Friday, February 25, 2011

And they're off...

Last weekend, I went to Louisville, Kentucky for a friend’s wedding. I literally drove twelve hours on Thursday afternoon to attend the ceremony on Friday morning before driving another twelve hours to get home by Friday night. And while it may sound ridiculous, the bride is a very close friend and I couldn’t stomach missing their big day. Besides, it also gave me a lot of time to think… something that’s a little overdue considering the changes happening in my life right now. So, with that, below is an attempt to summarize my thoughts during that twenty-four hour period.

Note, the last time I had to recall the details of a road trip, I was twenty and woke up in Mexico City wearing a prison shirt, but that’s an entirely different story for an entirely different blog post, and I apologize for digressing.

Right now I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Committed. She wrote Eat. Pray. Love and is one of my favorite writers. For the record, I place her in the same literary echelon as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Jane Austin, and Nora Ephron. She’s honest and sincere… with herself, with her partner, and with her readers.

If you haven’t read either book, you should. I can’t promise that she will change your life. I can only say that her writing has deeply touched mine. And unlike Eat. Pray. Love, which explains how she ended a marriage and began a life, Committed actually weighs the pros and cons of marriage altogether. But it does more than that. It not only asks “why marriage?" It asks “how can we make marriage work”… something that has definitely been on my mind of late.

You see, I barely survived one divorce. I do not have the wherewithal to experience another, nor do I have the stomach to inflict that pain upon DB or the children we share in this relationship. So... last weekend... on the way to and from a wedding... inside a sporty, little Toyota Matrix... on Highway 65, I asked myself some very hard questions about matrimony, including:
1. Should we actually do this?
2. Does he really understand what he’s getting himself into?
Much deeper questions than the first time I got married - when all I wondered to myself was, “How do I know he’s the one?” Perhaps I should have probed more deeply when my brain responded, “Self, of course he’s the one, how else do you get to number two?”

But I didn’t do that emotional archaeology – and this time, I am.

To point one, I cannot imagine a life without DB. I can’t. He was the partner I knew I wanted long before I met him. In fact, if I had made a mental checklist of qualities in a man, he’d have exceeded in every category. But I need to say something about my remark. Please believe me, that’s not infatuation talking, nor is it desire or naiveté. I’ve been married. I’ve been divorced. I know those aforementioned lenses are transitional at best and illusions at worst, and I refuse to be their victim again... as the old adage goes, “Do it once shame on them, do it twice – shame on me.”

I get that we're human and that there will be problems. I also fully understand that DB and I have been divorced, so clearly we aren’t perfect, especially in the relationship department, but as my extremely wise mother once said, "Only a fool does the same thing the same way twice and expects to get different results." We've learned. We know what we expect of ourselves and each other, and we know what we can accept and what we won't tolerate. Those conversations have been had... repeatedly.

So why, "Til death do us part?"

Because there are very few people I trust with anything, and DB is the only person I trust with everything. When he says, "In sickness and in health, through thick and thin, come hell or high water - I will love, respect, and cherish you for the rest of my life," he will. And when he says that he's as committed to my happiness and well-being as he is to his own, he means it. This time around, I'll have and give that.

At this point in the story, it should be said that my ex-husband isn't a bad person and I don't hate him. We didn't fail out of malice. We failed because we were twenty-one and twenty-five with unrealistic expectations of marriage and each other. As Nora Ephron once said, "I was married. It didn't work out." That's all that I will say about the past. Today,
DB and I are forty and forty-six, and we've been married. We understand that it's less like a Disney movie than it is trench warfare, and who we are today is who we will be for a very long time... maybe even the rest of our lives.
Hopefully, with age and experience comes wisdom and temperance.
Also novel is the fact that we’re brutally honest about ourselves and the space we share (the good, the bad, and the ugly). As a result, he knows who I am, and he accepts me regardless... which leads beautifully into point two: Does he really understand what he's getting himself into? Does he? I was actually once described as a, “squirrel on Jolt,” and I have more tragic flaws than an Aristotelian hero, which I could go on-and-on-and-on-and-on about in this post (believe me, the list is long but distinguished). Or… I could share Elizabeth Gilbert’s thoughts instead (I hope you don’t think I cheated by stealing a real writer’s list, but when the prose fits – use it).
Here is what DB is getting:
1. I think very highly of my own opinion. I generally believe that I know best how everyone in the world should be living their lives – and my partner, most of all, will be the victim of this.

2. I require an amount of emotional devotional attention that would have made Marie Antoinette blush.

3. I have far more enthusiasm in life than I have actual energy. In my excitement, I routinely take on more than I can physically or emotionally handle, which causes me to break down in quite predictable displays of dramatic exhaustion. My partner will be the one burdened with the job of mopping me up every time I’ve overextended myself and fallen apart after. This will be unbelievably tedious. I apologize in advance.

4. I am openly prideful, secretly judgmental and cowardly in conflict. All these things will collude at times and turn me into a big fat liar.

5. And my most dishonorable fault of all: Though it takes me a long while to get to this point, the moment I have decided that someone is unforgivable, that person will very likely remain unforgiven for life – all too often cut off forever, without fair warning, explanation, or another chance.

When I shared this passage from Committed with DB, he agreed. But in his calm, patient, Buddhisty way he explained why all of that is OK. However, that’s also a different post for a different time. For now, as they say at the Kentucky Derby (and after weddings in Louisville in general), “Annnnnnd they’re off.” I have no idea if that means people are ‘off their rockers,’ ‘off the mark,’ or ‘off and running,’ for getting married... but DB and I are definitely getting married.

Talk to you next week.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When hell freezes over, I'll ski that too...

For those of you who know me, you know that every year I take one big ski trip out West, and this year we hit Breckenridge, Colorado. The skiing was awesome, and - for the record, I'm pleased to report that a good time was had by all… but only because those involved are good sports who know that God hates me and plan accordingly. Thankfully though, these same people occasionally forget that God practices guilt-by-association and smites them as well. No wonder TB once said, “I don’t buy into your bad ideas because I have hope they’ll work out. They never do. I buy in because I’m convinced that I have a medical condition which produces amnesia and deja vu at the same time.”

In her defense, the argument has merit.

However, in my defense, if you have EVER read mkromd, then you know that ANYONE who lets me plan ANYTHING should expect it to go poorly, and ANYONE who lets me handle EVERYTHING is simply looking for trouble. So while the involved parties claim to be “victims” of my bad luck (who have said more than once that they would sooner see hell freeze over than let me organize another vacation), they let me do this one, so they have no one to blame but themselves.

You see, I’m all about a bargain. No really, it’s true. I will spend $125 every five weeks to highlight my hair, but I cannot stomach paying more than $200 for airfare. I simply can’t. So when I found tickets for $150 each, I jumped. Perhaps I should have looked before I leaped… because the airport was almost HALF way to Colorado… which I found out the night before… as I was confirming our departure and arrival times. Yes, I drove six hours to Gary, Indiana to catch a four hour flight to Denver.

We are now - officially - the only thing other than the Jackson Five to come out of that city.

Anyway, once we landed at DIA, we had to pick up our rental car - a Ford Explorer for the low-low cost of $450 a week. Do you know how much most SUVs cost to rent during peak ski season in the Rockies? About $850. Turns out, you get what you pay for. I won’t tell you the vendor I used, but I will say that they only have three shuttles from the airport to their very remote facility: one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening – ergo the cost savings. And, since we arrived at dusk, we waited for two hours in ten below weather to catch the shuttle to get our car. And the worst was yet to come…

We had to group sleep.

No, you read that right. We had to GROUP SLEEP… with people we did not know. What started out as a great deal ended up like a Kafka novel. In the spirit of full disclosure, the hotel ad went something like this: buy three nights – get the fourth night free. Unfortunately, the fine print ALSO said, “This suite has a shared living space.” I have three words for you – WTF! Seriously:
• No one ever reads the documentation, EVER.
• Two, even if you DO read the documentation, who knows to watch out for that?
• And three… W.T.F!

That’s all I can say. In fact, it was so far out of my scope of reality as an option that when we got to our room and opened the door and people were in there, I apologized because I thought there had been a misunderstanding. Nope, that non-negotiable, non-refundable package was all ours. But we made it work. That said, in the future, if I ever get to organize another trip, hell really might freeze over. And that's OK, because I'd ski that, too!

Talk to you next week.

St. Valentine's Day Massacre... Take Two?

Before two years ago, I hated Valentine’s Day. I did. I thought it was a holiday created by Hallmark to make women in bad relationships feel terrible about themselves. And though I now have DB, whom I love more than life, I'm still not certain I feel all that differently. After all, you're only paranoid if you're wrong. That said, unlike my dear friend and boss, I never actually felt like Cupid was out to get me. Seriously. This brilliant and adorable woman has literally spent February 14th in the hospital... SEVERAL TIMES.

This is why you should never put your life in the hands of a toddler with a weapon. It's like giving a shotgun to a monkey. Nothing good can come of it.

I'm not joking, her Valentine's Day sagas go something like this… Freshman year of college, she was severely dehydrated from the flu and ended up in the Emergency Room with an IV. As a sophomore, her appendix ruptured and she ended up having surgery. During her junior year, she was in a car accident and ended up in the Emergency Room again with a bad case of whiplash. By her senior year, she realized that Cupid was an asshole, so she stayed inside her apartment - safe and sound, thereby breaking the curse... until yesterday, when she fell under her own car on the way to work. All on Valentine's Day.

As she stood in my cube, telling me why she so justifiably hated this holiday, I told her that I loved her dearly, which I do (as a boss and as a friend), but I wanted her NO WHERE NEAR ME. Between her luck and mine, our office would have burned to the ground, and we had the innocent lives of our co-workers to consider. So... we avoided each other like the plague. And, though I missed seeing her all afternoon, my Valentine's Day was actually very lovely.

However, you know the deal. Before I can tell you that part of the story, I have to tell you this part first.

Around this time two years ago, DB and I went on our first "date." It was lunch, which seemed harmless enough. I mean really… how many women fall in love over Pad Thai? Turns out this one did (as well as scads of women across Asia, I’ll bet). I wasn't looking for him. In fact, I had been in a bad marriage and gone through an awful divorce, and the last thing I wanted was a relationship. And yet - there he was, this single dad and dear friend, who so charming and sexy and funny and brilliant, that I didn’t stand a chance. By the time I could say, “Check please” it was game over. That said, truth be told, in the back of my head, I knew I loved him long before that moment. It’s probably why it took me three months and thousands of e-mails, text messages and late night conversations to actually say, “Yes” when he asked me out.

And as we sat at that same Thai restaurant yesterday, I realized that I cannot live without him. So, as terrified as I am, I’m marrying him. Yes, this amazing, calm, blues-playing, Buddhist man is officially off the market. I will never know what he sees in me, but I know that I will love and adore him all of my life. With that, I hope you’re prepared for all of the posts that revolve around planning a wedding. I’m sure they will be insane… scratch that… more insane. And to my dear friend (and boss), maybe Cupid isn’t an asshole or a hit man after all. Maybe he’s just trying to help you land a doctor. Or, better yet... maybe he's just trying to help a doctor land you.

Talk to you next week.