.

Japanese Bowl

I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
That were made long ago
I have some cracks in me
They have been filled with gold

That’s what they used back then
When they had a bowl to mend
It did not hide the cracks
It made them shine instead

So now every old scar shows
from every time I broke
And anyone’s eyes can see
I’m not what I used to be

But in a collector’s mind
All of these jagged lines
Make me more beautiful
And worth a higher price

I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
I was made long ago
I have some cracks you can see
See how they shine of gold.
-Peter Mayer

All The Single Ladies

MTIyNDQwMDU2MDY0NDcwMjk3

Hey Romeo, Don’t Post Naked Pictures!

The other day, a young woman in my life posted a photo from an online dating site of a mostly naked man opening his door to potential girlfriends. I mean potential sexmates. The young woman’s caption was a sarcastic salute to the pitfalls of online dating. She got me wondering. It does seem difficult for young people to forge deep and committed relationships. Of course, if all the guys are immature and unattractive and think posting a naked picture of themselves will entice a mate, then, well, whatever, I have no words.

I feel for the beautiful, smart, funny, ambitious, adventurous, deeply caring young women in my life who would like to be in a relationship.  There really is no one good enough for them. Wait, what? How can that be? Surely my son will be a good, honest, sensitive, loyal, loving young man. Someday. There must be some good men out there! Have they buried their goodness under pressure to showcase their sexual prowess? Online? It’s difficult to let your personality shine when you have to sell yourself with a fabulous photo or catchy caption or impressive profile.

I met my husband on a group skiing trip. The group was a bicycling club in my area that skied in the winter. Although I spent 10,000 hours in grueling ballet classes as a teen, I was not a sports-oriented athlete. Discovering outdoor activities as an adult was a bit of a revelation and a fun way to be social. I met a variety of congenial people. And I met my husband. There was the shock wave of eye contact and the frisson when we shook hands and more body language and subtle contact when I maneuvered a seat next to him at dinner. We were able to get a sense of each other in the company of mutual cohorts doing an activity we both enjoyed. It was very conducive to romance.

Of course, in my day, I suppose the common way to meet people was at a party or at a bar. This too can inspire that eye-lock across the room and lead to romance, or a one-night-stand with an immature Romeo looking for just a sexmate. Maybe things haven’t changed very much. I certainly had better luck meeting people through friends and activities. Luck in the sense that it was safer, and the other person was generally a potentially good fit.

I caught a tip in a men’s magazine counseling guys on how to meet a woman at the gym. The advice was to go slow. Identify a woman who was open and smiling and not just intent on her workout. Then make one comment about the gym and go away. Then, next time, bring up a movie and see if she responds in a way that invites dialog. Then, next time, invite her out on a date. Slow, gradual, over several encounters. The magazine explained that men tend to come on too strong which turns off the woman and shuts her down. Yes! Hey Romeo, don’t post naked pictures of yourself!

Out of curiosity, I started asking people I know how they met their significant other. A few had stories of friends who had met online, but most of the people I spoke to had met their mate through a friend or on a trip or through an activity. We all expressed relief that we did not have to figure out online dating and deal with the anxiety around what to post and how to meet someone compatible. Some of the young women say that online dating has been a fun way of bonding with other young women, laughing at the ridiculous options. The men have buried their goodness under pressure to showcase their sexual prowess or financial success or intellectual achievement or whatever is trending at the time. Honestly, the women have too. Buried their real selves. Under a protective layer that they think is worth presenting to the dating world.

I hope the young people I love form deep connections with lovers and friends. Most of the young people in my life were brought up with parents in traditional and committed relationships and strive for that themselves, or think they should strive for that. They are all quite capable and independent and, I hope, happy. It is possible a traditional marriage with children is not going to happen for them. Certainly not with Romeo and his ilk.

Let’s face it, marriage is hard and not for everyone.  But there are so many ways to create a loving life with deep connections. There is more and more support for single people embracing their autonomy. 44% of adults over 18 are single and many prefer it that way. More and more co-housing communities are being created. But it can be difficult to go against traditional social norms, especially if that’s how you were brought up. And if you want to have children, it really is smoother to embark on that adventure with a partner.

How to find that mate? Well, not only do you need to be yourself, but you need to be open to another person’s self. And maybe, just maybe, it’s time to get off social media and take up some social activities.

Cartoon Credit:  Rob Cottingham

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: