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 naivetĂ©. 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.

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