I Wanna Be Loved Like That

I’m well aware of the stats, or at least what they used to be – that fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce.  For all the attention I pay to statistics, they could now be higher…or lower (wouldn’t that be nice?).  There are countless articles, opinions, workshops, even sermons on why so many marriages fail and how we can ensure ours won’t.  Knowledge is power after all, isn’t it?  Isn’t it?

When we marry, we take vows.  Or to put it another way, we make promises.  Promises that, at the time of their utterance, we have every intention of keeping.  So what happens to make us change our minds?  Why do we break those promises?  I wish I could tell you I had the answers, but I’d be lying.  For each person I’m sure it’s different.  And for each person, I’m just as certain that they think they have excellent reasons for breaking those promises.  Don’t we excel at justifying ourselves?  Our choices?  Or is that just me?

In my opinion, what it comes down to is putting SELF first.  Often, we put ourselves as individuals before ourselves as a couple.  MY needs, MY feelings, MY opinions, etc., are important damn it!

I’ve made it no secret that JD and I have marriage issues now and then.  Show me another couple who have been together for 18 years and I’ll show you a couple who have had issues.  Every couple encounters some friction if they’re together long enough.  I don’t mean that every couple argues or has knock-down brawls.  But even without overt signs, I’d have trouble believing any couple who say they’re perfectly content ALL. THE. TIME.

What is it then that sends one partner over the edge to divorce?  JD’s first wife left him in the middle of the night while he was at work.  It was a complete surprise to him that she was unhappy.  Consequently, he had difficulty trusting again.  When JD and I were still early in our marriage I told him there were only two things that would make me leave him.  Abuse or infidelity.  I even made light of the possibility of infidelity by claiming that I don’t share well.  I don’t give up easily (my first marriage lasted 15 years before I threw in the towel).

Recently I was reminded how much JD loves me.  When I made the connection between the action and the feeling behind it, I re-discovered why I am still with this man after all this time and all our struggles.

I may have mentioned here at some point that he rarely sleeps well.  He’s usually up till the wee hours watching old television shows or movies, surfing the internet or researching something or other.  The other day he had been awake all night, lying down shortly before my alarm went off.  I did my usual groaning and moaning as I shut it off and got started.  A short time later I was in the kitchen doling out our vitamins, his prescription meds, my anti-inflammatories, etc.  That morning I was also opening a packet of sinus pain reliever to add to my collection.  In the struggle to get those blasted caplets out of their plastic and foil prison I bumped the container holding my other pills, sending it to the floor where the contents scattered.  As you might imagine, I was not pleased and muttered something along the lines of “Damn!” then started gathering them up.  From the bedroom JD asked what was wrong.  While looking for the one pill I of course couldn’t find, I explained what I’d done, and that one of the dropped pills was missing.  Since we have a dog who will literally eat anything, I couldn’t ignore that one stray pill but it wasn’t anywhere I looked.  I even reached under the stove to see if it had rolled under the edge.  All I found there was evidence of what a bad housekeeper I’ve turned into.  But that’s a different story.

Without being asked, JD got out of bed and without any complaining he joined me in the kitchen. Once there, he pulled out the drawer at the bottom of the stove and there was the missing pill!  It had rolled further under the stove than I could reach with the drawer in place.  I quickly retrieved it so he wouldn’t have to hold the drawer any longer than necessary.  Forget that the pill had been safe all along from doggy ingestion.  I didn’t know it was out of her reach and I would have been worried about it all day.  JD’s selflessness put my mind at rest.  He put me first despite his exhaustion.  That, my friends, is love.

Today on my commute this song came on my player and it reminded me of the other morning, and emphasized that I am a very lucky woman.  Whether or not you like country music, I think you can appreciate the words.  I wish you all a love like this.

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Gravitational Pull

Recently, fellow blogger AGMA made some observations about dating in the modern age, including a reference to the “spark” in a relationship.  You can check out her post here.  That post, combined with some of the comments and a song in my playlist rotation made me take a closer look at my marriage of almost 17 years.

JD and I regularly ask each other why.  Why do you love me?  Why are we still together after all the fuck ups?  And by fuck ups I don’t mean cheating – to my knowledge neither of us has strayed.  Who the hell would put up with us?  By fuck ups I mean the several thousand dollar purchase we made online that turned out to be worthless; or the loss of our home and land after struggling several years to save it.  And then there’s JD’s depression which can still obscure almost everything else at times.  Not to mention that we often disagree about finances.  (I would never have bought a 50” television on my own!)

So what does keep us together?  It’s an interesting question and I’m not sure I’ll ever have an answer that makes sense.  But Chris Ledoux’s song calls it gravitational pull.  That works for me.

What Kind of Idea Are You?

This week’s writing challenge at The Blacklight Candelabra intrigued me, and truth be told, intimidated me a bit.  For a few moments I was thrown back into the “I’m not a real writer” mindset.  A real writer would understand this challenge a lot better than I did.  Plus I never read Satanic Verses so I have no idea of the context.  Based on the instructions though, that may not be as important as I think it is.  In spite of my concerns, I copied the challenge into a Word document, highlighted a couple of (I thought) pertinent phrases and opened it a few times during the day to re-read it.  Then I read one of the responses already posted and added that to my already buzzing brain.  Here goes nothing.

I think ideas are fluid – they change or evolve as they develop.  Or perhaps what I mean to say is they should be fluid.  So compromise would seem to be one means of an idea changing or growing, right?.  What happens if there is no compromise?  No bending or growing?  Rushdie said it plainly enough:  “smashed to bits.”  Sometimes that’s the way I feel when discussing ideas with JD.  He sees things one way:  HIS.

And wouldn’t you know he’s an expert on just about Every. Damn. Thing?  From scrambling eggs to alternative healing to the cost of oil to the political crisis-of-the-day.  He knows everything there is to know about everything worth knowing – in his opinion.  Dare to disagree with one of his ideas and prepare to be disparaged for your foolishness.  His baby sister lives dangerously by voting Democrat and having the audacity to proclaim that with an Obama sticker on her foreign car.  Oh the horror!  I gave up trying to reason with him long ago.  You can only bash your head against the wall so many times.

JD will start one of his orations on some topic or other and the moment I realize this is one of those discussions, I tune out, which in itself is risky.  I manage to retain enough connection to the conversation to nod and murmur “mm hmm” on occasion.  (Can you call it a conversation when only one party is doing the talking?)  The risks come later when he says he told me something and I have no recollection of it.  He certainly could have told me the sky was purple with green polka dots and it probably would have sounded like the adults in Peanuts.

Then he complains that I never pay attention to him; that I don’t think what he says is important enough for me to listen.  Sigh.

We agree on that, to a point.  When he goes on and on and on about the same tired subjects, why would I want to pay attention?  I know his opinions on certain topics as well as he does and I don’t see those changing any time soon.  What’s the point of debating with someone who believes they’re right and everyone else isn’t?  Life is too short.

If I didn’t love the man I’m sure I would have killed him by now.  But I have to admit, every now and again he says something that resonates with me.  We often ask ourselves why we love each other and 18 years later we both still have the same answer:  I Don’t Know.

Pour Me

With all the advances we’ve seen in medicine, science and technology wouldn’t it be nice if someone could figure out what makes some people prone to self-pity?

The “poor me” mentality may not be rampant in the world as a whole, but in my little corner of it I’m practically buried in the bullshit. Between JD and his mother I’m not sure who would win if it were a contest. Yesterday was the first day in a long, long time that I seriously asked myself what I was still doing in this marriage. For those of you not paying attention, yesterday was Christmas – a day of supposed joy and love. Uh huh.

Not being tuned in to their conversation, I wasn’t sure what happened this time, just that JD went out in the back yard where the dogs were, shutting the sliding door with a louder bang than necessary. And dear MIL sat there justifying whatever it was she said to him. Inside I felt the Grinch get a grip on my heart and I cringed.

A short time later JD came back inside and immediately went through to the front door and walked back out. My first inclination was to go after him but since that has always worked so well in the past I opted to stay inside, where I whined out loud that I was sorry I hadn’t brought the bottle of wine I had at home. Within a couple of moments I had a glass of a nice white zinfandel in my hand. I was enjoying the grandchildren and seeing my favorite daughter’s new beau win points with the rest of the family who were meeting him for the first time. If JD wanted to sulk in the truck let him.

Then apparently he started the truck and drove away. I didn’t see this, but a few others looked puzzled and one of the daughters wondered aloud where he was going. I can’t remember what I said but it was the equivalent of a verbal shrug. I do remember feeling so done. But I’d stopped at the single glass of wine. Sure it was more because the bottle was already nearly empty and others might want some. But I could easily have told myself “screw them” and finished it off.

When I finally texted him to see what he was doing, he responded back “gas” meaning he was filling the truck’s tank. Then he parked the truck back in front of the house and sat out there a bit more. When people started loading plates with food I texted him to say we were starting to eat and was he coming inside. His one word response was “maybe.” So I went ahead and got food for myself.  He’s a grown-up, numerically anyway, and can fend for himself.   When I finished eating and got up to carry the paper plate to the trash JD came in the front door muttering something about finding our dog wandering around out front.

We’d earlier put the dogs outside briefly and while we were eating our Beagle made her escape from the backyard.  I mentioned that I’d seen her in the backyard right before I started eating. It wasn’t what JD said next but his tone was sharp almost like a reprimand. He repeated that he’d found her wandering around outside and had just brought her in.   Like maybe I hadn’t believed him or I was disagreeing with him.  What the hell, I could see she was right there.  At the end of my patience I snapped back that he didn’t need to bite my head off and he said “fine” or something similar and went back out to the truck.

The rest of the day was much the same. When I went out a bit later to see if he was coming in for opening presents we disagreed about the interaction in the house and it was going nowhere fast so I went back inside. The daughters brought out dessert and someone found more alcohol so I added a healthy splash of bourbon to my coffee.

He did finally come back inside in time to watch the grandkids open their gifts. I think he even forced down some food. He didn’t speak to anyone though unless they asked him a direct question. And when his mother and sister left I don’t think he said goodbye.

Favorite daughter and S were planning to stay and watch the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with daughter A and her hubby and son so we said our goodbyes and headed out. It was a nearly silent drive and when we got home JD went to bed. And I let him.

Now that’s I’ve thrown up all that family drama I wonder what good it will do. The drama will subside eventually; JD will likely make up with his mother. But he’ll nurse the incident, build it up into more than it was and mitigate his own part in it. And somewhere down the road it will happen again.

It’s been like this for the eighteen years I’ve known this family. So what the hell am I still doing here? I think that’s something which needs further exploration because I’m not sure I know.

The only thing we have to fear

In today’s prompt at The Daily Post they asked how our lives would be different if we were incapable of feeling fear.  Wow – what an incredible thought!

In his first inaugural address, Franklin Roosevelt uttered those immortal words, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.  He had no idea how those words would impact me more than 80 years later.

I’ve been afraid for as long as I can remember of one thing or another.

When I was very young I didn’t know to be afraid but my grandfather changed that when he “played games” with me while my mother went to work.  Once she learned about the games Mom made other arrangements but the die was cast, so to speak.

A few years later Mom was in between husbands and left us with a friend for some reason I don’t recall.  In fact, I’m not sure I ever knew the reason, just that she disappeared and we were left to fend for ourselves in this strange woman’s house.  She took our toys for her children and made us wait on her – or me anyway.  My brother would have been too young to be very helpful.  I can’t remember her face but I remember her attitude and the stink, and how afraid I was of her.  Afraid and resentful at the same time.

I don’t recall how long we were there, but eventually my grandparents discovered where we were and took us to live with them.  Dear old Grandpa got to “play” more games with me whenever I couldn’t figure out how to escape his attentions.  Again, I have no idea how long we lived there, but it felt like forever.

Mom arrived back in the picture with a new husband and another baby on the way.  She fought with the county and won the right to be our mom again.  This interval started out well enough until the baby came and the step-father couldn’t deal with the noise.  I have a memory of hearing that he hit the baby once but I couldn’t tell you whether that really happened.  I do remember him yelling a lot before he left for good.  Very little is more fear-inducing for a child than being woken in the middle of the night by a man you barely know screaming at your mother.

Not long after that Mom found yet another husband (anyone keeping count?) and we were moved again.  This husband had a womanizing brother-in-law who scared the living daylights out of me!  I was barely in junior high but I’d started to develop early and he repeatedly found ways to let me know he noticed.  Being a fat, frumpy teenager with the self-esteem of a slug, of course I soaked up the attention.  But I was scared because I knew I shouldn’t like the attention he was giving me.  And I didn’t know where it was going to lead.

Surprisingly, this marriage, unlike all the others, produced TWO children and  lasted until the guy passed away several years later.  Unfortunately, the first child was killed in a house fire before his first birthday.  Talk about scary.

After high school – and I’m talking the very next day after graduation – I moved back to my grandparents’ home to go to the local community college.  I know, I know – like throwing myself back into the lion’s den.  But teenagers know everything right?  I knew I could handle dear old Gramps.  And as it turns out I was right.  Oh he did try his shenanigans but I stopped him in his tracks!  Score one for me.

The fear didn’t really go away though, it just hid.

Years later I finally realized what I’d been through was abuse and I went for counseling.  Group therapy was very helpful, and even though Grandpa was long gone by then it gave me a type of closure. I wasn’t alone in my experience – that went a long way to helping me manage the fear.

I managed it so well I started dating again (I’d been divorced for a couple of years by then I think).  It wasn’t online dating (this was the 1990’s after all) but it was still scary because I was calling men who put personal ads in the paper!

Eventually I remarried and have found some true happiness — most of the time.  JD can be loving and gentle and supportive.  He can also be dark, paranoid and frightening when he’s angry.  Not that he’s ever acted out of anger toward me – truthfully he hasn’t.  But I saw him break the handle off of a two-tier rolling tool chest once when he was angry.

After more than 16 years together I have decided that his anger stems from his fear.  Sometimes I think JD is afraid of more than I ever was.  He was building a nice little retirement from his job at an office furniture manufacturing company, but he had to pay his ex-wife her share when she divorced him.  Then he didn’t reinvest the remaining part and eventually it was gone.  We bought five acres and he took a leave of absence and began remodeling the house.  After we lost the property when we had issues with the IRS he was deeply depressed for a very long time.  JD still goes on and on about losing the house.  He is always going on about losing something, or as he puts it – having it stolen from him.  JD’s become so afraid of losing something else that after our near break-in awhile back he rented a storage locker and moved some of our valuables there.  We’ll likely be starting up with a local cable company’s security program.  Like we have an extra $80 a month to spend on that.  But if it will make him feel better (I doubt it) I’ll go along.

On the one hand his constant negativity often wears me down and can keep me from enjoying what we do have as well as our time together.  But on the other?  I see his fears and I realize my own are gone, or very nearly so.

I used to be afraid of just about everything.  But I’ve come to understand that I’m most afraid of being afraid.  I want to look past the apprehension and occasional spurt of fear and grab what life offers.  I’m only on the planet once as far as I can tell, and I’m fairly certain I’m more than half way through my allotted time.  I don’t want to waste any more of it!