it’s a no-win. the classic rock-and-a-hard-place. a lose-lose. a pickle. a crunch. a conundrum. a double-bind. a dilemma.
yup. there is no truly right response here for that man.
i have learned to preface things i talk about – for instance, “i just want to tell you this. i want to go on and on. i want to _________ (choose: rant/think/ponder/ruminate) aloud. please do not try to solve this. please just listen.”
but sometimes, yes, indeedy, sometimes i just talk. with no preface. and then, in the way of conversation, especially in the middle of the night pillow-talking, he talks after i talk. and – whammo! – that’s where he makes his mistake.
we each have our strengths. and, on the flip side, we each have our weaknesses. i am a detail person. he is a big picture person. sometimes that equates to a lovely full-length view of the world. sometimes it’s a total pain in the ass.
most of the time david is kind of mushy, endearingly compassionate and not all male-blustery-like. this is a good thing. we tend to be on the same page a lot – until we are not. and then, those are the moments the dog senses that his best laying-down-spot is in the bathroom. we aren’t really yellers, but, since our dog is as empathic as we are, he just knows that our tone is changing and someone is miffed and he is going to get out of the way. soon, he checks back in to see how things are going and is generally relieved when – even before leaving – we turn to him in miff-middle and reassure him, “it’s ok, dogga,” anticipating his departure.
there have been a few times that d has done the guy thing…you know, the well-it’s-not-working-for-you-so-let-me-do-it. i wouldn’t be honest if i didn’t say that it is royally annoying. i also wouldn’t be honest if i didn’t say that i feel total vindication when the whatever-it-was-that-wasn’t-working doesn’t work for him either. empowering. somehow i think you know what i’m talking about.
it’s in those exact moments – either way – on either side of the miffmobile – we all need to remember it’s good to laugh.
i wouldn’t say it’s completely autobiographical. but one has to get one’s idea nuggets from somewhere. and – since our lives together have some really ordinary moments – truly ordinarily-ordinary with a smidge of extra as frosting here and there – they are somewhat easy to pull from.
day-to-day living has enough funny stuff. really. stuff happens. big stuff. little stuff. silly stuff. stupid stuff. hard stuff. poignant stuff. goobery stuff. one just has to notice, to pay attention.
and then – in the case of of a sort-of-autobiographical-sort-of-construed-sort-of-vulnerable-sort-of-stand-up cartoon – one has to be willing to share.
the perils and the summits of middle age. there are plenty.
so, neither of us has any trouble with going on and on and on. nope, this is not new news to you (as you read, vehemently nodding your head in agreement, thinking that this is not rocket science.)
each day – now – suddenly – when we open our blogsites, there is a prompt at the top….as if we can’t think of anything to talk about. they are not profound prompts, existential questions, deeply probing and inventive. no…these prompts are kind of remedial…like today’s “tell us about your first day at something – school, work, as a parent, etc.”. seriously? the first one was “how do you feel about eating meat?” and there were others: “who do you envy?” and “what’s your favorite cartoon?”.
we wrote to wordpress – really expressing our dissatisfaction with these newly ever-present prompts. we pay for these sites and really just want blank space to blog. good grief. staaahhhhp it. but it was to no avail. they show up every day on the top of our screen. yada yada.
we – clearly – don’t need wordpress’ prompts to write. we seem to have plenty of words milling about in our minds and bodies, just waiting to surface and barrel out onto the page.
and then…there are the words that don’t make it to the page…that just flit about in the air. because we both tend to be thinkers, we are both often mulling things over in our heads…for me, that tends to be details and for him, well, it’s more a concepts sort of thing.
it is not unusual for one of us – or the other – to just start blahblah-ing about all that goobledegook going on – babble, folly, a few valid points thrown in for good measure. more on the verbose side of the coin than the succinct side. we are together a lot – and we love to share – so this is not a rarity. it is an accoutrement of our relationship, like a scarf in cold weather.
and, though we usually hold good discussions, have good conversation, compare viewpoints and learn tidbits from each other, there are those moments when one of us will just reach maximum input, one word over the line, just a smidge too much – like when you are filling the sink soap dispenser and reach the top and the dawn dishwashing liquid just starts spilling everywhere, which, incidentally, is not easy to clean up, though i suspect you already know that – and that one of us (more commonly me, but most definitely him too) just sort of shuts down. all hearing stops – and it kind of looks like staring into space…but it’s really just being boggled. completely and utterly boggled. time stands still for a few minutes and then, catapulting through space on the planet while standing there – frozen and boggled – it catches back up, listening resumes and the boggle un-boggles.
and we continue on our merry way, laughing at the temporary word-absorption-lull.
i’m caught in the onslaught of wistful; fall is here. and the on-and-on thoughts in the middle of the night include a zillion questions, all unanswered.
we took a walk in charlotte, on the way to a pedicure with my girl. i wanted to run to the door of the house-with-this-fence and hug the person who painted it.
where else can we be but where we are? marcel reminds us, “the real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
today is our anniversary. it’s been seven years since we had seven days in a row of parties, were surrounded by family and friends for seven whole days. oh, to relish something like that again! daisies and food truck burgers, heaping plates of pasta and sweet potato fries, cupcakes and gluten-free brownies, bottles of wine from ann’s corner store. we picked pumpkins and danced on the patio and bonfired on the beach. it was a giant celebration and we reveled in it all.
in the middle of middle age we somehow found each other – across the country from each other. we both had been married before – to extraordinary people who have also found a beloved with whom to share life. we often ponder together the “had we been smarter, more capable, wiser” questions, but the “réview” mirror is not where we are going and here – in our 60s – it’s full-steam ahead. we feel fortunate. we are able to share our time together, our growing-old, our foibles and messes and the successes that brought us to now. this time hasn’t been a cakewalk. it sure hasn’t been fancy. coming together in middle age has its challenges and we have had a few extras tossed our way through these years. we sort through the weirds and stand in the wonder. and we know we are where we are supposed to be. maybe there is some sort of design in this universe.
20 gave us a card. like most of his cards, he made it for us. it reads, “love isn’t something that happens to us. it’s something we’re making together.”
tonight we are going to bring happy hour up on the roof. because the very first day of making-this-story-together-the-day-we-met-in-person, that’s where we sipped wine under blankets as the sun went down on a cool may day.
it’s like an ongoing game-mix of charades and taboo or catch-phrase over here.
we can’t think of a word…we act it out…we “sounds-like” it…we describe the word without using the word…we gesture wildly and stare blankly at each other. we don’t start panicking right away, but there comes a moment when the void is a little too voidish and we wonder if we will ever come up with the word at all.
since we are writers, this is a tad bit relevant. one of us invariably needs a word – we know the word – we are intimately familiar with the word – the word is like second skin – but it has gone missing.
we try to come up with the letter it starts with – say, r, for example. one-of-us insists it starts with an r and that-same-one-of-us launches a verbose description about TheWord, attempting to get the other to ThinkOfTheWord.
“r!” i repeat, “it starts with an r!!”
“and it’s pasta? something we’d have with sauce?? rigatoni?? rotini?? ravioli??”
“no! no! no!” “think!!” “we have it all the time! r!!! come ON!!” beginning to act out what it looks like, hands drawing in the air…
“ribbon?? have we EVER had ribbon pasta?? dang!! come ON!!”
“are you sure it’s not a t? like tortellini? or trofie?? or maybe a c? like cavatappi? or cavatelli??”
“geeez. no! it’s an r!!”
“well, i can’t think of another r-pasta. is it penne?”
“penne!! that’s it!!! yes!! penne!! a p!!”
the void is a moat, equipped with word magnets, it seems.
every day another word is butterfly-netted and held at bay, even if only for a few minutes, just to torture us.
in the perfect moment of sun, the perfect angle of ray, the perfect covering of cloud, the perfect surface of shadow, two became one.
i took a second look before i pointed it out to him. i wanted to be sure i didn’t miss the bird, maybe tucked into the shadow of fern. it wasn’t there. it had immersed itself into the shadow of the other.
i knew, upon gazing at this, i would not likely witness this again. it was that kind of moment.
when david proposed on knee at gate F8 at o’hare airport, he presented – from inside a tiny box inside a tiny satin bag – two silver rings, almost identical, like the almost-identical-wrought-iron-green-eyed birds. after a magically vehement and funny proposal, he explained he saw us as two individuals, coming together, yet, with great love and respect, remaining individual, bringing to each other all in each our circles. one ring was etched and one was smooth.
we spend pretty much 24/7 with each other. it’s been that way since the beginning. he has supported me in any work i am doing and, likewise, i have supported him. with rare exception, we have traveled, always, together. we chore together and explore together. we cook meals and scheme happy hours and pop-up dinners together. we love on the dog and pine for our babycat together. we cry listening to lowen and navarro’s last concert together and laugh at the same lines over-and-over while watching my big fat greek wedding together. we walk and hike and exercise and spat together. we lift each other up. we grow older together. david’s office is upstairs so during work hours he is merely a flight of steps away. we, as artists, create together, writing every morning, daydreaming aloud about studios on the side of a mountain. saturday we spent hours – with new ridiculously-liberating paint pens – painting rocks together and walking in the dusky edges of day along the lake.
both rings are almost all smooth now. i imagine one of these days they will be the same.
and, though there will always be two – two silver rings, two iron birds – the sun will shine down on us, day after day, shadows of two green-eyed artists on the sidewalk, in the leaves on the trail, on the sand of the shore, on our new fence.
and then, one day, maybe – with all perfects (and imperfects) aligned – that sun may cast a miraculous shadow of one. we might miss it, but we already know it’s there. mingling with the ferns.
hash marks are kept somewhere, keeping track of the days we do it well and the days we just basically stink at it…life. the generous thing about it, though, is that, for the most part, no one is waving those down-down-down-down-across-hatches at us. each day, we get to do it again, the best we can. and some days we do it well and some days we stink at it. sleep and repeat.
after six decades of doing life – which admittedly, isn’t really all that much – i can still say i am a newbie. every day i learn something new; every day i sort out a little somethin’; every day i adjust the on-the-dirt-attitude-indicator which, funny thing, is the same as in the air: keeping you relative to the horizon and making you aware of the smallest change in orientation. every day, on this fluid axis, i hope for a little grace – from others, from the universe, from myself.
and i try again. my sweet poppo would remind anyone who was listening, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” and so i do.
yesterday marked forty years since the day of my first marriage. it was a sunny warm day in florida; i was wearing my sister’s gown, my sister-in-law’s train and white stiletto macramé sandals. i carried a silk flower bouquet and the tiny white beaded purse i had gotten for my sixteenth birthday. i had little time in front of the mirror, trying to share getting-ready-time with my lovely big sister, my matron-of-honor, who has a more perfected and lengthier getting-ready practice.
at twenty-three, just three weeks after my college graduation, full of anticipation and excitement and hopes and dreams, a little unresolved trauma and not-just-a-little naiveté, i walked down the aisle to the good man who would become the father of my beloved children. and somewhere, the hash mark collection started. we did things well. we were stinky at things. and i absolutely take responsibility for my own stinkinesses, things that disrupted the horizon.
it’s been years now since i have seen him. time, in its wisdom and flow, has softened the ending, blurred the rough edges. i am grateful for the decades we spent together and for the unique and powerful children we raised. and i only wish the best of health and happiness for him and his wife. someday i hope to see them and share laughter and stories and memories of our daughter and our son as they grew. no one does this life all perfectly and sometimes it’s all much clearer as we reflect back, look at the shadows. grace lingers in the air, waiting.
this past week has brought its own challenges and it has brought its own bits of devastating news for people in our concentric circles. the circles widen and widen and we see the turmoil and angst and tragedy of others. the horizon wobbles under us and we try to adjust, to straighten up, level out. life is flying by. we wake to another day to do it well or stink at it. either one.
and desiderata reminds us, “in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul…” because some days we do it better than others.
sometimes asking a question is purely a matter of politeness. you want the other person to know you value their thoughts, but, since you’ve already decided, their answer blurs into the gusty winds inside your mind and you do what you want to do anyway.
i can’t say that all the lost turtles and frogs and hurt birds and chipmunks and leg-damaged preying mantises in the wild have come home with us. i can say that i wanted them to. he generally feels that nature should be left to carry on in the circle of life (i can hear elton john singing now) and so i already know his answer to my “what should we do?” question. we’ve come across kittens on trails and i’ve stared at him without a word as he sorts for something to say about wild cats. of course there is nothing to really say about a tiny tabby in the woods, except that we are not really all that far from civilization and, surely, this cat belongs somewhere, so taking it home would equate to, well, kidnapping it. that, for sure, stops any taking-it-home-ness from happening.
were it up to me, particularly in this empty-nest-time, all the sweet creatures we come across would be our little friends. and the circle of life – if need be – would include a stint at our house, in our nest.
the minis are the best. though i haven’t had them in forever. available in the ever-popular neopolitan ice cream flavors, i prefer vanilla.
charleston chews. yum. everyone has their crutch. a while back, mine would have been kitkats. someone could have said to me, “you can’t kitkat your way out of this” and, though i beg to differ on the “can’t” and “out of this” parts, they would have been right-on about the kitkats. avoidance and tangents and, yes, even food in desperate situations, go hand in hand. diverting, skirting confrontation, maintaining decorum, keeping peace…some things require overt and potent bribes.
he says i change the subject. i get a kind of blank look on my face and “squirrel!” into some other path of conversation. were i to spend some time thinking about this, i am guessing he is right. once i am in an exchange that can only head downhill, my brain is rolodexing for something else to talk about, to veer off to, to act as distraction.
he hasn’t had a charleston chew. this is preposterous and certainly un-american, so i will have to remedy this. but i know if i held a dark chocolate bar or a chocolate chip cookie or, now, a piece of crumbcake, in my hand – even in the middle of a “talk” – he would bite.
because the truth is…you CAN charleston chew your way out of many sticky situations. you just have to know what a person’s charleston chew is.